Interesting notation about the epistle of James – there are only two exclamation points used (at least in the ESV). This is striking, from my perspective, because James deals with alot of practical stuff in this letter… real life fundamental issues that could be emphasized with strong punctuation… but he seems to be steady, careful, calm, soberminded in his instruction to the churches.
The sobering challenges of persecution are evident in the content and tone and careful attention of his words; there’s nothing frivolous here. He rightfully identifies himself as a servant… a slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. He is writing as a humble servant… one of the least of these; and he is writing to those who are under attack from within (their flesh) and without (their world/culture).
The first exclamation point is used to emphasize the statement about how a great forest fire is started by a small fire… maybe a spark; and this is regarding his instruction concerning our tongues… what we say (Ja 3:5). The second exclamation point emphasizes a direct and personal confrontation with the readers of his letter… he basically calls them “adulteresses!”
“You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God?”
So… how do you like them apples? How do we respond to such name-calling?
“Not nice, not nice”
“Well I never; that surely isn’t very loving!”
“Hey James, speak the truth in love or did you forget?”
“Are you sure you can see clearly enough with the log in your own eye?”
“If I was your mother, I’d have a bar of soap washing out that mouth of yours.”
“James, really? I think you need a ‘time out’. ”
“Foul! James you put this in writing, in an email… you should have said it to us in person.”
Whatever our response, the point that can’t be missed is that James, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit of God, is communicating perfectly something we need to hear about ourselves and our worldliness and he poignantly uses adultery to reveal what we are doing with respect to God… with respect to our Bridegroom. In our selfish passions we make God a cuckold. (def. a man whose wife has committed adultery, often regarded as an object of scorn.)
Whether the temptation to worldliness comes from within or without, James includes this warning in his brief but powerful wartime letter and he follows the emphatic warning with the same steady sober instruction as in the rest of the letter. James follows vs4-5 with vs6-10 as he lays out an appropriate response to God’s grace when we are tempted or when we have sinned.
God disciplines those he loves… training training training, love love love.
My encouragement to all in this, as I consider that ‘He gives more grace’ is to not react to James’ calling us out, but rather to be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger. And when I’ve sat with these words about worldliness and meditated on them and prayed over them… to respond, very much in kind with the ensuing instruction of chapter 4.