Reading for Thursday, June 7: James 4
At one level, James is an economist. He writes in James 4 about an economy of deficiency at work in each of us. The cause of our quarreling and bickering and warring — with ourselves and with others — comes from the deficient places of depravity within. “You desire, but do not have, so you kill. You covet but you cannot get what you want, so you quarrel and fight. You do not have because you do not ask God,” (v2). James sees many of our problems as a symptom of something much deeper, a yearning for something truly satisfying. We covet because of our inner jealousy; we slander because we measure ourselves to be lacking; we boast about tomorrow’s escapism because we secretly fear today’s poverty. Steeped in the wisdom of Solomon in Ecclesiastes, James turns us toward the source of true life, God Almighty, the one who graciously supplies all things we need, as Peter says, for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3). James’ response to all of this is simple and profound: Ask. Ask of God and be amazed at His provision. Sounds eerily similar to the prayer of Jesus: Give us this day our daily bread (Matt. 6).
In asking, we submit ourselves to the economy of God over against the malicious economies of the world and her empires. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you.” (v7-8). Submission to God liberates us from friendship with the world and adulterous commiseration with the devil (v4). James calls us to wide open embrace of God’s promise to rush to us when we seek His nearness.
I can’t help but think of my friend, Corey, when I read James 4.8. Corey has long claimed this verse as his favorite, a source of life and hope amid life’s turbulence. Communion is this: to trust oneself to the God who seeks nearness with His Creation. Like the father in Jesus’ story in Luke 15, God rushes headlong to meet us, even when we are a long way from home. “But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him,” (Luke 15:20).
May we participate in God’s great economy as those who invest in His life. May we commerce in humility, submission, obedience, and the wisdom that flows from heaven.
May the powers of hell be put on notice: we are the people who seek God, not mammon.
And may we feel the loving embrace and the warm kiss of our Father who makes bold and audacious promises to come near to us as we seek His nearness.