On September 23rd, Lauren Murtidjaja led us in a reflection on Mark 9:30-37, and James 3:13-4:3, 7-8a. James seems to be writing a “tough-love letter to the diaspora. The diaspora was dealing with partiality and favoritism — caught up in appearances. Most of us can relate at some level: we like to be seen in a certain light. How can their journey challenge us?
Their struggles can be traced back to wisdom. James asks: Who is wise and understanding among you? What are the marks of wisdom? In the bible, the goal of all wisdom is the formation of character — the relationship between hearing the Word and doing the Word. Hence, they are instructions for life.
James is challenging those who desire wisdom to show their character: pure, peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy, without a trace of partiality… And peace is the product of wisdom from above. There is no peace in the communities that James is addressing. The text says that there is bitter envy and selfishness in their hearts.
In the Mark text, when Jesus asks the disciples that have been jostling for position why they’ve been arguing — they are silent. And in James, we are told that if we ask for wisdom and don’t receive it, we need to check our motives.
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Photo of an Amish barnraising by Randy Fath.