James begins his epistle by talking to Christians about how they face trials in life which test their moral character and loyalty to God. Simply existing or surviving through temptations is not enough. Our spiritual reaction and earthly conduct matter to God.

Chains

                He talks about serving the lord from the position of being a bondservant. See how he begins his letter, “James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.” James is not the only one to say this; Paul, Peter, Jude and John all identified themselves as servants, bondservants, and even slaves! Slaves? Really? I thought that we were to be free in Christ, after all, Jesus said, “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free”. (Jn 8.32)

                Isn’t a slave a person who is bound in chains and forced to do what his master says? Aren’t they deprived of their personal freedom? Well, yes, that is exactly right. In most cases this results in poor treatment, harsh punishment, and social upheaval. Just look at how the Hebrews were treated in Egypt.

                Jesus is a different type of master however. He said to “take up our cross and follow Him.” (Mt 16.24-27). Could it be that He understood because He too had a cross to bear? Christ also said for us to ‘ take His yoke upon us’, that He is ‘gentle and lowly in heart’, and ‘we will find rest in Him’ (Mt 11.29).

                Perhaps we misunderstand sometimes simply because we have just not had the right experiences. Would it be different if we had witnessed what happened in this story?

                The meaning of doulos (servant) is well illustrated in the story told by Clayton Wallers: They were in Africa trying to translate the N.T. into five different dialects and came to the word “redeemed.” They would take each word and explain it as fully to the people as possible and then asked them what word in all five dialects explained it best. They spent 30 minutes explaining the word “redeemed” and asked them for the correct word. The word they gave meant, “to take the neck out.” The translators decided they needed to explain the word better, so they started all over, but the men said, “No!” They said they understood exactly what the word meant but that the translators did not understand the word they gave back as its meaning. Back when the slave traders came over to capture their people they put their necks in chains. If one of the locals who was rich enough and a freeman he could buy back one of these people and they would “take his neck out.” Their custom then was to bow down in front of this person and become his slave voluntarily for the rest of his life.

                This is exactly what Jesus has done for us! He has spilled His blood so that we could be purchased in our sinfulness, cleansed by Him, then set aside for God’s use for life, and as a faithful servant we have the hope and promise of eternal reward with Him in heaven after we depart from this world. If that is what it means to be a bondservant of God, then put the chains on me! How about you? Are you a willing servant of the Lord? Think about it.

Advertisements