by Dr. Grant Scarborough
I love meeting people.
And lately Piggly Wiggly has made it really easy for me. Thanks Pig.
Their employees wear name tags. That gives me their names – check one. But they also give you a conversation starter. Under the name, it says something like, “Ask me about cheerleading” or “Ask me about school” or “Ask me about my daughter” – check two – a great conversation starter.
So I started the conversation the other day:
“Hello, how is your daughter?”
“She got suspended from school yesterday.”
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Well – Piggly Wiggly – that one did not work out too well. “Ask me about my daughter” “She got suspended and I don’t want to talk about it.” But Pig, I appreciate you trying.
I opened up the Bible and started reading the book of James yesterday. It had a great conversation starter. All the books of the Bible seem to. James, and then underneath the name is a little comment. James could’ve put anything. If I was James, my nametag would’ve read “James – ask me about my brother.” James was the literal brother of Jesus. But his started differently.
“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings.”
Something was not right with this verse – I read it in a different translation of the Bible. It is not how my dad use to say it. That’s my problem with the book of James. I have a word association problems. You know when you hear a word and you immediately associate it with another idea.
I say chips, you says salsa.
I say biscuits, you say gravy.
If I say the Book of James – You might say book of the Bible.
But I say my Dad walking around the house in his boxers.
I know – not the normal thought. I just cannot get it out of my head. He would walk around the house – pacing might be a better word – in his white boxers. And only his white boxers. He would say the book of James out loud from memory. He tried to memorize the entire book and he got a long way. In fact, he would say it out loud so much in those white boxers, that I myself had almost the entire first chapter memorized by osmosis. But his version started differently. His started, and yes this is from memory, “James a Bond Servant of God and the lord Jesus Christ to the twelves tribes dispersed abroad: Greetings.”
So when I read James the other day – His nametag conversation starter was wrong. The new translation I read from threw in the word dispersion, and that messed me up. What’s a dispersion? If I was playing word association with dispersion – I got nothing. I literally just stopped reading.
Introductions are important – James is writing to the dispersion – or better yet the tribes in the dispersion. Whatever he says next is to this tribe – in their dispersion. His words are intended for these people.
Dots slowly started to connect. I went back to My Dad’s Version (MDV) “to the twelve tribes scattered abroad.” Why were they scattered?
They were being persecuted.
James is writing a book to Christians on the run. He is writing a book to modern day Iraq – “James a bondservant of God and to the Lord Jesus Christ to the Christians in Iraq being tortured by ISIS: Greetings” Well that takes on a whole new meaning. WOW – What does James say next?
It was true back then as well, immediately after Jesus died. Stephen was stoned to death for being a Christian. Then Saul took out to capture and kill Christians and then all of Rome made it their mission to destroy Christianity. People had their property stolen and their houses confiscated. They could not be employed. They lost their status in society. They were crucified, set on fire to be a torch or a light, fed to the lions, and beheaded. These were the Christians in the dispersion. These were the Christians James was writing to. Now with them in mind – or maybe the picture of the beach in Iraq when ISIS beheaded the Christians: Read on.
“Count it all joy” Shut the front door – he did not start with Joy. Are you kidding me? That’s sure as heck not how I would’ve started it.
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds” Trials of various kinds???? Do you mean beheadings? That is what I call murder. The Grant Scarborough Version (GSV) would have read “Be ticked off everyone, when they try to feed you to the lions – fight back – put up land mines – blast them to hell!”
“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
What a great beginning – Joy – various trials – faith produces steadfastness. By definition – steadfastness means firmly loyal or constant or unswerving or fixed or unchanging. And your faith in the midst of trials makes you firmly loyal.
Oh Lord, I desire to be firmly loyal. I desire to be fixed upon you, never ever swerving. But to be honest, I do not want to do this in a dispersion. I want to do it in my nice air conditioned home, with my wife and kids, with clothes over my boxers. I want to do it while keeping my reputations and my wonderful job. And I can do this, but I do think my loyalty gets tested. I find myself being firmly loyal to my Lord and my job – and my house? And sometimes these things compete in small ways that makes me put one or two, for a brief moment above my Lord. The more I think on this, stuff really complicates my loyalty.
And this joy – various trials – firmly loyal – leads you to “being perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.”
Really James. That’s how you want to start. I can see him in heaven right now – YEP!
So here is my GSV Grant Scarborough Version
‘James, a bondservant of God, Jesus’s little brother – firmly loyal in Jeruselum for Christianity – in the end – beheaded – yeah they cut my head off too.
To the dispersion – to the people on the run – to you whose mother just lost her house – to you, yeah you, whose sister was just forced to be a slave – to you, yeah I am talking to you too, who are waiting to be fed to the lions. …….’
Then James’ next statement ends with being “perfect and complete lacking in nothing.” How can you be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing? There is only one answer.
Knowing, being one with the Messiah, abiding with him makes you perfect; makes you complete; makes you lack nothing. But wait I just lost my house, my property was stolen, I was thrown into slavery, I am being fed to the lions – ‘You lack nothing,’ James would still say.
I struggle big time with this thought – this struggle led me to write.
Lord help me to believe that you plus nothing is everything. Lord help me to believe you are more valuable than house, property, status, family, job, money – in fact if I lose everything, I have actually lost nothing. Because you make me perfect, you complete my greatest desires and longing and in You I lack nothing.
Your job does not give you an identity, your spouse does not complete you, your status does not perfect you – only Christ. He gives you His identity – you are a son and daughter of the King. It “almost” gives me a desire to go back to the times of the dispersion to understand this firmly loyal faith in Christ that leads me to lack nothing in spite of losing everything including my health. But the question I must wrestle with is how do I do this in the midst of this culture of wealth, self-preservation, and self-promotion.
I have no answer today. It might be time for you to take over. Strip down to your boxers and memorize a few more verses. Create a nametag with your name on it and then underneath write “firmly loyal.”
And keep reading James. The next verse is my only answer, “If anyone lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all.”
Lord give us wisdom!