How to Test Your Omissions

An Assessment from James About Doing the Right Thing

None of us like tests. Well, some do. Very few of us like tests. We might be familiar, for example, with having to test the emissions of our vehicles. Not the same kind of test we normally fear, but we don’t relish the prospect of failing any test, and we don’t like to be told about the bad stuff coming out of our car.

James, the half-brother of Jesus and author of the eponymous book in the Bible, wants us to dislike the bad stuff coming out of our hearts. He doesn’t want us to fail the “omissions” test.

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Three Ways to Bring Prideful Speech to Heel

Faith Works in Our Speech

An average person speaks millions of words in his lifetime, and has tens of thousands of conversations. Much of that speaking and conversing exalts self.

Think of the subject of conversations that you typically have. They will likely relate to a few primary topics: family, church, work, recreation, politics, sports. Then think of the direction of those conversations: they trend upward, as you elevate yourself in relation to purity, people, and plans. How is it possible with such a flood of self-exalting talk to be humble? Consider what we contend with:

  • PURITY. If your subject is injustice in society, your conversation tends to reinforce your goodness by comparison
  • PEOPLE. If your subject is family, your conversation tends to put down family members who aren’t living up to your standard or who have hurt you in some way
  • PLANS. If your subject is work, conversation tends toward building more wealth retiring earlier (or better) than others.

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How Foam Fingers Illustrate Spiritual Pride

James 4:6-10

Given an option, few people would choose a valley in life; most would prefer a mountaintop, or at least level ground that doesn’t slope right into the pit!

Our preference for being lifted up is illustrated in fan attitudes toward sports teams. Every fan claims that his team is “No. 1!”, whether actually superior because it just defeated all other competitors in the tournament, or as the sentimental favorite of devoted fans who believe their team is best no matter how poor the season or how resounding the most recent defeat.

There’s a reason that those foam hands raise just the index finger. They wouldn’t sell many that encouraged fans to give the more honest message “We’re No. 5!”

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Reduce Personal Strife by Focusing on Two Things

Strife seems unavoidable in life. In fact, one might say that strife defines life.

We see strife in the Middle East. Strife in Washington, D.C. Strife in economics, strife in politics, strife in culture. Strife between siblings, couples, co-workers, nations. Strife just is. We probably wouldn’t know what to do with ourselves if there were no strife.

Even so, most of us would prefer to remove as much strife from life as possible.

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Those Times When Wisdom is Demonic

The report is that Solomon asked for wisdom, and God granted him that plus wealth, too.

I don’t know whether we think much about wisdom. We think in terms of education, and the type of degree we obtained (if we went to school), and, these days, whether we actually found employment in the same field as the degree. We think in terms of specialized training, such as to build houses, lay plumbing, or install electrical systems.

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Why Duct Tape Isn’t a Surgical Tool

A heart patient lies on the operating table, chest shaved and dabbed with Mercurochrome, tubes protruding, machines humming. A donor across country has provided a heart for transplant, and the medic delivers the vital organ in a nondescript cooler.

Medical personnel hastily prep the organ and make final adjustments to ready the patient for surgery.

Suddenly the patient’s eyes open wide, and he shouts “No! You cannot have my heart. I will not take someone else’s!” And gives his own orders to the doctors.

Despite their best efforts, doctors are unable to persuade the patient that getting rid of his old heart and receiving a new one are in his best interest, and in fact, is the only thing that could save him. Knowing that the donor’s heart can’t be used elsewhere, and giving in to the patient’s irrational demands, the doctors place the heart on the patient’s chest, and affix it with duct tape.

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