Wednesday, October 17, 2007

James 4:1-10: Submission

"Submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you." ~ James 4:7

Submission to God - "Thy will be done" - is a lifelong challenge for every Christian man and woman. God doesn't want part of us; he wants all of us, for, as Paul preaches in Acts 17, we are also his offspring. We in America, surrounded by plenty, takes a dim view to obligations. Our culture gives us the option to neglect our parents, our spouses, and our children in search of momentary pleasure. There's enough for them; there's even more for us, if we seize it!

James teaches that this attitude leads you to the grave and doesn't get you what you want. He tells his fellow Christians, "You covet but do not possess; you do not possess because you do not ask; you ask but do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions." (vv. 2-3). Returning to the Paul-in-Athens metaphor, these believers are Epicurians, lovers of this world and enemies of God.

Yet there's a danger to being a Stoic, too - the insidious danger of pride, of having a life so well-ordered that God floats around the edges. Our hands may be clean in our homes, our professions, even our churches, but Satan still commands our thoughts and our hidden acts. James tells these believers to wash their hands and purify their double-minded hearts (v. 8).

How, then, to resist the devil, when our stumbling attempts at humility fall short? When all else fails, the best weapon is laughter. In the beginning of one of my favorite books, C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters, the author includes an epigraph from Sir Thomas More:

"The Devil... the Proud Spirit... cannot endure to be mocked."

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