“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ…
James 1:1 ESV
Today I began a Bible study entitled Just James (written by Bethany Fleming and Bonnie Kathryn Hunter). Day one included taking a closer look at the nicknames of James. Although James was a leader in the church and the half-brother of Jesus, he didn’t introduce himself as such. Rather, he began with what you see above; he referred to himself as a servant of God. Other versions use slave instead of servant. Regardless of what word is used, however, it at first seems James has downplayed his importance. I mean, if I were related to Jesus, I think I’d start there when introducing myself to people. Just imagine the immediate admiration and attention that would come with such an introduction. I know if I had heard someone introduce himself as a half-brother of Jesus, I’d have been mesmerized and started asking all kinds of questions. What was he like as a brother? Were you jealous of him? I’d also assume if this guy is related to Jesus then he must know what he’s talking about.
But James didn’t throw that worldly weight around. After all, that type of introduction would have not been a kingdom focused one. And James was all about God’s kingdom, not his own. You see, while the world focuses on social status and all things seen, God’s economy thrives on the heart and the unseen. In God’s kingdom, it’s not about who you know on earth but whom you serve in heaven.
And James served Jesus. He served God and the Lord Jesus Christ first, before anything else.
So why is this important? Well, the study today asked us a question regarding James’ introduction: “Usually, we introduce ourselves by attaching the highest title we hold to our names rather than the lowliest, yet James did quite the opposite. Why might he have done that?” (Question found on page 7 of #JustJames Bible study)
God spoke to my heart the following answer: “because slave of God is the highest honor—it means the most.”
Think about it. Being a slave may sound menial in the eyes of this world, but being a slave of God is essential and the key to truly living. Why? Well, what we place first in our lives dictates the rest of our lives. Do you put yourself and your desires first? Then everything you say and do will reflect this. Do you want to be rich in the eyes of the world? Then your words and actions will stem from this desire. Do you hold the opinions of others as the indicator of your success? Then your words and actions will focus on what you think others want. Our first priority, whatever it may be, acts like an umbrella over our lives; everything else will fall under it. So I believe James started his letter with his first priority knowing that everything else that truly mattered had to start there.
Our highest calling is to be a slave. But not just any slave. Our highest calling is to be a slave of God.
Therefore, I encourage you to join me in a prayer today, a prayer asking God for the grace and strength to make James’ focus our focus as well.
My faithful Father and Lord of all,
Today I thank you first of all for giving me life. You chose me before the foundation of the world, and You knew my every moment before I was ever born. You fashioned me and formed me with intricate care and intention, and nothing You designed was without thought. You then sent Jesus, Your one and only Son, into the world to live a sinless life, die a cruel death, and then come back to life in order that I may be free from the penalty for my sins. You saved me before I ever knew I needed saving. Thank You.
Now, knowing who You are and all You have done and will do, I pray I may present my body as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing unto You as my spiritual act of worship. I recognize that being a slave of God is my greatest calling and must be my highest priority, for nothing else I say or do will be eternally significant outside the servant of God umbrella. Wife, mother, daughter, sister, teacher, friend—whatever other role I may have in this life—none are as essential, and none can be truly successful, unless they stem from a heart set on serving You. Therefore, may I serve You first in everything today. May the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart be pleasing to You. May I take every thought captive to obedience of You. May I boldly declare that I am Your humble servant, and may everything I say and do reflect this declaration. And when I fall short of what You have called me to do, may I be quick to recognize the error, repent of it, and get back up to walk in Your ways once again. Apart from You I can do nothing, so may You give me the strength to serve You first in every way and in everything. Amen.
Oh how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity! Therefore, join me today in living a life that declares, “I am a slave of God.” Let’s come together as the body of Christ and serve the one true God, the Lord of hosts, king Jesus is His name. Let’s serve Him with full knowledge that being a slave of our Savior is the most humbling, highest, greatest, and best choice we will ever make both in this life and in the one to come.
“Now unto the King eternal, immortal, wise God, be honour and glory for ever and ever. Amen.”
1 Timothy 1:17 KJV