I have been doing this Bible Study (affiliate link*) through the book of James. And, by “a” bible study, I mean an awesome, eye-opening, life-changing, faith-altering bible study. I always thought James seemed similar to Proverbs – a bunch of random topics squeezed together. But I’m learning that is so not true. One theme in his letter is that of wholeness, completion, or perfection.
“Let steadfastness have its full effect that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” (James 1:4)
“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.” (1:21)
“If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.” (3:2)
Those are a few verses that discuss “perfection” explicitly, but much of James’ letter touches on the concept of moral completion… At first glance, it seems like we might as well just give up this whole Christianity thing because I have been “at fault in what I said” more than once or twice. But James isn’t expecting that Christians be perfect, or even suggesting it’s possible. He writes “we all stumble in many ways,” (3:2) and “no one can tame the tongue, it is a restless evil” (3:8).
He is honest. His message is: perfect isn’t attainable, yet this doesn’t mean you should lower the standard.
There’s much more that could be said about James, his letter as a whole, and his theme of perfection. But, I really just wanted to share this quote I read that discusses wholeness in the book of James. (And I didn’t want to share it without any preface):
“Wholeness cannot be found simply by accepting whatever one is in all one’s disordered and distracted existence. Wholeness is a goal towards which one can move only in relation to a centre which is already whole and from which one can gain wholeness. This means moving in one direction rather than others. It means rejecting values and behaviour which are inconsistent with the goal… The quest for wholeness is important today because it responds to another cultural trend, which accepts and even celebrates the fragmentation of life in the name of openness and diversity” (Bauckham, James, 179).
That statement is very thought provoking for me. Do I acknowledge there is a center which is already whole that I could gain wholeness from? Is wholeness my goal? Am I moving in that direction, or just hoping I’ll end up there by accident? Do I embrace values and behaviors consistent with the goal of wholeness? Do you?