Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The Dichotomy of the Christian Life

As I've been doing some devotional writing at, I wrote one devotional that ended up being for the wrong day, so it didn't appear there. I liked it, however, so I am going to reprint it here instead. I hope it edifies you. The reading for the day was James 5.

I'm a big fan of good quotes. I don't know why, but concise, pithy ways of expressing deep truths really impresses me. I read a quote yesterday that I really liked: Amy Carmichael was a single woman in the early 1900s who worked extensively with the poorest of the poor in India. A donor wrote to her stating that he wanted his donated money to go to "spiritual work", implying that her work running orphanages and schools was not "spiritual". Her reply stated that "In our experience, souls are more or less firmly attached to bodies"
Amy's statement points to the difficult dichotomy we live in as Christians: the daily business of living is so all-consuming and immersive, we need to have it taken care of before we can focus on what's beyond. Nevertheless, we have to remember that it's just a sideshow (perhaps a warm-up) for what's next, after we die.  James has several places where he addresses this contrast:
  1. Chapter 1 tells us to persevere in trials in this life, because God will reward us in the next (vs 12).
  2. Chapter 2 addresses the problem of considering ourselves so "spiritual"that we don't need to help others with their needs in this life (vss 15-17).
  3. Chapter 3 tells us that we shouldn't be organizing our values based on what the world considers to be smart and wise, but based on what God's wisdom tells us (vss 13-18)
  4. Chapter 4 reminds us that we can make our plans, but we're not ultimately in charge: God is (vss 13-17).
Finally, in our reading today James concludes his letter with an encouragement to be sober and patient as we consider that what is happening in this life isn't the final chapter. The images and feelings and thoughts that consume us day-to-day aren't the most important things going on. We need to be anticipating that God will have the last word, either to punish us for not acting justly (in verses 1-6), or to reward us for persevering and obeying Him despite hardships (verses 7-11).
When I look at the world around us I take comfort in the idea that someday, God will make everything right. Indeed, it's the only thing I know that makes justice and righteousness worth believing in. Praise the Lord that He is worthy of our trust, and consider what you can do today that will condition you to be more heaven-focused in your thinking and actions.
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