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Saturday, June 21, 2014

Scripture Reading: James 4
Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, in order to spend what you get on your pleasures. Adulterers! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you suppose that it is for nothing that the scripture says, “God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us”? But he gives all the more grace; therefore it says,

“God opposes the proud,
     but gives grace to the humble.”

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. Lament and mourn and weep. Let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy into dejection. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will exalt you.

Do not speak evil against one another, brothers and sisters. Whoever speaks evil against another or judges another, speaks evil against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one lawgiver and judge who is able to save and to destroy. So who, then, are you to judge your neighbor?

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin. (NRSV)

Recently I was struck by a shirt that read, “You have not because you ask not”—struck partly because of the biblical reference to James 4 but more importantly because I’m always asking and don’t always have. I’ll call a family member for life-advice; I ask my tech-savvy buddies for help on the latest tablet and they remind me that I won’t buy it anyway.

In fact, I was that kid, with all the questions about the world and its entirety and wondering if I could have seconds. Maturity means I do it less frequently but probably more than most. And I even ask God—and I’m embarrassed to admit—for special “favor” (as it regards finding lost keys, a good deal, or even a parking spot).

But James seems to be saying, “No, you’re really not asking” or “You are asking, but with the wrong intentions.” In our wealth and comfort, maybe there is the simple question we need to ask in humility; maybe when we’re too isolated in our own crowded cities, we fail to ask those around us for help, whether it’s to address our depression, our grief, or even to share in our joys.

Perhaps this is also a rebuke by an author that is so concerned about community. We ask for so little when we could ask for so much more! We pray for just ourselves or our families, but not for neighbors and enemies. We pray for a new job when God offers us a life’s vocation. We pray to be liked by all when God offers us deeper friendships. We pray for God to take pain away, because it understandably hurts, but God offers us strength instead, through and beyond the pain.

Go ahead, then. Ask the community for support and for help. Ask God for more than you might even think you deserve. But this time, really ask.

God who hears all of our questions, help me to ask the community around me for support and help, but also help me to ask for much more than I sometimes feel I deserve, as you have promised me much more than what I sometimes ask for, and that is your gift of grace that is new every morning. Amen.

Written by Edwin Estevez, Pastoral Resident

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