CG Guide (James 3:9-10)

“Blessing Image Bearers” (Series: Missions and Mercy March)

Scripture: James 3:9-10

Sermon Summary 

The book of James is a practical book that shows how Christian faith and discipleship is to be lived out. James exhorts believers to be doers of the word and not hearers only (1:22). To hear the word but not respond accordingly is foolish, like a man looking in a mirror and immediately forgetting what he looks like. James then explains that true religion is not merely about religious observance and duty but is about caring for the orphans and widows. Orphans and widows were among the least and last in society during the biblical tines. True religion then begets a heart of mercy and justice toward the most vulnerable. 

In James 2, the theme moves from true religion to true faith. “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (2:17). The works James refers to is not simply church attendance and spiritual disciplines. He has in mind the basic concerns of mercy and justice like clothing the poor and feeding the hungry. Again, those counted along the least and the last in society. True faith then is evidenced in words as well as works. We are justified by faith alone but justifying faith does not remain alone. 

But why must Christians care about mercy and justice toward the poor and needy? James suggests that all people “are made in the likeness of God” (3:9). This is a reference to the truth that humanity was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) which means all creation is created with inherent value, worth and significance. These things are intrinsic to all human beings and cannot be accumulated, accomplished or added, nor can they be erased and eradicated from a person. Not even the destructive power of sin can remove the image of God from a person. Even as sinners, humans remain image bearers. 

James reminds the readers that if this is true, it is inconsistent and hypocritical for believers to treat God one way and treat people another way. The vertical and the horizontal and tethered together. We cannot view God as worthy of worship and then view the destitute and poor as worthless. To honor God means to honor those made in his image, no matter what their status or station in life. This is what ought to be. Christians are called to bless all image bearers. We do this through a biblical pursuit of mercy and justice. 

Ultimately Christians pursue such a vision because the gospel transforms our lenses. We see others are they truly are: significant in the eyes of God. But more than that, we also see the way that God mercifully came after us in the gift of Jesus. If our spiritual need of forgiveness is the greatest need we have, then God’s mercy toward us in Jesus should allow us to act mercifully toward the physical needs of others. We begin to live out Proverbs 31:8-9, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

Suggested Group Discussion Questions 

  1. Why would a person be tempted to untether the vertical (spiritual life before God) and the horizontal (mercy and justice toward the least and the last)? Have you experienced this temptation before? Do you more naturally lean toward one more than the other (spiritual devotion or social concern)? Please elaborate. 
  2. All human beings are made in God’s image. Do you live in the awareness of this theological reality and treat others as such (blessing and not cursing them)? Give an example of what this looks like. How can you begin seeing and treating all people, especially the least and the last, with dignity, value and worth simply on these grounds? 
  3. Are there certain issues/concerns related to mercy and justice that particularly burden your heart? Share with one another (How did that come to be?)
  4. Doxology: Express how this sermon helps you understand, appreciate, and worship Jesus more. In what ways has the gospel become more alive to you having read this passage and heard this sermon? 
  5. Response: Formulate a one-sentence prayer that’s informed by the passage and the sermon. This prayer should articulate what you desire to walk away and how you want God to apply it in your life. Have a few people share what they came up with.

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