“…put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word” (James 1:21)
James has told of the work of God in our lives to bring us from death to life (James 1:18), the fruit of which is an authentic, lively faith. That handiwork of God’s grace shows up in our lives and makes demands of us. “Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls” (1:21).
We don’t want to regard the counsel of God in James as some sort of self-help manual. He is not giving us tips on anger management or a blueprint to earn our salvation. Rather, he is calling us to live in a manner worthy of our calling in Christ, to live out who we are. Paul does the same thing: “at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true)” (Eph. 5:8–9).
Saving faith that testifies to God’s regenerating work in our lives manifests itself in genuine, compliant, heartfelt, Christward change. Later, James will say that faith without works is dead because true faith is transformative by the Spirit of God.
James draws this up in terms of a negative and a positive, a put off and a put on. We are to put off all filthiness and rampant wickedness because these things are neither consistent with nor appropriate for those now dead to sin and alive in Christ. In addition, we are to put on with humility all that is consistent with new life in Christ.
Managing ourselves and handling conflict are to be governed by our new orientation, where life does not revolve around us but around Christ. The manner in which we conduct ourselves does nothing to contribute to our salvation. Rather, our behavior confirms the salvation of the word implanted in us.
“Father, have Your own way. You are the potter; I am the clay.”