Christianity 201

October 1, 2021

Whose Name Is Slandered? Translations Vary

This is an amended version of one of the devotions posted here eleven years ago, when C201 was just starting out. It’s also one where we see clearly that not all Bible translations read the same on all verses, and a quick reading will leave readers walking away with different impressions as to what the verse refers.

James 2: 5-7 (New International Version)

5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? 6 But you have insulted the poor. Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into court? 7 Are they not the ones who are slandering the noble name of him to whom you belong?

Verse seven of this passage says it is the rich who drag you into court and slander… well, who do they slander? Is it the name of (a) God, (b) Jesus, (c) your family name, i.e. surname (d) your name?

I got curious after reading the new CEB, Common English Bible:

Aren’t they the ones who insult the good name spoken over you at your baptism?

I guess I read this in the context of certain cultures where the baptism of an infant is also a “naming ceremony.” With John the Baptist, this took place when he was circumcised at eight days old. (Luke 1:57ff)

The NASB has James 2:7 as:

Do they not blaspheme the fair name by which you have been called?

The Message has:

Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—”Christian”—used in your baptisms?

The NLT reads:

Aren’t they the ones who slander Jesus Christ, whose noble name you bear?

The ESV renders this:

Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

The NKJV has:

Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?

The NCV puts it:

And they are the ones who speak against Jesus, who owns you.

The TNIV says:

Are they not the ones who are blaspheming the noble name of him to whom you belong?

The Louis Segond reads:

Ne sont-ce pas eux qui outragent le beau nom que vous portez? [name you are called]

The Amplified Bible blends the two aspects of this:

Is it not they who slander and blaspheme that precious name by which you are distinguished and called [the name of Christ invoked in baptism]?

I have to admit, I like that last one. The Amplified Bible seems to cover all the bases.

So what’s in a name?

The context of the passage is the rich exploiting the poor. That this is an insult to the character of the poor man so exploited.

Our name embodies who we are; our character is embedded in that name. And in addition to blending the two dynamics of this, The Amplified Bible (which I don’t use a whole lot) introduces the phrase, “name by which you are distinguished.” Your name marks you as different from everybody else. (Unless, I suppose, your name is John Smith…)

But we also bear another name, the name of Christ.

Any insult to us; any exploitation of you or me is an insult to Christ. I think the answer to the question I asked here is truly (e) all of the above.

But James isn’t just saying that we poor people are exploited. The earlier context (including verses 1-4) say that in the larger equation we are the ‘rich’ person in the story when we show favoritism, or when we marginalize those poorer than ourselves. (I wonder if some of the translations quoted take those earlier four verses into account?)

It’s easy to miss verse 6, sandwiched between verses 5 and 7. We’re actually the rich person in the story; it is us who are slandering the character of the poor; and thereby slandering the name of Christ by which they are called.

Here’s a different take on the subject of names from 2017; click here.

February 6, 2019

Why We’re Not Hearing Each Other

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today we’re back once again sharing the thoughts of Pastor Kevin Rogers who is, one of the longest running and perhaps the most frequently cited devotional writer/blogger here at C201.

Why Can’t We Hear Each Other?

When I have talked to couples or family members that are struggling with understanding each other, there is often a failure to have communication at that deeper level. It is possible to have lots of words or nearly none and be at an impasse with each other.

I have relationships like that. There are those that I would like to have more understanding and meaningful conversation with, but somehow lack the right words or the right connection. If you are on a cell phone and the signal is breaking up, you eventually give up and try again. You disconnect and dial again. That is assuming that you want to have the conversation.

In face-to-face encounters, we may have some people that we do not want to talk with. Why is that? We can choose to avoid them, but that is not always satisfactory. Sometimes we know that there are good reasons to be connected to them and there is a communication breakdown repeatedly.

Sometimes you cannot hear the voice of the other because the voice inside you is hurt, angry and insecure. The voice competing with real communication is telling you it’s time for fight, flight or freeze. This not only happens in human relationships, but also with the Divine. We cannot communicate with God when something else is interfering.

Would you like to have better communications? I know that I would. Let’s pull back the curtain and see what is going on behind the scenes.

James 1.19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

James identifies a core problem that affects all of our relationships. He says to get rid of everything that is sinful. Get rid of the evil that is all around us. Human anger does not produce the holy (healthy and fulfilled) life that God wants for us.

There are lying, hurtful, selfish things that lie at the heart of our failure to communicate. (Either in myself or in you—likely in both of us). I cannot start to connect with another until I first see what barrier is preventing that closeness.

I would like to blame you for the ways you are not meeting my needs or how you are insensitive toward me; but, that world of resentment and hurt inside me has a way of convincing me that it’s all you or that I am incapable of real meaningful connection. And so, my sin becomes unworthiness, self-pity and angry frustration.

Guess what? I will not breakthrough until I am willing to see the barriers that exist in me. By acknowledging my distorted perception, I can find God’s help to deal with my stuff. Maybe that will include me making amends, confessing my faults and relieving you of the awkward tension that comes from my fuzzy thinking. If it does nothing for you, I still need to get right in my understanding and live in God’s grace.

Let’s look at ways that we can move toward healthy communication and connectedness.

Kevin continued in these same verses in James in three consecutive posts:

For today’s text in The Passion Translation, click this link.

September 27, 2016

The Target: Perfect Obedience

James 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.

Today we pay a return visit to the blog Christians in Context, this time around the writer is J. Mark Fox. Click the title below to see other thoughts from the Epistle of James.

We grow according to our obedience

The late poet Archibald Rutledge told of meeting a man whose dog had just been killed. Heartbroken, the man explained to Rutledge how it happened. Because he worked outdoors, he often took his dog with him. That morning, he left the animal in a clearing and gave him a command to stay and watch his backpack that had his lunch in it, while he went into the forest. His faithful friend understood, for that’s exactly what he did. Then a fire started in the woods, and soon the blaze spread to the spot where the dog had been left. He stayed right where he was, in perfect obedience to his master’s word. With tears, the dog’s owner said, “I always had to be careful what I told him to do, because I knew he would do it.” That’s the kind of obedience that Jesus demonstrated to the Father. He went through the fires of suffering and death to accomplish God’s purpose, to win our pardon, pay for our sin and invite us into a relationship with Him. For His glory and for our great good, He also calls us into obedience to the Father’s will, no matter the cost.

In James’ powerfully practical book, he says the key to obedience to God is found in looking intently into the perfect law of liberty, God’s Word, and then doing what it says. Sounds so simple, doesn’t it? Why then do most of us struggle with this? James said a person who hears the Word and doesn’t do it is like a man who looks in a mirror and walks away, forgetting at once what he looks like. Most scholars believe the man forgets what he looks like not because he has short-term memory loss, but because he chooses to forget. He looks at himself in the mirror and sees the ravages of sin, the scars of lifestyle choices, the marks of laziness or lust, bitterness or gluttony. And he hurries away to the rest of his day, because he doesn’t even want to think of what changes he would have to make if he really took the image in the mirror seriously.

Isn’t that what Sunday morning can become, and has for many? We hear the Word and know that God is speaking to us, but as soon as the last amen is uttered we are out the door and on our way and whatever rumblings we were feeling in our soul during the sermon are gone. I have been in the movie theater, and so have you, where the credits are rolling and no one is moving. Everybody is sitting speechless, powerfully moved by what they have just seen and heard. There’s not a whisper in the place and if there is, it seems unholy. Everyone is stunned by what just happened, and no one wants to leave. That begs the question: when was the last time you responded to the Word like that? When was the last time you heard the message of truth from the Scripture and could not move from your seat until you had dealt with what God was speaking into your soul? Those times are much too rare, friends, but they don’t have to be. They increase at the same rate with which we take the truth of God’s Word for what it is.

Do you ever wonder why some Christians grow to maturity with rocket-like speed, and others seem to plod along in the same place for years? This is a key. We grow up in proportion to our obedience.


May 30, 2015

The Book of James as a Poem

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:26 pm
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1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:

I suspect that doing this would force you to delve more deeply into the text. Ray McClendon is on pastoral staff of a California church. Click the link below to read at source. (This really needs to be in a print publication somewhere; contact the author for details.)

P R O V E R B I A L – J A M E S

James has been referred to as the ‘Wisdom Literature of the New Testament’ by some theologians. The Psalms and the Proverbs are didactic poetry (among other things), and the Proverbs in particular are a collection of poetic yet practical statements about what Torah looks like when lived out in daily life and community. Since James ‘reads’ and ‘feels’ like Proverbs to some extent, (what the Gospel looks like when lived out in daily life and community), I wondered what James would look and sound like if rendered proverbially using modern English poetry. Perhaps the following result will make James a little more memorable for you and yield an insight or two. A word of caution. Poetry has its own rewards, but also its limitations. While poetry may be put to good use in a number of ways, this rendition is not meant to nor can it can ever replace James’ letter. What he meant by “God cannot be tempted neither does he tempt anyone” or “judges with evil motives” or “faith without works is dead” must be worked with carefully within his own letter and our larger understanding of God and his Story.

J A M E S – 1

When trials bring you hardship… fear…
Then count it joy and persevere.

When perseverance has its say,
You’ll be complete in every way.

Ask for wisdom and believe,
And from a generous God receive.

Ask in faith and do not doubt,
Like the waves, wind-tossed about.

The poor rejoice in exaltation,
The rich, in their humiliation.

The steadfast ones are blessed when down,
For when they rise they have their crown.

Don’t beat your own desire’s drums,
Then blame God when tempting comes.

Each good and perfect gift in sight,
Is given by the God of light.

Be slow to let your anger peak,
Be quick to hear and slow to speak.

Renounce all evil, be undeterred,
Receive with meekness the engrafted word.

Those casual hearers of the law,
Forget what they in mirrors saw.

Be doers of that word and never,
Just hearers who are lost forever.

Be steadfast in the law that frees,
In doing you’ll be blessed in these.

Are you a true, religious one?
Then guard your heart, control your tongue.

Pure religion and undefiled,
Serves widow and the orphan child.

Keep from the world, unstained and pure,
To show a faith sincere and sure.

J A M E S – 2

Brothers, show no preference for,
The wealthy rather than the poor.

An evil motive judges things,
Like shabby clothes and golden rings.

Dishonor not the poor God gave,
The kingdom to and faith to save.

The Law convicts us of our sin,
When we’re partial deep within.

A sin, by any other name,
Is still a sin and still a shame.

Live your life and have your say,
Knowing you’ll be judged someday.

A faith that will not share its bread,
Or other needed things… is dead.

If your faith is true indeed,
Your faith will work in time of need.

J A M E S – 3

Let not many aspire to teach,
It’s hard to practice what you preach.

We often stumble too and slip,
But they’re in control, who control their lip.

Like rudder and the bridle too,
The tongue will take control of you.

Though a flame of strife be small,
A fiery tongue can burn down all.

We bless our Father and our Lord,
Then curse our brethren with a word.

Church, these things should not be so.
What’s in your heart, the tongue will show.

Where selfishness and pride exist,
Every evil will persist.

Let conduct be informed by love,
And gentle wisdom from above.

Mercy and good fruit increase,
When righteousness is sown in peace.

J A M E S – 4

Arguing and fights the more,
Persist when passions go to war.

Hateful envy in all its strife,
Is rooted in the selfish life.

Friendship with the world is odd,
And creates hostility with God.

God jealously desires a heart of,
That Spirit whom he made us part of.

Resist the devil and he will flee,
Draw near to God, he’ll draw to thee.

Lament and mourn and shed a tear,
And let repentance be sincere.

Humility must fill your cup,
Then the Lord will lift you up.

Speak no evil of your brother,
For who are you to judge another?

When you make plans for living large,
Remember that the Lord’s in charge.

No matter what we’re aiming at,
By grace we will do this… or that…

To one who knows what’s right within,
But does it not, it is a sin.

J A M E S – 5

The faithless rich will weep one day,
For all their riches will decay.

The cries of those abused in fraud,
Will rise before Almighty God.

As farmers wait throughout the year,
Wait patient Church, the Lord is near.

Please, don’t murmur anymore,
The Lord is standing at the door.

The compassion of the Lord is sure,
He will help you to endure.

Remember Job, the prophets too.
For godly mercy covers you.

Let not judgment bring you low,
Let yes be yes and no be no.

Do you suffer much today?
Then bow before the Lord and pray.

Are you joyful? Count the ways
the Lord has blessed you. Sing His praise!

Are you sick? In need of care?
Call your elders for oil and prayer…

The anointing oil, the prayer of faith,
Will raise you up and keep you safe.

Confess your sins to one another,
Each praying for their sister… brother…

Pray for healing… rain or sun,
God always hears the righteous one.

Should any stray from Truth’s control,
Then turn them back and save their soul.

— James 1-5

© 2014 by Ray McClendon. All Rights Reserved.



April 8, 2014

Overcoming Temptation

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James 1:13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

Ben Stuart is part of Breakaway Ministries a non-denominational student outreach on the campus of Texas A&M University. The video runs 4.5 minutes.

“Do I believe God really loves me?”

This was an interesting quote at the end: “I dislodge a beautiful thing from the human heart by replacing it with a more beautiful thing.”


July 30, 2010

It’s How You Live

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 6:57 pm
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I keep coming back to a phrase that I once heard more frequently than I do today:

Religion = Doctrine + Ethics

You can believe all sorts of things to be positionally true, positionally right or even positionally beautiful; but until the positional becomes practical in your comings and goings, it really doesn’t mean a thing.

No wonder James said that faith without works is meaningless.   That verse got sidetracked into a discussion about salvation, but it’s a verse about faith having meaning for your everyday life.

We aren’t saved by what we do, but we possible are not saved if that salvation has not resulted in action.

This wasn’t a problem for the early church, who understood salvation in terms of a “turning.”

For some it’s an “about face,” but for others, it just means increasing focus and devotion to Christ that results in a change in the way we live.