The Fathers Gift and The Fatherly Task
James 1:17,27 The Father’s Gift and The Fatherly Task 6-19-16 Father’s Day
16Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
James has been tough so far- talking about persevering through trials. He has also said that God is not the source of our temptation- but is the One who can see us through temptation. God is not the source of our temptation- but God is the source of somethings. He says every perfect gift is form above from the Father of lights and the Lord of love.
Jesus tells us to call God Father. Now fathers are the source of some things but not necessarily all things. James tells us this too. He is not the father of lies; He is not the Father of temptation; He is not the Father of darkness. While we could say that God created the best of all possible worlds where evil is allowed exist- He does not directly and primarily force people to do evil. God did not force that terrorist to shoot the people in Orlando. James just finished saying that God is not the author of temptation- but God can help us through the trials and temptations that we face. There is a great 2014 study on lying done at Duke University. It found that when you mentioned the Ten Commandments, God, or even just an ethical code right before you take a test or right before you do your taxes it has a tremendous effect- cutting down cheating as much as 60%. Belief in God can motivate and empower us to do the right thing in a neutral or even dark place.
James just said God is not the father of temptation, darkness, or lies- now He talks about what God is the Father of. He is the Father of lights and the Giver of every perfect gift. This is echoed many times in the New Testament. For example, 1 John describes God in two ways. He says “God is light” and says “God is love.” I want us to look at these two important concepts today.
I. THE FATHER OF LIGHTS- Do you know how to define darkness? Darkness is the absence of light. Darkness is undefinable without light. But light can be defined without darkness because it is a positive energy. You can talk about how fast light travels, how it refracts and its colors. But darkness is a void- an emptiness. We see what darkness is when we look at the light. It is the same with evil. Evil is the absence of the good- and the absence of God. Evil is always parasitic on the good to define it and to take away from it. Lying would mean nothing if there was no such thing as truth and people who told it. Adultery would mean nothing if there were not some who kept their marriage vows. God is the author of good.
So, we need to enjoy the good gifts of life. Enjoy life. Christians are called to enjoy life the way it is meant to be lived- with honesty and trust; without back stabbing but with love; We are called to appreciate the good things of life the sunset on Lake Murray; the sunrise over the mountains or on the horizon at the ocean. We are called to love deeply and to enjoy the God who made us. Every good and perfect gift is from Him. When you do this you will enjoy your life more- being at peace with God, with others, and with yourself. All the lights- the good things in life we see are imperfect reflections of the One who made the stars. The lights we see we see imperfectly and they are not to be confused as being the author of the good in our lives. So when a baby is born- we do not give thanks to the baby for being born- but to the One who gives life. So when human love is experienced through friendship, through family, through a proper romance we rejoice and thank the author of love. It is important that we recognize the difference between those who reflect God’s light and the God who is the source of all light and love. For centuries people believed the moon was the source of light. It does shine light- but only as a mirror- a reflection of the greater light the sun. Why is this important? There are people who give themselves to the secondary lights and end up disappointed when it waxes or wanes or fades. We see this- we hear a song and we think it is the greatest song in the world. Then we download it or buy it and two years later it fades. We try a recipe and we think it is wonderful- but then after eating it every week for two years we don’t like it as much. We give ourselves to baseball- and then we get tired of playing it (or we get hurt). We give ourselves to another in human love and that too (sorry to crush anyone’s expectations) can get like a good worn shoe- we are comfortable but it has lost its pizzaz. But if we remember God is the source of light and gifts and we mix God with these things- I believe we can enjoy them more. So God can help us to have patience in trials (as James was saying earlier in chapter 1). So God can put some pizzaz back in your relationship. C. S. Lewis talks about this in his book “The Weight of Glory.” The glory- the credit for the gift and the good should not go ultimately to the secondary causes but to the first cause- the Father of lights.
- THE LORD OF LOVE- God is the Giver of every good and perfect gift. The greatest gift- the most perfect gift is the gift of love. God is the Lord of love- and the Father of love. Before we existed, God loved us. Before we knew God- God knew us and loved us. When we mess up- God loves us anyway and wants us to come back to Him. The Bible says, “Herein is love- not that we loved God but that He loved us and gave His Son as a propitiation for our sins.” Before we were even born, God showed His love for us on the cross. His infinite love is shown not only in his infinite foreknowledge but in his infinite worth paying for our finite sins. He is the Father of Love- and He is the Lord of love. He governs love. He knows how love should be shown and shouldn’t. We don’t need to love things so much that they become more valuable than people. Don’t value your TV, your music, your phone, your texting more than you value other real human beings. Don’t value the cyber above the real. No matter how many times people will try to deceive you into thinking the artificial is just as valuable as the real- do not listen. Fakeness is first cousin to idolatry and easily opens the door to loving the false, artificial, cyber fakeness above the real gifts- the people the life that God has set before you.
Love is not just hormones, or sexuality. Love has to do with the soul and the Spirit. Love is not just something you do as long as the person pleases you. True Love is possible, and it is not just animal instinct. The problem if we think that God is dead or doesn’t exist is we have no great way to explain human personality rising, or the human spirit, or human true love and the idea of sacrifice. We can talk about the evolving of love from a need for survival or reproduce. But it is inconsistent and lacks integrity for an atheist to talk of a soul mate or love as more than a feeling.
Yet this happens all the time. Love cannot be proved anymore than God- but we know love is there and is an evidence of God.
III. THE FATHERLY TASK- As people who are called to enjoy the true light and the true love, we are also called to take part in the Father’s work. James calls us to that. The Fatherly task is to look after the orphan and the widow- the needy in the world- and to keep ourselves from being polluted. James is mixing light and love. The love part is to love the least of these. The light part is a reminder to be personally pure and not corrupted by the pressure to be like others who are not following God’s way.
Psalm 68:5 talks about the need to care for the poor and being a father to the fatherless and care for the widows. In our day, this can mean children who are neglected or abused. Most of the children at Thornwell are not true orphans as much as they are neglected or abused. I was talking to the president of Thornwell, Elliot Smith last week at presbytery, and he was telling me that in our state they are making it harder for young children to be in group homes because of a false picture of what group homes do. So Thornwell is trying to reach out to the churches to start more Foster Parenting programs. Someone has to care for these children.
You can have great cathedrals and great liturgy; you can read the Bible and pray every day. James is very clear that having faith is not simply about these. Faith should express itself in action. We have an opportunity to express our faith this week. We will be fixing three bathrooms for people. One is a 92 year old making a handicap bathroom; another is a grandmother who cares for her grandchildren. You probably can’t get more concrete than making a bathroom for the fatherless to fulfill this passage.
But the other thing this passage says about true religion is that it shows in keeping ourselves unpolluted from the world. The Greek word here is “aspilon” which means unspotted. My uncle had a brand new light blue ford galaxy years ago and he drove it to Georgetown before they had pollution controls in place. The steel mill there was literally spotting the whole town with rust ash. My uncle’s brand new car got this rust all over his car and it destroyed the finish. What he didn’t know is that everyone who lived in Georgetown knew not to park their car in that area because the ash was particularly bad there. Learn to avoid the pollution of the world. Learn where it is- and learn how to keep your soul unspotted. Learn to guard against the spots. Learn to keep the pollution of the world away.
God wants us to care for others and to care for our own soul. He is the Father who cares about us. He cares about what we do and what we believe. He is not dead or asleep, but He is the Lord of love and the Father of lights.
I have always thought birds were God’s gift to us. Their beauty and the songs add to life. We have some feeders out back that attract different birds. Hummingbirds are fascinating. But did you know that a hummingbird father has nothing to do with its young. In contrast to that is the Downey Woodpecker. The Downey Woodpecker sits on the eggs taking turns with the mother, and brings food to the young and then teaches then where the food sources and bird feeders are. So my final word to fathers today is to not be like that old busy feisty hummingbird- as pretty as they are; Instead, be like that downey woodpecker- caring- even caring for others that are not your own. God is our caring father who encourages us to be caring.