May 14, 2017
Grace and mercy to you from God our Father and our Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of first fruit of his creatures. 19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. Thus far the text.
Let us pray: Father of Lights, you are the giver of every good gift and every perfect gift, protect us from being deceived but rather receive with meekness Your implanted word so that our souls be saved and we may be a kind of first fruit among your creatures; through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Savior. Amen.
Now why would our Father tell us to put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness? But this text is addressed to Christians. To you and me. So maybe there is something more than crude filthiness and rampant wickedness that headline your favorite news outlet.
Filthiness is a temptation that Christians experience. Of course pornography and drug abuse should be put away. But the temptation of filthiness is also among Christians who, having heard the Gospel, think they know it and stop listening to it. A filthy comment might be, “I was confirmed in this church and therefore, even though I haven’t attended in years or decades, I am a member of this church.” A filthy comment might be, “I know the catechism so I don’t need to hear the Gospel anymore.” Or, “What do and Bible study and daily Bible readings and prayer have to do with me? I know all that stuff already.”
The temptation of filthiness is to set aside the Gospel to pursue wealth and pleasure. The Holy Spirit names this filthiness.
Rampant wickedness is a temptation that Christians experience that is more subtle than just fist fights and theft, although Christians should put that type of behavior away as well. But the temptation of rampant wickedness is among Christians who are wearied of the social stigma of being a Christian. You give up property or reputation for the sake of Christ and you are teased. It hurts. No one likes to be considered a fool. Especially, when those who tease you have more and more property or a better and better reputation or get along in greater and greater comfort.
The temptation of rampant wickedness is to say, ‘I would rather go with the crowd than endure these trials. The Holy Spirit names this rampant wickedness.
Good people fall away from Christ because of these two temptations.
Even while they call themselves good Christians they have given themselves over to the pursuit of wealth and pleasure and comfort.
The Word God implanted in them dies. Life and salvation do not grow.
This is our repentance for this morning. Put off all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted Word.
And then how do we protect ourselves in the midst of these temptations?
It is written: 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
So count your gifts. It might sound cliche but count your blessings. Do no be deceived! Your gifts, your blessings, far outweigh any hardship you are enduring.
James distinguishes good gifts and perfect gift.
Good gifts are all the good things you have now. I’m not going to focus on these but some of the good gifts you have are your mom and dad. Not perfect but still good. Your wife or husband. Not perfect but good. Your son or daughter; house and home; food and drink, clothing and shoes; land animals and all that you have. They are not perfect. But they are good gifts. You don’t have to be a Christian to count your good gifts. The Father of lights is the Giver of all good gifts.
Then there are the perfect gifts. Perfect gifts are your by promise. Perfect gifts are implanted in you by means of Word and Sacrament. Perfect gifts are received by faith in Jesus Christ only.
Perfect gifts are the holy Christian church triumphant, the communion of saints, the forgiveness of sins, the resurrection from the dead, and the life everlasting.
Do not be deceive. Do not fall.
The whole book of James seems to be an encouragement to Christians to be patient to the extent that you do not allow yourselves to be upset if others injure you, especially those who despise God’s Word and even those who persecute the church.
For the Father has given you good and perfect gifts that far outweigh your difficulties. You have many good gifts. Count them. You are promised many perfect gifts as well; in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
The peace of God, which passes understanding, guard and keep you in Jesus Christ, our Savior. Amen.