AM I THE RIGHT AUDIENCE?
Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning, and your joy into gloom. James 4:9
As a young child, I lived nervous and quiet most of the time. In school, I was usually the one sitting with her hands folded at her desk. If the majority of the class was misbehaving, I never had the courage to take part. (Not that I wasn’t thinking about it, mind you!) So when the teacher would lose her temper and yell at the whole class, I would assume she was also talking to me. I would tremble in my seat and think, “I thought I was being good but I must not be wrong. Look at her red face.”
‘Discerning the audience’ is still a problem for many who read the scriptures. Those who are already walking in obedience often internalize God’s words of judgment. Their overly sensitive guilt trigger causes them to soak in the wrath of God even though the words are not intended for them. I believe God is often frustrated. The Word can become a stumbling block and trust can be breached.
To whom was James writing these words? Not the Christians who professed Jesus; the ones who were few in number and were being persecuted. God’s message to them would be to take heart, trust, and joy in the hope of their salvation. In this particular instance, James addressed those whom he had addressed before; the ones who were living for the lusts and pleasures of the world, the ones who had embraced the ‘technical aspects of the Gospel’ but made their life all about casual fun. We know the same thing all too well as ‘fun and fellowship’ go hand in hand in church marketing slogans.
Fun is not the problem. It is when fun replaces serious discipleship. I’ve discovered that as I get older, the people with whom I laugh deeply are usually the people with whom I’m able to share the riches of Christ. To laugh with me is to experience the fruit of a deep spiritual connection.
Today’s words are for any who fail to live in the joy of God – but instead put their joy in the things of this world. Time will reveal that they were dime store trinkets.
Lord, don’t let the wrong people take this verse personally. Show them what part of this devotional is for them. For some, it confirms their journey into joy. For others, it burns with conviction. I trust Your Spirit to take the appropriate message home. In Jesus name, Amen