Read James 4:11-17.
The Epistle of James is a beautiful piece of literature from the ancient Near East. James borrows from the wisdom literature and prophetic traditions to exhort his audience to live in peace and charity within their community. James flows from one teaching to another, poetic images woven together.
The implication of James 4:11-12 is that this community experienced inner strife from within their ranks. All communities have some disagreements within them; that is natural, for people all have different lived experiences. However, when inner strife leads to dehumanization, then a community can no longer live their different experiences together.
In James 4:13-17, we see the author use their prophetic voice to chide merchants who are striving after vanities. These traders are accustomed to relying on their own skills, ingenuity, and craft to provide for themselves. It is easy to imagine them haughtily turning towards the impoverished members of the community, saying, “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps!” This condescension and judgement lead to inner strife between socio-economic class. Furthermore, this perspective forgets a fundamental truth: everything in life is a gift from God.
We are called to live in peace and charity within the body of Christ. This means that we must not estrange ourselves from our siblings through arrogance or self-conceit. Instead, we must continually acknowledge our radical dependence first on God, and reconcile ourselves to all who likewise live within God’s providence.
Creator, deliver us from the time of trial. May we resist boasting and saying evil to one another. May we instead awaken to this reality: I need you to survive. We need you, God, to thrive. Amen.
Campus Minister, UKirk ETSU