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Thursday, August 26, 2010

What I'm Reading Today: James 1

I am SOOOO excited about hitting the book of James in my reading schedule – for James is one of my favorite books in the Bible! I like it because it takes an incredibly direct approach to resolving the old faith vs. works debate – so direct that it often makes many folks uncomfortable. As someone who understands his call in life to be that of "comforting the afflicted, and afflicting the comfortable" – the book fits right in with my walk.

As I was reading today's passage at the beginning of the book, I was reminded of what I believe is the quality that most reveals the depth and maturity of an individual's faith.

That quality?


Let me tell you a story that reveals why I think humility is so important.

Several years ago I belonged to a non-profit organization that was wrestling with a controversy. As is often the case in organizational life, the controversy involved money. More specifically the issue was whether or not the non-profit should adopt a deficit budget.

There was one of the leaders in the community who felt very strongly that being a good steward of God's gifts meant that an organization should never (I repeat, NEVER) adopt a deficit budget. There was another leader in the community who felt that being a faith-based non-profit meant that we absolutely should pass a deficit budget. Doing so – by its very nature – meant that the organization was stepping out on faith.

Let me hit the pause button for a moment in my story and make an editorial comment. I felt that folks in each camp had legitimate points in their favor backed up by solid theological grounding. So in the early stages of the controversy I felt comfortable that God would be present and work through whatever decision was made.

Now let's hit the play button.

Instead of staying focused on the issue at hand, over time the controversy took on a very personal nature. So much so that the participants began to believe that God could only work through THEIR side. Various expressions of anger and intimidation became the norm in the organization. Even more importantly, the energy around the issue began to shift until the primary focus become more about individuals getting their way and less about what was the more faithful response to the specific situation before us. The moment that shift occurred, a devastating sense despair kicked in for me – for now it felt like no matter what decision was made, we had lost our way.

In other words, I sensed what the author of James was talking about when he wrote: "God's righteousness doesn't grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life."

Ever since that controversy, I have been passionate about my commitment to cultivating humility in whatever community I find myself. In that time, I've noticed something interesting about the way I perceive the world. I no longer lead from a place that is focused primarily on WHAT is done. I now come from a place that focuses on HOW things are done (i.e. from a place of humility or arrogance). That is the lens through which I see the world.

Today, I would invite you to make that shift in the way you interact with/perceive of the world. Instead of placing your attention on whether or not you agree or disagree with someone, ask yourself to examine the ways in which the other person (and perhaps yourself) moves through the world. Do they/you move through the world asserting/demanding their/your way; or do you move through the world in a way that exudes the sort of humility that I believe is truly a fruit of the Spirit.

Til next time …

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