Vs. 2, “With a mighty voice he shouted:“‘Fallen! Fallen is Babylon the Great!’ She has become a dwelling for demons and a haunt for every impure spirit, a haunt for every unclean bird, a haunt for every unclean and detestable animal.” John goes into a lament that pronounces judgment (vs. 1-8). However, this is not a lament of sadness, but one of good news for it would be the demise of the enemy. John would recall the words of the prophet Isaiah (21:9) and repeated himself earlier from chapter 14. As you may recall from our earlier chapters, Babylon (code word for Rome) represents the world system. We see the economic and political downturn as God brings judgment upon the world that valued the things of pleasure. In the next portion of our chapter (vs. 9-19), we are given insight into the laments of the kings of the earth and the merchants who benefited from the world system. I imagine the stock market plummeting and everyone losing their wealth. And lastly (vs. 19-24), we see a contrast of weeping by the world versus rejoicing. Judgment has come to a world that is filled with evil.
Regarding application…Value of Wealth. Vs. 9, “When the kings of the earth who committed adultery with her and shared her luxury see the smoke of her burning, they will weep and mourn over her.” In the present, wealth seems to be valued so much. Yet, we know wealth does not fill the true voids in our lives. Wealth can be taken away instantly; the stock market can plummet, our houses can get destroyed by a natural disaster, our money/possessions stolen. We are reminded from Jesus, “for where your treasure is, there you heart will be also” (Matthew 6:21). Question: What is valuable to you? Be wise in what you invest in this life, for we have poignantly been reminded that all of this will be destroyed.
Vs. 1, “My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.” James now begins to show us practical ways to show our faith and works. The Jewish society was an honor and shame society. There was a problem with the church giving favoritism and honor to those who were rich, while neglecting the poor (vs. 1-12). When we show favoritism, we are not having the mind of God (vs. 4). Notice how they were not to ignore the rich, it’s just that they were to not give more honor to them. While many of us know this truth about rich and poor, it is a true paradigm shift to how this world operates. James reminds his audience about the law since they were well versed in it (vs. 8-13). Much of their perspective was based on living righteous by obeying the laws of God. However, they were doing so without love and therefore breaking God’s royal law (vs. 8). And lastly, we come to one of the central points of the book of James: Faith and deeds (vs. 14-26). While faith is believing what is true, there is far more to it. True faith is one that is demonstrated in both belief and action. Now, one of the big issues in James is the seeming contradiction that James presents verses what the Apostle Paul states (Romans 3:8). If you have real faith, you were produce good deeds. Indeed, we are saved by faith and a true believer won’t do works out of obligation, rather out of heart.
Regarding application…Living Faith. Vs. 22, “You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did.” I once heard this analogy about a fruit tree. A fruit tree grows and has one purpose; to grow fruit so others can enjoy. Technically, if a fruit tree had free will, it might choose to grow rotten fruit or no fruit at all. But, a fruit tree’s purpose is to bear fruit. When we put our faith in the Lord, we become a new tree, rooted on the foundation of Christ. We were created to bear fruit. However, there are those who think that just being a fruit tree is enough. But, the very essence of a fruit tree is to bear fruit. Likewise, the very essence of a Christian it to bear the fruit of good deeds. Let us have a living faith today!
Vs. 1, “Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions.” The rock band ACDC coined the phrase, “Money talks”. Did you know that Jesus talked about money more than any other topic? Scholars break it down to 1/6 of the time! Having worked in the banking world for many years, I concur that money has been a very hot topic. Having just finished the story of the prodigal son wasting away his father’s inheritance, we see Jesus give another parable on money (vs. 1-15). Why would Jesus comment a dishonest money man? Because this man realized the prospect of a bad future and acted shrewdly (wisely) to ensure he would be treated fairly later on. If Christians would do likewise with our faith, we would be better of as well. We then move on to the Rich man and Lazarus (notice how Luke did not address this as an actual parable). When death came knocking at the rich man’s door, it was then that he realized the folly of his ways (vs. 19-31).
Regarding application…What Do You Value? Vs. 15, “He said to them, “You are the ones who justify yourselves in the eyes of men, but God knows your hearts. What is highly valued among men is detestable in God’s sight.” Question: What was it that is detestable in God’s sight? The love of money. We cannot love both God and money. Yet, many foolishly think both can be achieved in this life. I confess, there was a time that the allurement of financial success fell upon my heart. I was working at a bank and moving up in the ranks. I owned my own house and could see a very comfortable life. I justified the success with the fact that I was still serving God in the local church in part-time ministry. However, God knew my heart and by His grace he drew back to Him. Perhaps my heart was a bit like Jonah’s who wanted to flee from obeying God’s will in my life. It’s always a wise think to ask ourselves what do we value in this life? Because as Jesus so aptly told us, “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:21.