Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

When I was small, I remember getting so frustrated with life that I informed my parents I would soon be running away from home. My Dad, most likely suppressing a hearty chuckle, told me that this would be a huge mistake because, in his words, “you would be taking your worst problem with you.” This confused me at first. After all, I wasn’t planning on taking my little brother.

Then, slowly, like the first ray of the morning sun, it dawned on me: he was talking about me. I was my own worse problem.

My Dad’s sage advice has come back to me many times in life – both as it applies to me, and as it applies to the life of the Christian in general. To cite one all-too-common example, I have watched people leave their local churches in a pique of righteous indignation, and can hear Dad speaking, as clear as day: “They’re taking their worst problem with them.”

Our society has conditioned us to two deadly perspectives: namely, that our biggest problems come from without, and that the solution lies within. Other people, entities and circumstances are to blame for vices, and we can only overcome if we look deep inside ourselves. For how many Hollywood movies could the previous sentence serve as a summary? How many popular songs tell us to “listen to our hearts” or some such anti-biblical drivel?

This is a poisonous inversion, and James is having none of it. Remember that the context of the previous verses has to do with our anger problem. Now he makes it clear that the problem is not the fault the annoying people who surround us. Rather, it is the “filthiness and overflow of wickedness” that resides within us.

And just how do we deal with this infection of our inner self? The antidote is external: “receive with meekness the implanted word…” In other words, there is nothing intrinsically within us that is going to of any help in defeating sin. What is effective is taking the Word of God and grafting it into our lives.

The world would have us misdiagnose the illness and prescribe a toxic “cure”.

Let us not listen to the world. Let us not carry our worst problem around with us under the false assumption that it is the solution.

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