2.7.17 – It’s The Doers Who Are Blessed – Peter Cheyne

Read James 1:19-26

One morning Jeremiah got up and read his Bible, as he did, indeed, every morning.

James 1:19-21     My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because our anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

He nodded and thought how wonderful and how profound the word of God is. “Imagine”, he thought to himself, “how the world would be if everybody was quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. God’s ways are exactly what this world needs.” He then said a little prayer. He had read his Bible; he had prayed. In his own mind, Jeremiah had done exactly what God asked of him. How wrong he was.

He then headed off to the bathroom. Looking in the mirror, he noticed how his hair was sticking out at all angles. There was sleep in his eyes, a day’s stubble on his chin and tomato sauce around his mouth from last night’s sausages and chips. What is more, he noticed that he still had his pyjamas on.

Jeremiah then turned away from the mirror and immediately forgot everything he had just seen. He had some breakfast, packed his lunch and headed for work on the train. He did notice that a lot of people looked at him, some with puzzled looks. Many glanced, looked away and smiled at one another, raising their eyebrows. So many did it that he began to get a little irked. By the end of the trip he was quite upset that people would be so rude and insensitive. Was there some conspiracy to make fun of him – something everyone knew about except him?

In his own mind, Jeremiah thought he was looking pretty sharp that morning. How wrong he was.

Walking through the foyer at work, the youngest recruit sidled up to him and said, out of the corner of his mouth, “My Jeremiah, you’ve got you pyjamas on.”

That was more than enough! Jeremiah snapped at him, “Get lost, you young twerp! What does someone your age know about pyjamas? Have more respect for your elders.”

He stormed to his desk but soon became aware of some sniffling. How could he work with that sort of noise? He looked up to see Jennifer with her head in her hands, her shoulders shaking and a pile of tissues on her desk. “Jennifer!” Jeremiah exploded, “What on earth are you doing? Stay at home if you can’t keep quiet. People here are trying to work.”

Jennifer’s sniffling turned to sobbing. She packed up her things and left the building.

All day Jeremiah noticed people talking about him but no one talked to him. He went home thoroughly miserable.

The next morning, he again read his Bible.

James 1:22          Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourself. Do what it says.

Jeremiah nodded. “Wow, God’s word is so relevant and true. Imagine if everybody did what God says.”

In his own mind, Jeremiah thought that he was quite religious. God frowned as He watched Jeremiah close his Bible. In fact, God wished they knew each other.

Meanwhile, that same day, in another house, Jemima got up and read her Bible.

James 1:19-21     My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry because our anger does not produce the righteousness God desires. Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

She nodded and thought how wonderful and how profound the word of God is. She read her Bible notes and wrote a reflection in her journal. “Imagine”, she thought to herself, “the impact I might have on other people if I was like that – quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. God’s ways are exactly what I need.” She then said a little prayer. “Loving Father, please help me to be just like that – quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry. In other words, dear Lord, please help me to relate to others like Jesus did.”

Jemima then headed off to the bathroom. Looking in the mirror, she noticed how her hair was sticking out at all angles. There was sleep in her eyes. There was no stubble on her chin, or tomato sauce around her mouth. She had taken care of that last night (the tomato sauce that is, not the stubble) when she had looked in the mirror. She did notice, though, that there were bags under her eyes from all the recent late nights. And, of course, she still had her pyjamas on.

And so, she set to work. She got dressed and she spent quite some time in the bathroom – as women are wont to do – making herself presentable, repeatedly checking things in the mirror.

On the train, a number of people glanced her way, then looked at each other with very approving expressions. It wasn’t as if she was a 20-something sex-bomb. Jemima just knew that she looked smart.

She didn’t dwell on it though. As she travelled, she pondered again her Bible reading: quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to become angry. Listening should be the first response, she realised. God’s way was to not speak until you have listened. Quick to listen and slow to speak. And definitely be slow to get angry. Jemima noticed that it didn’t say, “Do not get angry”. “Maybe there are times to get angry,” she pondered, “just be slow to do that. Before I get angry, I must listen – listen well – and only then speak. In fact, if I listen and speak calmly, we might avoid anger”, she thought, remembering Proverbs 15:1: A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.

Walking through the foyer at work, the youngest recruit grinned at her. “Mrs Jemima, you look stunning – as always.”

“Why, thank you, Joanna. That is very kind.”

Jemima went to her desk but soon became aware of some sniffling. She stopped to listen. Someone was upset. She stood slightly to peer over the dividers and followed the direction of the noise. Her eyes fell on Jemma who sat with her head in her hands, her shoulders shaking and a pile of tissues on her desk.

Oh no, not Jemma! Jemima had always found Jemma difficult. For some reason, Jemma seemed to want to undermine her. Jemima saw her whispering to others and glancing her way sometimes and, at morning tea, there were often sarcastic remarks about Jemima. It had got under Jemima’s skin. She wanted to defend herself. A couple of times – OK, maybe more – she had bitten back with a less-than-positive comment. When Jemma made that comment about Jemima being mutton dressed up as lamb, Jemima had responded – just loud enough for everyone to hear – that that was better than dressing like a tart. There was a little bit of a running war between them. The feeling was always frosty.

Plus, Jemma always seemed to want to draw attention to herself. Was that the point of this public display of, presumably crocodile, tears? Jemima’s scepticism and distaste rose up in her.

But the Holy Spirit brought to mind this morning’s reading. “Be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” Jemima was glad that she had memorised it. What if she was obedient to God?

She walked quietly over to Jemma and put her hand on her shoulder. “What’s the trouble, Honey?”

Jemma was startled, looked up at her with wide eyes and then dissolved into sobs.

“How about we go to the staffroom and you can tell me about it – but only if you want to.”

In the staffroom, Jemma poured out a story about how she and her boy friend had both been high on pot and how they had fought and he had kicked her out. She had stayed last night with a friend but was afraid that, now, with no permanent accommodation, she might not be allowed to have her 5-year-old daughter to stay on the weekends.

Jemima had often felt angry about Jemma’s lifestyle and the impact it was having on wee Jessica. She was tempted to make a comment but she held her tongue. As Jemma kept talking, Jemima heard a tale of abuse and deprivation. “This poor kid,” she thought, “How can she possibly know how to be a mother when she hasn’t had a good mother of her own. How can she make good decisions about her lifestyle when no one has modelled it for her? How can she get out of her relationship when he controls her so much? And how can she save, when she has to pay off his never-ending debts?”

Jemima pulled Jemma to her and they both cried. When they had stopped, Jemima sat quietly for quite some time. Then she asked Jemma if she would like to come and live with her and her husband, Jonah.

Jemma went to sleep that night in a warm bed for the first time ever. Jemima went to sleep with a warm glow in her heart.

The next morning, she gently woke Jemma, as they had agreed. They read the Bible together and Jemima helped Jemma memorise the verse.

God smiled and said, just loud enough for Jemima to hear, “That’s my girl!”

READ James 1:19-27 again.

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