Meekness is not Weakness
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This is not the wisdom that comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. 18 And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
– James 3:13–18 ESV
You’ve all seen it. The misguided pro-life zealot who blew up the abortion clinic. The “anti-abortion extremist” who shot and killed the doctor who performs abortions. The members of the church blocking funeral processions for members of the armed forces because the military allows homosexual men and women to serve. The rancorous protests and vicious rhetoric when “physician-assisted suicide” is debated.
God, through James’ hand, has a message for those who let their emotions take control. Love for God and your neighbor demands a better way of getting your point across. “By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom” (James 3:13b ESV). That wisdom is described thus: “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere” (James 3:17 ESV).
OK, but sex out of wedlock is wrong. Abortion is wrong. Physician-assisted suicide is wrong. I can’t condone those things, so what am I supposed to do?
When word gets out that an unmarried woman in your area is pregnant, what do you do? Do you call the person in town who knows all “the news” to find out about the father? Do you ignore her in the grocery store? Do you ascribe to her all of the demeaning names and adjectives that society uses? Or do you recognize the fact that she sinned, just as you have MANY times? Her sin may be more visible and may have different consequences, but it’s no more grievous than yours—and that sin is just as forgiven as yours. Why not offer to help her in whatever way she might need? Drive her to a doctor appointment, throw a baby shower for her, offer to pick up groceries for her, LOVE her. She is carrying a child of God regardless of how that child was conceived.
A friend confides in you that he paid for his girlfriend to have an abortion 10 years ago, what do you do? Remind him that he was an accessory to the murder of his own child? Vow never to talk to him because you would never do “THAT?” Tell everyone else you know to avoid him? Or do you sit and listen, offering comfort and assurance of God’s forgiveness for that sin? Offer him the number for the Word of Hope Counseling Service (888-217-8679), find a local support group for post-abortive men, share Scripture with him regarding God’s unconditional love and pray with him.
An 82-year-old gentleman whose wife died a year ago just found out that he has Alzheimer’s disease. He’s going to lose his driver’s license. He’ll have to move because he forgot to turn off the stove and nearly set his house on fire. Soon he may need help brushing his teeth, going to the bathroom and getting dressed. He is sure that he is going to be a burden on his children. When they come to see him, he probably won’t even remember who they are, and afterward, won’t remember that they visited. Couldn’t his doctor just give him a pill to end it all? If his regular doctor won’t do it, couldn’t he keep looking until he finds one who will? What do you do? Perhaps you could offer to pick him up and bring him to church each week. You could arrange for his friends to visit with him throughout the week. You could stop by to visit and sing some of his favorite hymns (or other songs) with him.
“By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom.” Remember, “meekness” is NOT “weakness.” In the scenarios above, the “meek” actions were often more difficult and required more “strength” than following the ways of the world. Those things are certainly more difficult than doing nothing. But James also tells us that “a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:18 ESV). Notice that James doesn’t say that our actions are the cause of our righteousness—that has been won for us by Christ. We are merely to sow in peace in order to benefit from that harvest of righteousness.
Prayer: Gracious Father, we give you thanks and praise for the gifts which You have given us. Help us to share those gifts with people who are dealing with life issues—even if it means stepping outside of our comfort zone. Let us always remember your urging to sow in peace as we share your love and forgiveness, reflecting the love and forgiveness that You extend to us. Amen.
Pro-Life Action: As this New Year begins and you make resolutions of things to do for yourself, consider ways in which you could spend one hour a week helping someone in need—at a crisis pregnancy center, a hospice house, etc.
Today’s devotion was written by Rev. Scott Licht, national director of Lutherans for Life and pastor of Shepherd of the Prairie Lutheran Church (Huxley, IA)
This year’s Advent devotions are written by the members of NALC Life Ministries. The devotional follows the daily Revised Common Lectionary for Advent and includes a Bible reading, commentary, prayer and pro-life action for every day until Christmas Eve.
As we move through the season of Advent, Scripture reveals the anxiety of an unplanned pregnancy, as Mary and Joseph ponder this miracle and seek to understand who this precious child might be. This devotional examines our responsibility to protect all human life in light of Mary and Joseph’s protection of Jesus, the savior of the world.
Our authors include Rev. Dr. David Wendel, Rev. Mark Chavez, Rev. Dr. Dennis Di Mauro, Rev. Dr. Cathi Braasch, Rev. Scott Licht, Rev. Sandra Towberman, Rev. Steve Shipman, Ms. Rebecka Andrae, Rev. Melinda Jones, Rev. David Nelson, Ms. Rosemary Johnson, Rev. Mark Werner and Rev. Steve Bliss.
Judges 11:1–27 (ESV)
Jephthah Delivers Israel
11 Now Jephthah the Gileadite was a mighty warrior, but he was the son of a prostitute. Gilead was the father of Jephthah. 2 And Gilead’s wife also bore him sons. And when his wife’s sons grew up, they drove Jephthah out and said to him, “You shall not have an inheritance in our father’s house, for you are the son of another woman.” 3 Then Jephthah fled from his brothers and lived in the land of Tob, and worthless fellows collected around Jephthah and went out with him.
4 After a time the Ammonites made war against Israel. 5 And when the Ammonites made war against Israel, the elders of Gilead went to bring Jephthah from the land of Tob. 6 And they said to Jephthah, “Come and be our leader, that we may fight against the Ammonites.” 7 But Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “Did you not hate me and drive me out of my father’s house? Why have you come to me now when you are in distress?” 8 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “That is why we have turned to you now, that you may go with us and fight against the Ammonites and be our head over all the inhabitants of Gilead.” 9 Jephthah said to the elders of Gilead, “If you bring me home again to fight against the Ammonites, and the Lord gives them over to me, I will be your head.” 10 And the elders of Gilead said to Jephthah, “The Lord will be witness between us, if we do not do as you say.” 11 So Jephthah went with the elders of Gilead, and the people made him head and leader over them. And Jephthah spoke all his words before the Lord at Mizpah.
12 Then Jephthah sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites and said, “What do you have against me, that you have come to me to fight against my land?” 13 And the king of the Ammonites answered the messengers of Jephthah, “Because Israel on coming up from Egypt took away my land, from the Arnon to the Jabbok and to the Jordan; now therefore restore it peaceably.” 14 Jephthah again sent messengers to the king of the Ammonites 15 and said to him, “Thus says Jephthah: Israel did not take away the land of Moab or the land of the Ammonites, 16 but when they came up from Egypt, Israel went through the wilderness to the Red Sea and came to Kadesh. 17 Israel then sent messengers to the king of Edom, saying, ‘Please let us pass through your land,’ but the king of Edom would not listen. And they sent also to the king of Moab, but he would not consent. So Israel remained at Kadesh.
18 “Then they journeyed through the wilderness and went around the land of Edom and the land of Moab and arrived on the east side of the land of Moab and camped on the other side of the Arnon. But they did not enter the territory of Moab, for the Arnon was the boundary of Moab. 19 Israel then sent messengers to Sihon king of the Amorites, king of Heshbon, and Israel said to him, ‘Please let us pass through your land to our country,’ 20 but Sihon did not trust Israel to pass through his territory, so Sihon gathered all his people together and encamped at Jahaz and fought with Israel. 21 And the Lord, the God of Israel, gave Sihon and all his people into the hand of Israel, and they defeated them. So Israel took possession of all the land of the Amorites, who inhabited that country. 22 And they took possession of all the territory of the Amorites from the Arnon to the Jabbok and from the wilderness to the Jordan. 23 So then the Lord, the God of Israel, dispossessed the Amorites from before his people Israel; and are you to take possession of them? 24 Will you not possess what Chemosh your god gives you to possess? And all that the Lord our God has dispossessed before us, we will possess. 25 Now are you any better than Balak the son of Zippor, king of Moab? Did he ever contend against Israel, or did he ever go to war with them? 26 While Israel lived in Heshbon and its villages, and in Aroer and its villages, and in all the cities that are on the banks of the Arnon, 300 years, why did you not deliver them within that time? 27 I therefore have not sinned against you, and you do me wrong by making war on me. The Lord, the Judge, decide this day between the people of Israel and the people of Ammon.”
Psalm 2 (ESV)
The Reign of the Lord’s Anointed
2 Why do the nations rage
and the peoples plot in vain?
2 The kings of the earth set themselves,
and the rulers take counsel together,
against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying,
3 “Let us burst their bonds apart
and cast away their cords from us.”
4 He who sits in the heavens laughs;
the Lord holds them in derision.
5 Then he will speak to them in his wrath,
and terrify them in his fury, saying,
6 “As for me, I have set my King
on Zion, my holy hill.”
7 I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
today I have begotten you.
8 Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
and the ends of the earth your possession.
9 You shall break them with a rod of iron
and dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
10 Now therefore, O kings, be wise;
be warned, O rulers of the earth.
11 Serve the Lord with fear,
and rejoice with trembling.
12 Kiss the Son,
lest he be angry, and you perish in the way,
for his wrath is quickly kindled.
Blessed are all who take refuge in him.
Acts 15:36–16:10 (ESV)
Paul and Barnabas Separate
36 And after some days Paul said to Barnabas, “Let us return and visit the brothers in every city where we proclaimed the word of the Lord, and see how they are.” 37 Now Barnabas wanted to take with them John called Mark. 38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work. 39 And there arose a sharp disagreement, so that they separated from each other. Barnabas took Mark with him and sailed away to Cyprus, 40 but Paul chose Silas and departed, having been commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord. 41 And he went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches.
Timothy Joins Paul and Silas
16 Paul came also to Derbe and to Lystra. A disciple was there, named Timothy, the son of a Jewish woman who was a believer, but his father was a Greek. 2 He was well spoken of by the brothers at Lystra and Iconium. 3 Paul wanted Timothy to accompany him, and he took him and circumcised him because of the Jews who were in those places, for they all knew that his father was a Greek. 4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered to them for observance the decisions that had been reached by the apostles and elders who were in Jerusalem. 5 So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and they increased in numbers daily.
The Macedonian Call
6 And they went through the region of Phrygia and Galatia, having been forbidden by the Holy Spirit to speak the word in Asia. 7 And when they had come up to Mysia, they attempted to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit of Jesus did not allow them. 8 So, passing by Mysia, they went down to Troas. 9 And a vision appeared to Paul in the night: a man of Macedonia was standing there, urging him and saying, “Come over to Macedonia and help us.” 10 And when Paul had seen the vision, immediately we sought to go on into Macedonia, concluding that God had called us to preach the gospel to them.
We know that in 1513, when [Luther] began his lectures on the Psalms, he still operated with the fourfold sense of Scripture, the sensus literalis, allegoricus, tropologicus, and anagogicus, but that already in the course of his lectures he combined three of them into one and occasionally designated the sensus literalis as the sensus primarius scripturaebehind which the sensus tropologicus must retreat. In his lectures on Romans, 1515-1516, and on Galatians, 1516-1517, this view becomes increasingly evident, and after 1519 his exposition is entirely controlled by the principle: Scripture has but one meaning, even though in his practical explanations of the Scriptures he still oftentimes pays tribute to the allegorical sense. He now declares in his writing against Emser, “Scripture shall not have a double meaning but shall retain the one that accords with the meaning by the words,” and again, “The Holy Ghost is the most simple author and speaker in heaven and earth, therefore His words cannot have more than one, the most simple meaning.” In his Christmas Postil of 1522 he even writes, “If we concede that Scripture has more than one sense, it loses its fighting force.” (10)
–Johann Michael Reu, Luther on the Scriptures
This daily Bible reading guide, Reading the Word of God, was conceived and prepared as a result of the ongoing discussions between representatives of three church bodies: Lutheran Church—Canada (LCC), The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) and the North American Lutheran Church (NALC). The following individuals have represented their church bodies and approved this introduction and the reading guide: LCC: President Robert Bugbee; NALC: Bishop John Bradosky, Revs. Mark Chavez, James Nestingen, and David Wendel; LCMS: Revs. Albert Collver, Joel Lehenbauer, John Pless, and Larry Vogel.