By Hannah Brzozowski
“Wow, we as followers of Jesus can get it backwards sometimes.” This is what I thought after reading the book of James last month. Often times, we can think we’re serving God but we are really just serving our ego. We want to make ourselves look good to others and ultimately, it doesn't serve anyone, including ourselves.
So, here are 6 Things we need to stop doing according to James, the half-brother of Jesus.
1. Stop giving advice. Start listening.
I’ve been in this situation multiple times. Someone is talking about a problem of theirs and my first instinct is to jump in and say exactly what I think they should do. After all, that’s why they’re talking to me right? Wrong. Most of the time, people want to be heard and understood. I know that I do. I think that’s why in James 1:19, he writes: “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.” Next time someone is talking to you, think: quick to listen and then slow to speak. I think we could all use a little bit more of a listening ear in our lives.
Next time someone is talking to you, think: quick to listen and then slow to speak.
2. Stop saying everything that comes to mind. Start being slow to speak.
In James 3, he talks about how our tongue is like the rudder of a ship. That tiny little piece sets the course for a massive ship. In the same way, something as small as your words will set the course for your entire life. James even goes as far to say that the tongue is like a deadly poison and is like a small fire that can cause the whole forest to go up in flames.
If you are already listening, taking this second tips should be a little easier for you. With more practice and self control, you are going to give more thought to your words.
3. Stop showing favoritism. Start looking at the heart.
As humans, it is in our nature to like some people more than others, especially if they have something we want. James gives the example of someone coming into a church with nice clothing and being given a special place because of it (James 2:1-4). Then, later on, a poor person comes in and is told to sit on the floor.
Now, I doubt you’ve been this obvious in your favoritism. But let me ask you this: when was the last time you judged someone based on their appearance? Maybe it was while you were out grocery shopping or at a party? When was the last time that you were kind to someone because of what they could get you? Maybe a promotion or spot for your kid on the soccer team? We need to show love to all people regardless of their status in this world.
When was the last time that you were kind to someone because of what they could get you?
4. Stop saying. Start doing.
In James 2:14-25, James talks about faith with action. He makes it very clear that faith, without works is dead. He gives the example of someone asking for food and a believer saying “Go in peace, stay warm, and be well fed.” The reason that this feels so cruel is because it is cruel.
Let’s contextualize this to today. A friend comes to you and says that they’re struggling with their kids. They can’t seem to balance things well. You say with all sincerity: “I’ll pray for you.” Does this really help your friend who is struggling? Maybe. But maybe, God put you in their life to be the answer to their prayers. Maybe you should offer to help watch the kids one day to give her a break or offer to cook dinner for the family. As Christians, we can use the phrase “I”ll pray for you” as a crutch instead of actually being the hands and feet of Jesus.
5. Stop judging. Start helping.
When was a time where you felt judged by someone? Was it pleasant? Did you feel the love of Jesus in that moment? I doubt it. In James 4:12b, he says, “But who are you to judge your neighbor?” This puts us in our place. We all have struggles and we all have screwed up at one time or another. It doesn’t help anyone to judge someone for it. The whispers, the gossip, the silent thoughts, doesn’t help that person. So instead, if you know them well, ask how you can help them. Show love to them regardless of what they’ve done. After all, isn’t that what God did for us?
Show love to them regardless of what they’ve done. After all, isn’t that what God did for us?
6. Stop being prideful. Start confessing.
So often, I can be scared to ask for what I really need prayer for. I can ask for prayer for a sick family member or for something way out in the world. But something personal...that’s a whole other story.
In James 5:16, he says “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is very powerful in its effect.” What does this have to do with pride? Well, confession is a very humbling experience. It’s realizing that we’re not perfect and it’s telling someone else that too. Confession helps the church be a safe place for everyone, not for “perfect people.” Confession is asking for prayer for a sin that you’re struggling with or telling a friend that you need help with your addiction. Confession is a humbling experience but necessary for us to be real with one another.
So which one spoke to you the most? Comment below!
For me, it would be #6. So often, I can want people to think that I’m perfect.
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