Recapitulation of the Epistle of St. James
Junia, apostle of Jesus the Christ, to my sisters and brothers in America, who are called by the name of our most gracious Redeemer, who was sent and filled by the Spirit of Everlasting Life, and our nurturing God, who is Love, Mercy and Grace; it is with heavy heart I write to you, who are estranged from the House of Heaven, uprooted from the banks of the River of Life, and wandering again in the wastelands of darkness, sin and death. So shall I come right to the point?
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters. Some of you have become proud and puffed up through your acts of generosity, imagining that you have somehow achieved something great and profound. Remember, though, every generous act of giving, along with every wonderful gift, is birthed in the heavenlies, coming down to us from the God of Light and Life, Love and Grace, whose character remains the same from age to age.
More than this, even, it is our mothering God, who has given us birth into new life; it is by the Spirit that we become like luscious, fresh fruit growing out from the Tree of Christ, our Redeemer, nourished by his very own blood and water, as we partake of his body, even to grow and extend his body throughout the earth. What? Do you now imagine that you, being mere seed, planted yourself and watered yourself? Or that being mere brick and mortar, you somehow built up yourselves into some grand mansion to be the envy of all who see your magnificence?
You must understand this, my beloved, so I will put it to you bluntly: Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, and even slower to antagonism; for your antagonism does not produce the fruit of God. So then, rid yourselves of all wretchedness and rancid growth of wickedness; rather, be open and humbly welcoming to the Spirit, who gave you life in the first place! But even more than this, be doers of the good instructions and principles you have received, not merely hearers who deceive themselves!
Those who hear the words of God but are not doers, are like those who look at themselves in a mirror but then immediately forget what they look like as soon as they move away from the mirror! But those who look into the perfect law of life and liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act – they will be blessed in their doing. Tragically, this is not the case among most of you, and so it is that the Church in America is not blessed. No! Rather it is as the Apostle St. Peter said, “Judgment begins with the household of God!” Do you doubt what I say?
By way of example, then, there are those who think they are religious, but do not bridle their tongues; they deceive their hearts, and their religion is worthless. Everyone who looks upon them and listens to them can see the truth of their wretched life, but they are blind. Religion that is pure and undefiled before our mothering God, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress; to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and house the homeless; and to keep oneself unstained by the world.
What? Have you forgotten that it is the wicked who say, “Let us oppress the righteous poor; let us not spare the widow or regard the grey hairs of the aged. But let our might be our law of right, for what is weak proves itself to be useless.” Ah! But what does the Lord our God say? “The wicked will be punished as their reasoning deserves. They disregarded the righteous and rebelled against the Lord. So it is, then, that their hope is in vain, all their labors ultimately unprofitable, their works completely useless; their end, destruction.” Is this the life to which you were reborn, my beloved?
My brothers and sisters, do you with your acts of favoritism really believe in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ? And you have shown favoritism for years upon years now; do not believe this has gone unnoticed by God. What? If human eyes can see and human ears can hear and human minds understand your sins, do you imagine the Everlasting One has not taken notice as well? That God has not seen the person with gold rings and fine clothes come into your assembly, and has not seen you fawn over him saying, ‘Have a seat here, please,’ and, ‘Oh, come join us; we would love to have you as a member!’ Such an attitude nauseates God and his Christ!
You turn your backs on the poor woman, or you say, ‘Stand over there where there is room for you.’ You let her know by word and deed that you will not help her or her children, and you will not tolerate her asking for any help. Have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Do you deny this? Then tell me, what do you do when a poor person in dirty clothes also comes into your splendid building, built on the backs of unjust poverty? Do you welcome him? Hug him? Give him new and clean clothes and put a ring on his finger? You know you do not, and if you say otherwise, the Spirit say, “Liars! Hypocrites!”
Come now, you rich people, weep and wail for the miseries that are coming to you. Your riches have rotted, and your clothes are moth-eaten! Your gold and silver have rusted, and their rust will be evidence against you, and it will eat your flesh like fire! You think you have laid up treasure for the last days, but the Christ said, ‘Lay up for yourselves treasure in heaven.’ Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts. And ‘he will not show partiality against the poor; but he will listen to the prayer of one who is wronged. He will not ignore the supplication of the orphan, or the widow when she pours out her complaint.’
You have lived on the earth in luxury and in pleasure; you have fattened your hearts on a day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the righteous one, who does not resist you. Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom promised to those who ‘love kindness, act justly, and walk humbly with their Lord?’ But you have dishonored the poor; after all, is it not the rich who oppress? Who else is in such a position to do so? Is it not the wealthy who drag people into court? Is it not they who blaspheme the excellent name that was invoked over you? Ah! But you are they, and they are you!
You do well if you really fulfil the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. Speak and act as those who are to be judged by the law of life, love and liberty! For judgement will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgement, though. ‘Above all, maintain constant love for one another, for love covers a multitude of sins. Be hospitable to one another without complaining, and like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received,’ as the Everlasting One has commanded through the Apostle.
What good is it, my sisters and brothers, if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you? If a sister or brother is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead. Yes! Show me your faith without works, and I by my works will show you my faith! You say you believe what is right, that you believe God is one; you do well. Ah! But even the demons believe that much, and they shudder at the mere thought! What good does it do you, all of your doctrines and confessions of faith? All of your religious customs and rituals?
Have you not heard it said, ‘Blessed is the one who considers the poor; in the day of trouble the Lord delivers that one?’ And that ‘charity – to be moved at the sight of the thirsty, the hungry and the miserable and to offer relief to them out of pity – is the spring of virtue.’ Or again, have you not been commanded to ‘perform a charity every day the sun comes up: to act justly between two people is a charity; to help someone with her mount, lifting her onto it or hoisting up her belongings onto it is a charity; a good word is a charity; every step you take in prayers is a charity; and removing a harmful thing from the road is a charity… Be kind to parents, and the near kinsman, and to orphans, and to the needy, and to the neighbor who is kindred, and to the neighbor who is a stranger, and to the companion at your side, and to the traveler, and to those in your employment. Surely God loves not the proud and boastful or those who conceal the bounty God has given them.’
Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith without works is barren? Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,’ and he was called the friend of God. You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? Understand! Just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead!
Instead of living by faith in doing good deeds, you live in luxury and self-contentment, setting ablaze the whole world around you by tongues of fire which themselves are set on fire by hell itself! Every species of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by the human species, but no one can tame the tongue – a restless evil, full of deadly poison. With it you sing praise and worship songs, bless the Lord God and Christ, cry out to the Spirit, and even claim to speak by Spirit! Yet with the same tongue you curse those who are made in the likeness of God, your very own human kindred! You curse the beloved creation of God even as you presume to worship God! And do you expect to be blessed?
From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this ought not to be so. Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and brackish water? Can a fig tree, my brothers and sisters, yield olives, or a grapevine figs? No more can salt water yield fresh. So, too, you cannot claim to be followers of the Christ and slander your sisters and brothers. You cannot claim to be followers of Christ, and demean and denigrate those for whom Christ died. You cannot claim to be followers of Christ and disobey him by seating yourselves in the seat of judgment, which belongs to God and to God alone.
Who is wise and understanding among you, then? Show this by your good life and works done with gentleness born of wisdom. But if you have bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not be boastful and false to the truth. Such wisdom does not come down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, and devilish. For where there is envy and selfish ambition, there will also be disorder and wickedness of every kind, which is evident throughout your assemblies. Listen! Wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy; and a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. This, sisters and brothers, God will certainly bless.
Now you have been forewarned, yet again, so beware that you are no longer carried away by the errors of superficial religion, lawless self-indulgence and demonic delusion that parades itself under the very name of Jesus of Nazareth! Instead, grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus the Christ, to whom belongs glory and honor, both now and forevermore. Amen.