James 4:6 – You Really Got ’em Good This Time!
But He gives more grace. Therefore He says: “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
My Dad likes to tell the story of a pastor in a small country church. At the end of every service the pastor would stand at the door to greet his parishioners. Invariably, one particular man would come up to him and exclaim “Well Preacher, you really got ’em good this time!” This frustrated the pastor greatly, because he knew that there were many things in the sermons that the man should be applying to his own life.
One particular winter’s Sunday a snow storm descended on the community, and only two people braved the inclement weather to be at church that morning: the pastor, and the aforementioned gentleman. Sensing his opportunity to finally make an impact on the man, the pastor threw away his notes and preached a very specific message about all that man’s particular failings. Then, after closing in prayer, he hurried back to the door and waited to greet the man as he left.
“Well Preacher,” the man said as he grasped the pastor’s hand, “You’d have really gotten them good if they’d been here!”
If you have been following our studies in the book of James to date, you may have gotten the impression that James can be, er, blunt at times. This impression will have been reinforced by last week’s study, where James compares those who seek friendship with this world to women of ill repute. Indeed, James’s emphasis on the practical side of Christian living and proper behavior for believers has prompted many to deem his message too legalistic. None other than Martin Luther called this epistle “a book of straw” for that very reason. And, let’s be honest: nobody particularly enjoys reading a laundry list of ways they fall short.
For this reason, today’s verse shines like a verdant oasis of grace in the middle of a bleak desert of law. We have been confronted, over and over again and in the most graphic of terms, with our own worldliness, and how much God hates it. Then come these five words that change everything:
But he gives more grace.
Grace! I don’t know about you, but after all that has come before, after having a mirror put up in front of me and seeing in it the darkest recesses of my heart, that word rings like a beacon of hope.
It is especially helpful, I think, to see that this phrase immediately follows this statement in verse 5:
The Spirit who dwells in us yearns jealously…
And here is one key principle that separates the believer from the non-believer: for those who are in Christ, God’s jealous yearning results in grace! When we stray, He longs to bring as back, and will spare no effort to do so.
Here’s the thing though: if we are to experience the grace proffered in this verse, we cannot come to the previous chapters and verses like the man in the story at the beginning of this post. James continues:
Therefore He says:“God resists the proud,But gives grace to the humble.”
It’s all too easy for us to say “you really got ’em this time, James!” and ignore the divine finger pointed straight at our own hearts.
But if we’ve been reading James one through four and thinking “Man, I’m so impatient, I’m double minded, I easily succumb to temptation, I’m quick with my own opinion, I have a tendency to be a hearer of the word but not a doer, I cannot control my tongue, I show partiality,…” – in short, if we recognized ourselves in any or all of the sins James has been treating over the last four chapters, and that recognition brings us grief, there is cause for encouragement. Why? Because he gives more grace!
This exhortation to self-awareness sets up one of the most powerful sections in the book, one which I believe serves as kind of a fulcrum in the flow of the text. We’ll begin to look at that next week.
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