"My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry, for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you." James 1:19-21
There is something powerful about humbly submitting our lives to the Word of God. But it's not easy sometimes.
Just as Jesus talked about in the parable of the soils, hearts have differing degrees of fertility. Some are hard. Some are shallow. Some are full of thorns. And some are rich, deep, and lush. Though I don't want to dive into the theology of the human heart in this post, suffice it to say that I think our obedience to the Word is a part of the ongoing preparation of our heart (and, of course, that is not to minimize the activity of God's Spirit).
Sometimes we just don't want to obey (humbly accept) the word planted in us. There are too many other things that are causing the soil of our heart to be less than fertile. James notes that anger, moral filth, and evil are contributing factors. Let's pause there for a moment. We can all understand fairly easily that those of us who are in obviously sinful patterns in our lives are not sensing the power and presence of Christ. Or can we?
What I have found in ministry, and, at times, in my own life, is that when we are in obvious sin we just get stupid. We don't see clearly. We don't think clearly. But we think we do. We even get so stupid in our sin that we begin messing with God's Word to justify our sin or our situation instead of humbling ourselves under the authority of God's Word: "I am sleeping with a woman who isn't my wife because I love her and my wife isn't meeting my needs; anyway, who are you to judge me?" "I can't work and provide for my family, I am too busy doing God's work." Or maybe this one, "I know God gave me this job to bless me, and that is why I keep everything I make and don't give - I am being blessed as a child of the King!"
Sometimes, we just don't think clearly (btw, two of the above three examples are actual statements I have heard, one is made up - I will leave the guessing up to you). There are a lot of contributing factors that work against the fertility of our hearts - in effect, they are poison to our souls.
Pride. Self righteousness (maybe the ugliest and deadliest of pride's manifestations). Envy. Anger. Lust. Ingratitude. I could probably list a hundred more that we have all been guilty of. Poison. Toxic waste. Crop killers all.
What encourages me, though, is when there is a humble submission in my life, and the lives of the people in our community of faith, to the word that has been implanted in us. Last week was an encouraging example. After teaching on what Jesus teaches about divorce, I had numbers of people who were responsive to the implanted word. They were asking questions along this line, "What do I need to do to honor God?" That is a picture of what James teaches us I think.
This week, as you spend some time reading the Scripture (you see, I am assuming you will do that), get UNDER it, not OVER it. Let it lay claim to you. Be responsive. Don't just read it. Do what it says (James has something else to say about that in 1:22-25). And have some people in your life that are journeying with Jesus alongside you - because we can all get stupid sometimes. We need people to serve as a "clarity committee" in our lives from time to time.