As I study “No other gods,” I realize one that hasn’t been listed yet. It is the god of what I know, the god of my understanding. The Bible says that God’s ways are higher than my ways, which makes sense and puts my knowledge far down the scale. Yet I so easily can make an idol of what I DO know about the ways of God, of what He has revealed to me.
James warns his readers to be careful about thinking knowledge is enough, never mind putting it on a pedestal or making a credential out of it . . .
. . . But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (James 1:19–27)
In other words, being a Christian involves far more than just knowing and believing what the Bible says. True faith will also be compelled to do what it says. James illustrates by saying that those who follow Christ and are idol-free will bridle their tongues, take care of the helpless, and keep themselves from the sins that have corrupted the world.
The Bible also says that true faith enables escape the fire of judgment, not because of merely believing in God which is important (but even the demons do that much), but because their faith is demonstrated in their lives . . .
The sinners in Zion are afraid; trembling has seized the godless: “Who among us can dwell with the consuming fire? Who among us can dwell with everlasting burnings?” (The answer is . . . ) He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly, who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure. (Isaiah 33:14–16)
Here, the illustration of faith in action is upright speech, refusing to take advantage of others, no interest in bribes and gifts, and without any overt interest in the sins of others. This person takes shelter in God and feeds on that which God provides.
Today’s devotional emphasizes that bribes and gifts also can be idols that “blind the clear-sighted and subvert the cause of those who are in the right” (Exodus 23:8). They are accepted by wicked people in secret to pervert justice as it says in Proverbs 17:23. Isn’t this the truth! Perversion of justice through bribes is reflecting the headlines of our daily newspapers.
But God says that “gaining treasures by a lying tongue is a fleeting vapor and a snare of death” (Proverbs 21:6). Even worse, it can make leaders into “rebels and companions of thieves” for “everyone loves a bribe and runs after gifts” with the result that there is no “justice for the fatherless” and no care for widows (Isaiah 1:23) which as James says, ought to be the mark of genuine faith.
Bribes are about material gain at the expense of doing what is right. This is making an idol out of material gain. I understand and know this, but relate more to the idea of learning information like this from the Word of God and not doing what it says. For me, it is easy to think that because I know it, that is enough. I don’t really have to take care of the helpless . . . just know its importance. Yikes.
God says otherwise. My knowledge of His Word is not to be elevated to any status at all. I have nothing that God didn’t give. Besides, if I do not do what I know, then I am deceiving myself. Instead of worshiping God with an obedient life, I am worshiping the idol of my supposed credentials.