“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.”
– James 4:7-12 (13-5:6)
In the 4th chapter of the letter of St. James, our author continues his advice for living with a reminder of to whom we belong.
Submission in this sense means that we are under the authority of our God and Father. He is our head, our commanding officer, our director and ruler of our hearts.
It is the same concept that I talked about husbands and wives submitting themselves to one another in Ephesians chapter 5.
By choice we submit ourselves to the Lordship of God, so that he will be our leader and guide.
When we pray the Lord’s Prayer, we say the words that place un in submission to “our Father who art in heaven.”
Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. This is a great way to start the day. When I wake in the middle of the night, which seems to be often these days, I pray the Lord’s prayer, and say the Apostles Creed, and then I begin to pray the Rosary, and I am soon back to sleep.
James tells us also to resist the devil, and he will flee from us. The devil is still very much active in this world. Thanks to the scientific method that only acknowledges things that can be observed with the eyes, most people stopped believing that the devil exists.
Most people believe that he is simply a quaint medieval notion made up by superstitious people in their ignorance. Let me assure you, he does exist, and just as he tempted Jesus in the wilderness, so he is tempting us today to submit ourselves, not to Jesus as our Lord, but to him who would convince us that Jesus doesn’t exist.
If we believe the words of Holy Scripture to be inspired, or God-breathed, and we believe in Jesus, who gave up his life for us, then we must believe that the devil is here trying to upset our faith and cause us to lose hope in everlasting life.
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you,” wrote St. James. This is a crucial part of our faith, because it says that we have to make the first move to draw near to God. How do we do that?
First by praying to him every day. He wants to hear from us, not just on Sunday, but every day.
Another way is reading the Holy Scriptures regularly, not just listening to a small part of it every Sunday, but actually opening our bibles all week long.
The bible is relevant to our world, just as much as it was as when these letters were written to the new Christians in the first century AD.
A great way to read the bible in an ordered fashion it to pray the Daily Offices from our prayer book. There is even an app for that!
The Mission of St. Clare has a web site that makes it easy to pray the offices, and it has a smart phone app that makes it easy to do when you somewhere without your computer.
Don’t let the Bible sit and collect dust, but let it guide and inform you about God’s will for your life. It will help develop your faith into a strong bond to our Lord, and bring you the love, peace, and joy that we need so very much in our world today.
“Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection.”
Here James is saying to rid ourselves of sin, and be sorry for our sinful ways. We should be sorry that we grieve the Lord with our sin, and repent of it.
If we humble ourselves, the Lord will exalt us, or raise us higher and closer to himself.
Those who exalt themselves in this world have already received their reward, but if we humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord, he will reward us in this world and the next.
How do we humble ourselves? By ridding ourselves of pride and vanity that only serve to alienate us from the Lord. When we humble ourselves, we are letting the Lord be in charge of our lives, and letting his will for us guide us into the truth.
Pride and vanity leads unto judgement of others, and James asks us who are we to judge our neighbors? But it is easy to judge others by our own set of standards, isn’t it?
When we judge others, we are putting ourselves in the role of a judge, and this is the same thing as exalting ourselves. So be careful what you say about others, and try to realize when you are being judgmental. Then repent of that and remember that only God is the judge of all of us.
James goes on to say how arrogance and boasting is contrary to the Lord’s will for us. When we do that we are not only judging others, but we are exalting ourselves to the level of God himself.
James really begins to rant against those who put their trust in their possessions that they have saved for themselves. It’s not a sin to be rich, but it becomes sin when the needs of others are ignored. Essentially, those who do ignore the needs of others have loved themselves much more than their neighbors.
Instead, we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves, by helping those who are less fortunate as if we are helping the Lord himself. By submitting ourselves to God, we will become more and more like him, and we will be happy to do his will, loving and serving him all the days of our lives. It is only then that we will know that love, joy and peace that he wants to give us.
God willing, we will go and do that work he has given us to do, and he will guide us into the truth for his Name’s sake. Amen.