This Sunday morning, I’ll walk to the pulpit, tell the assembled masses, “Good morning,” and then issue these instructions for the first time of many: “Please open your Bible to the book of James.”
Having made it through Exodus (and more recently, our 5-week Easter series), it’s time to turn our attention to what’s next. And what’s next is a book that you’ll probably want to avoid if you can at all help it.
Usually, at a time like this, I’d write a hyped-up article about why our new sermon series will be wonderful and life-transforming and something not to be missed for any reason whatsoever. But I feel like being a bit more honest and realistic this time around. So instead, I submit to you a few reasons why I’d advise that you stay home every Sunday morning until this series in the book of James is over (which, according to my current calculations, will take around 20 weeks).
1. James will go where you don’t want to go.
Everyone knows it’s not polite to talk about money, right? Well, apparently James never got that memo. In this book, it takes him exactly nine verses to dive into the subject of poverty and wealth. And that’s just the first of many unflinching forays into the topic, culminating with this bombastic exclamation in chapter 5: “Come now, you rich, weep and howl for the miseries that are coming upon you.”
Seriously, you may just want to stay home.
Whether it’s money, suffering, judgment, or church seating arrangements, James appears unfazed by the things we consider taboo and unfit for discussion in polite society. He draws our attention to things we might prefer to ignore. He doesn’t care about the things we consider off-limits.
2. James will hit you way too close to home.
We love it when the Bible talks about those big sins. You know the ones I’m talking about—the really sordid, heinous things we’d never dream of actually doing. When we read about those, we can enjoy the luxury of getting all righteously indignant without having to feel guilty.
But James has a knack for talking about those other sins—the sins that make themselves at home in our lives, the sins that snuggle with us on the couch and drink milk straight out of the carton, the domesticated sins that we live comfortably with every day. Like prejudice. And careless words. And laziness. And boasting. Oh yeah, and greed.
This won’t be the kind of series you can sit through while nodding, smiling, and looking out the corner of your eye at that bad, sinful person sitting next to you. Sooner or later, you’ll get pelted right between the eyes. And that’s no fun.
3. James will challenge your theology.
If a guest speaker showed up in our church and taught, “A person is justified by works, and not by faith alone,” we’d all run that guy out faster than you can say, “Heresy!” But lo and behold, James shows up in our Bibles and says exactly that (see Jas. 2:24).
Or what if an elder showed up at your front door when you’re at home sick, wanting to pour some oil on your head and pray for your healing? Think you might be wondering what kind of crazy cult you’ve gotten yourself into? Well, prepare to wrestle with James 5:14: “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”
Apparently James played hooky a few too many times during seminary.
Hopefully you’re getting the point. If you like carefree Sunday mornings, you should probably start making alternative plans. Find a nice brunch spot. Go hiking in the woods. Put your Netflix subscription to use. Pull the covers over your head and sleep in. But whatever you do, don’t come to Kossuth.
See you Sunday.