When Jill and I were much younger we were involved in a youth club in south London. The group that I ran were pretty riotous but we tried to stick to three rules – everyone must pay 6d (old pennies) to come in, everyone must be quiet during the talk and everyone must leave at the end of the evening (and not hide in cupboards or climb on the roof). Over time these rules became condensed into six words – Pay up, Shut up and Get out. These six words had the merit of brevity but were not noticeably more effective in maintaining good behaviour.
Our passage this week in the epistle of James, is James at his no nonsense, tell it like it is, best (James chapter 4). Something seems to have provoked him to abandon his gently reasoned setting out of what practical Christian living should mean in the lives of his readers. He does not mince his words. ‘You fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask God...when you ask, you ask with wrong motives...don’t you know that friendship with the world is enmity towards God’. Strong words for his flock of Jewish Christians.
But with the strong words comes help and encouragement. In verses 7 to 9 of chapter 4 James gives his readers 10 actions, to build into their lives for a closer walk with God. With the actions come three promises. If you have not taken up anything very helpful for Lent, let me suggest that you could do no better than look at and ponder those three verses; identify the ten actions that James urges on us and take strength and comfort from the three promises.
‘Humble yourself before the Lord, and he will lift you up’.