James and the God of the Up-side, Down!

James and the God of the Up-side, Down!

James and the God of the Up-side, Down!

James was the kid brother of Jesus of Nazareth… In fact, we discover that none other than Paul the apostle identified him as another apostle (beyond the 12) and called him “the Lord’s brother” in Galatians 1:19. 

Now James wrote a book that bears his name, with a significant theme. The theme is that the only thing we can trust is God himself! Everything else gets turned over, reversed, turned inside out, flipped flopped and transformed into nothing. Every page of James’ little book is saturated with that as the backdrop. The thrust of the book is that everything good comes from God—called here “the Father of Lights” and that his older brother Jesus wants everyone to commit to Him. Then James spends the rest of the letter telling everyone that we are to use our high position, or our lowly estate, to serve God in any way that we can! 

James is all about God turning up things down and down things up! The first line makes that painfully clear: 

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…”James 1:1 NASB

Now what has that line to do with a great turn-around? Let’s slow this down and ponder this…

Like few others (very few—only the other brothers and sisters in the immediate family), this man had the peculiar experience of having his believing turned inside out, over the identity of his own sibling! 

  • Firstly, he acted compassionately, thinking that Jesus was out of his ever-loving tree, and trying to keep him from getting killed (see Mark 3:21, 31-36, especially verse 21! Matthew 13:35ff). 
  • Secondly, he found himself (with his brothers, named as Joseph, Judas and Simon in Mark 6:3) thinking that Jesus was a false prophet and were taunting Him to prove himself—and maybe get himself killed (John 7:1-5, esp. 1 and 5). 
  • Thirdly, as a convinced believer, he went with his mother, Mary, and his other brothers, and took part in a 10 day prayer meeting, requested by the Risen Lord, after Jesus had been raised from the dead (Acts 1:14). 
  • Fourthly, he became the leader of the church in Jerusalem that followed and worshipped that Risen brother of his… (we see James named as the one leading and making the final decision in a trans-church council Acts 15:13-21) 

The mind boggles! 

That’s a lot of heart change in a three-year window… 
Take just a moment and try to imagine what it would be like to shift your thinking like this: 

  1. That’s my brother, he’s a carpenter like me, and I love him. 
  2. That’s my brother, and he thinks he’s the Messiah! He’s lost his senses, and needs help. 
  3. That’s my brother and I think he’s false and needs to prove himself or get killed for blasphemy. 
  4. That’s my brother, and he got himself killed. 
  5. That’s my brother, and He rose from the dead.
  6. That’s my brother, and mom, my brothers and I are going to pray to God through Him. 
  7. That’s my brother, and I am a leader of His people. 

Of course that leads us to the inescapable conclusion that his life needed to be re-ordered, and a plan set in place:

That’s my brother and I am going to write a letter telling everyone that God turns everything upside down!  

Somewhere along the way, James must have been dumbfounded. We are not told at what point his view began to shift. We know that it wasn’t at the start of Jesus’ ministry. Perhaps his view took on new perspective when he raised Lazarus from the dead? Perhaps it was when Jesus gave teaching that was utterly unearthlyÉ Maybe it was when Jesus confounded the critics each time they mounted a campaign to embarrass His teaching? We most certainly know that his view was completely shifted after the resurrection… 

So, the book of James is about having everything turned upside down! The book is about the rich howling about how poor they are, and the poor celebrating their wealth. The book is about how the rich and the poor are both going to have their wealth and their poverty smashed to pieces as both focus on the God of the grand reversal… 

If you want to summarize the book of James in American Slang, you would hear the voice of the preacher crying out, “If you want to get up, get down!” 

James puts it this way: 

God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble…
Submit therefore to God…” James 4:6b NASB

Do you feel the man’s chagrin? 
James was proud and experienced the opposition! 
Then James was humbled and experienced the grace. 
Based on that, he pleads with those who heard the letter read to them as the persecuted church gathered secretly in times that were not gentle. They wanted to hear what the brother of Jesus of Nazareth might have to say. They were praying to God to use whatever they had to serve the God who turns everything upside down.

James tells them a wise word from someone whose views were morphed again and again…

The best thing you can do is submit to God…
© Dr. David Chotka  July 8, 2020