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Monday, March 7, 2016

Do the Right Thing: A James 4:17 Devotional

James compiled his teachings to Christians into one singular lesson. He said in verse seventeen, “Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin.” When a person is a Christian, he/she belongs to God’s family and knows right from wrong because of Jesus’ Spirit indwelling the person. People can comprehend the heart of God. No believer can say he or she did not know the right thing to do. The Holy Spirit teaches of righteousness and convicts of sin. James said if a person recognized he/she was supposed to do something, but did not do it, omitting or choosing not to do what is right makes him/her a sinner. Whoa, intentionally not doing something right is a sin! Intentionally choosing to do something wrong is a sin, too.

Christians cannot say they did not understand. The Holy Spirit will tell believers what is right and wrong to do, say, and think. Luke spoke about this in Luke 12:47. The person who chooses not to do what God says is right, God will judge. Jesus similarly told the Pharisees in John 9:41. Peter took this idea further in 2 Peter 2:20-21.

Since we understand James’ meaning in verse seventeen, how is it a compilation of his earlier teachings? Consider his teachings.

·        Do not show favoritism to the rich hoping to gain influence and help from them in the future. God provides for each person what he or she needs when she needs it. You have an inheritance in the kingdom of God. Love your neighbors as your self. Show your love of God in your obedience to His laws. Do the right thing. (Ch. 2)

·       Show God’s love even to the poorest person by giving food, clothes, shelter, and daily needs. In this, you show your faith by your works and fulfill the second greatest commandment. Faith without works is useless (2:20). Do the right thing. (Ch. 2)

·       Guard your tongues. Blessings and curses cannot come from the same mouth. Ask for God’s wisdom. Allow the Holy Spirit to help bridle your mouth, which bridles your whole body thereby showing the new creation your relationship with God through Jesus Christ effected. Teachers have a greater accountability and stricter judgment from God. Do the right thing. (Ch. 3)

·       Ask for God’s wisdom to guide you so jealousy and selfish ambition do not lead you astray to arrogance and lying against the Truth. Seek wisdom and produce the fruits from above. Do the right thing. (Ch. 3)

·       Do not envy another person. Envy leads to quarrels and fights. It makes a person an adulterer, hostile to God. God gives the greater grace – the better blessing(s) – salvation and eternal life. James gave six things for each believer to return to God.

ü  Submit to God
ü  Resist the devil
ü  Draw near to God
ü  Cleanse your hands
ü  Purify your hearts
ü  Humble yourselves before God.

                        When a believer does these things to return to the Lord, God will draw near
                         the person and exalt him/her. Do the right thing. (Ch. 4)

·       Do not slander and judge another person. By doing so you judge God. You are not greater than God, so you cannot judge another person. Do the right thing. (Ch. 4)

·       Consult God when planning your future – in business and everyday life. You do not know the future and cannot plan without God’s guidance, recognizing He holds the future, provides the profit, and gives everything you need. Do the right thing. (Ch. 4)

Each lesson James taught to the Jerusalem Christians in his epistle dealt with the whole person – heart, head, mouth, and body. He taught how to speak and act as Christians in this world. James taught Christians to be “doers of the word and not hearers only.” That means embodying the love of God in their daily lives. Christians understand what they are to do because of the indwelling Holy Spirit and Christian teaching. They sin if they did not do what is right and just. Christians cannot say they do not want to get involved. As Christians who understand the right thing to do, they must do the right thing in situations encountered in daily life.

Be “doers” of the word, not “omit-ers.”