Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Cast Off Wickedness (James 1:21)


Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. [James 1:21, ESV]

As Christians, we are called to serve the Lord, to turn from our sinful ways, and to pursue God’s righteousness. In James 1, James tells us about many things, such as how we should rejoice when our faith is tested, how we should seek wisdom from God, how we must have faith when we seek God’s wisdom, how we should rejoice in the knowledge that we are citizens of Heaven, how we must endure temptation, how our temptation comes from our desires, and how all that is good comes from God. In the previous two verses, James addresses the way we must be “quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger” [James 1:19, ESV], “for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God” [James 1:20, ESV].

James ends this thought by giving us a challenge, which is what we read in verse 21.

Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness…

The word “therefore” tells us that verse 21 is based on what James has written in verses 19 and 20. James tells us that we must be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, and that anger does not produce the righteousness of God, and it is for those reasons that we must “put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness”.

When James tells us to “put away” all filthiness and rampant wickedness, he uses the word “apothemenoi” (ἀποθέμενοι), meaning, to lay off, to renounce, to separate from ourselves. For the reasons described in verses 19 and 20, we must separate ourselves from all filthiness and rampant wickedness.

The words that James uses form filthiness and wickedness are “rhuparia” (ῥυπαρία), and “kakia” (κακία), respectively. The word “rhuparia” is the word for filth, as in something being literally dirty. The word also has a metaphorical usage, where it is used to describe the filthiness of sin, which is what James is using in verse 21. “Kakia” means evil, malice, and ill intent. Therefore, James is telling us to separate ourselves from all the filth of sin, and from all evil desires and intentions.

…and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.

The word “meekness” does not mean what it often means in modern English. James is not telling us that we must be weak, he is telling us to receive the implanted word with a spirit that is humble, gracious, and selfless.

The “implanted word” in question is a reference to the Word, as in, Jesus Christ. We are to, with a humble spirit, accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, Who is able to save our souls. We cannot live a life of sin and serve Christ at the same time. In order to receive Jesus Christ, we must turn away from our sinful nature, and obey the Lord.

In conclusion, James gives us a very important task. We have been told how our sinful desires are from within, how our anger does not produce the righteousness of God, and how we must be gracious toward others. James does not just leave us with some general advice, James tells us that our sinful nature extends far beyond what he has described thus far, and that we must turn away from our sin and accept Jesus Christ, so that our souls may be saved. James has been incredibly kind, incredibly gentle, and incredibly encouraging in his writing, but James understands the seriousness of us receiving salvation, and he tells us exactly what we must do. James is not angry with us, he is not speaking through hate or disdain for us, he is speaking to us as “beloved brothers”. James exhorts us because he cares about us, he cares about our souls, and he cares about our salvation. Not only does James tell us how we must turn from our sin, he shows us how we must correct others in love, in grace, and in wisdom.

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