Congruence & James 2:1-3:12

 

congruent-4What would you say is the definition of a hypocrite? An easy definition would be when someone does not live out his or her beliefs. They do not practice what they preach. In the 1950s a psychologist named Carl Rogers introduced the concept of incongruence to psychology in the 1950s. A general definition of incongruence would be something that is inconsistent, not in agreement or incompatible. Rogers had a more specific definition in mind. He defined congruence as the matching of experience and awareness. And incongruence was therefore lacking congruence, or having feelings not aligned with your actions.[1]

For fun, here are few observations of things that are incongruent. Why is the word phonetic not spelled the way it sounds? Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii? Why are there flotation devices under plane seats instead of parachutes? Why are cigarettes sold in gas stations when smoking is not allowed there?

As we consider these concepts of incongruence, it is not a far leap for us to accept that we are incongruent people. Our thoughts, words, and deeds do not often line up straight w/ themselves. We speak out of both sides of our mouths. And if we are critical w/ ourselves, we all have levels of hypocrisy within ourselves.

During this season of Lent, as we watch JC slowly approach the cross we are reminded of His work as messiah. He lived a congruent life, and died a congruent death. He practiced what he preached, and said what He meant, and acted w/ great consistency -and as a result we are blessed. b/c of His underserved mercy and grace we are saved and empowered to live life well. We are invited into the rich full life b/c of His work. So the question I would like to examine is: How shall we live? And to help us get there, this Lent I would like to study the book of James. And today we are going to look at James 2:1-3:12. So turn to James chapter 2.

 

Text

James is a book about action, and living w/ intention and consistency. One of its major themes is the theme of authenticity. Talk is cheap, and when we do not live out our beliefs we live inauthentically. James calls us to live it out. One purpose of James was to expose hypocrisy and teach genuine Christian faith. Today we are going to read James 2:1-3:12 in 3 sections, and in each section we are going to ask the question: HOW ARE WE TO LIVE?

So lets 1st look at James 2:1-13 HOW ARE WE TO LIVE?

James 2:1-13: My brothers and sisters, believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ must not show favoritism. 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3 If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say: Heres a good seat for you, but say to the poor man: You stand there, or: Sit on the floor by my feet, 4 have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

5 Listen, my dear brothers and sisters: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have dishonored the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

8 If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture: Love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing right. 9 But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. 10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 For he who said: You shall not commit adultery, also said: You shall not murder. If you do not commit adultery but do commit murder, you have become a lawbreaker.

12 Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, 13 because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

As I look at James 2:1-13, it seems to be centered around actions. It speaks to congruency in actions, congruency that is centered in Gods law or Gods desire for us. I would summarize the passage by saying: Our actions and relationships need to be obedient to Gods will and desires. James addresses the issue of showing favoritism to some at the expense of others. He says favoritism is not congruent w/ faith. This action does not match the command to love other as yourself, from Leviticus 19:18. James ultimately tells us here that we will be judged by the standards we live by, saying in v. 13: Judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Our actions and relationships need to be obedient to Gods will and desires, which promote humility, equality, and service to others, displaying the work of JC to the world.

Next, lets read James 2:14-26. HOW ARE WE TO LIVE?

James 2:14-26: 14 What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 15 Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. 16 If one of you says to them: Go in peace; keep warm and well fed, but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? 17 In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.

18 But someone will say: You have faith; I have deeds. Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that -and shudder.

20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says: Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness, and he was called Gods friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

25 In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? 26 As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.

If vs. 1-13 centered on actions, I would say that James 2:14-26 centers around thoughts. It speaks to congruency in thoughts. This section says faith is dead w/o good works (v. 26), and our actions reveal our thoughts and faith. We observe the thoughts or faith of someone by the way they act. The thought is the engine of action. James asserts that simply possessing a belief is not enough. Faith alone is not enough (v. 17). Faith w/o actions is dead. Its like the young boy who was sitting in the front row watching a ventriloquist perform with his dummy on his lap. Interacting with the boy, the dummy proceeded to ask the boy questions and talk with him. Thinking that the boy had found a new friend, he approached the dummy after the show to ask him to come over and play. The ventriloquist continued to decline the boys requests until the boy became frustrated. Responding to the boy, the ventriloquist said: Well, he does not DO anything, he just talks.[2] Faith is dead w/o good works (v. 26), and our actions reveal our thoughts and faith.

Lastly, lets look at James 3:1-12. HOW ARE WE TO LIVE?

James 3:1-12: Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. 2 We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check.

3 When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4 Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5 Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6 The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7 All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8 but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9 With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in Gods likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

If James 1-13 centered on actions and James 2:14-26 centers around thoughts, James 3:1-12 speaks to our words. Our words reveal our incongruence. This is where we slam those running for president. They contradict themselves, and thanks to media we can see and hear it. But really, we all are no better. Our words get us in trouble more than anything else. James says they cannot be tamed, they reveal our incongruence.

And so, in this passage James addresses our actions, our thoughts, and our words. He tells us that our ACTIONS and relationships need to be obedient to Gods will and desires. He tells us faith is dead w/o good works (v. 26). Our THOUGHTS are revealed by our actions. And he tells us that our WORDS reveal our incongruence. This is a call to live authentically. HOW ARE WE TO LIVE? We are to live congruently. And the good news is that God is good and shows mercy even in our incongruence. As James 2:13 says: God shows mercy to those who show mercy. So we are invited to live congruently

 

Today

But the reality is that we are incongruent people. We all have some level of hypocrisy in our lives. We are in consistent in our thoughts, words, and deeds. We think thoughts that do not match what we say. We say one thing when our dinner guests are present, then talk about them differently when they leave. We do not follow through on the convictions we claim. We are inconsistent in our thoughts, words, and deeds. And if we have any self-awareness this can be discouraging. We wonder why we do not ever use that exercise bike we bought w/ the conviction of getting fit. We wonder why we are not kinder to that annoying person at work. We wonder why we do not make that effort to heal a broken relationship. We believe one thing but do not live it out. And why bother? We are not perfect, so why try to pretend?

I was encouraged by a true story I heard of 2 churches in a small north Texas town. The 2 churches had split years earlier over some petty differences. The pastor was beginning a sermon series on Loving One-Another, when Gabe, an elder, got up and walked up to the pulpit and said: Pastor, do you trust me? Confused as to why he interrupted the sermon, the pastor cautiously answered: Yes. Gabe then asked to speak with the congregation. The pastor relinquished the pulpit and sat down. Gabe pointed out a lack of love that permeated the congregation. He then he requested that the congregation get up and hug their brothers and sisters. No one moved. Raising his voice he pleaded: Do you hear me? Please go hug one of your brothers or sisters and say: I love you. Immediately the pastor jumped up and ran to the song leader and hugged him. Almost everyone else followed suit. Gabe then said: Okay, now lets go across town and tell our brothers and sisters at the other church that we love them, too. No one moved. Returning to the pulpit the pastor said: I was going to present a lesson on strengthening Christian relationships this morning, but brother Gabe did a much better job than I could have. Lets get into our cars and tell our brothers and sisters across town that we love them. The majority of the congregation got into their vehicles and headed toward the downtown church.

-Arriving at the other church, Gabe went forward and requested to speak to their congregation. He told the assembly that there had been hard feelings between the two churches since the split. He said that his church had come to let them know that they loved them and wanted full fellowship once again. They prayed together. And after the prayer, almost everyone in the building started embracing each other. Forgiveness was asked. Tears were shed. Hearts were opened. And, bitterness melted. One could feel and see the effects of the Holy Spirit moving through that little church all because of the efforts of one imperfect man who dared to step out on faith even when he was afraid.[3]

The truth is that we are not perfect, but there is good news. The good news is that God is good and shows mercy even in our incongruence. As James 2:13 says: God shows mercy to those who show mercy. God grows our faith when we live it out. When we display our faith, we bless others and are blessed in return. HOW ARE WE TO LIVE? James invites to live congruently. It is a call to step out and live w/ intention and consistency. My prayer for us is that we would do so, that our intentional actions would complete our faith and draw us to God.

 

Amen.

 

[1] http://study.com/academy/lesson/incongruence-in-psychology-definition-lesson-quiz.html

[2] http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-stories-faithvsworks-faith-3315.asp

[3] http://www.sermoncentral.com/illustrations/sermon-illustration-stories-faith-60491.asp

One Response to “Congruence & James 2:1-3:12”

  1. Kyle February 29, 2016 at 9:25 am #

    Thanks for sharing Aaron! What beautiful that God loves us in our incongruity, yet challenges us to live lives worthy of his calling.

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