I love the book of James. Not only does James provide for us a perfectly harmonious depiction of the life of a Christian in action, he also uses some of the most beautiful language to describe it. Just as you or I may have our own quirky little way of speaking or communicating, James shows his personality by using some words and phrases unique to him.
Take, for example, James 1:21. “Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls” (James 1:21). (Note: I chose to use the KJV just because of its literary distinction.) How many different things can James throw into one verse? Notice just a few.
“Filthiness.” While this is not a particularly unique word, at least to us, it is in the Bible. This is the only time it is used, and it describes dirty, plain and simple. James takes it and applies it to our morality, our conduct, our language, and/or our thoughts. While some may brag of their “dirty mouth” or “dirty mind,” James says we should be laying that aside, throwing it off, getting it out of the way. Sometimes things in life make us physically filthy, but there is no need (or excuse) for choosing to stay that way.
“Superfluity of naughtiness.” Literally this means “a superabundance of badness.” The words he uses conjure an image that almost cannot be described with words. Picture a bottle of soda that’s been thoroughly shaken. You can’t stop it; you can’t contain it; and James says, Get rid of it! Ah, but you may be saying, “I may be a little bit dirty here or there, but I do NOT have a ‘superabundance of badness.’” The point that James is driving home is that dirty is dirty, and there is no room for dirty in the kingdom of God.
“Meekness.” Actually, there is nothing special about this word itself, but it provides a stark contrast to the attitude that so often accompanies a superabundance of anything.
“The engrafted word.” Something that is engrafted has come from one source and has been made part of another. The word has come from God and you must become its host. The two must become as one. If the word of God is separate from you and your life, then the ability it has to save your soul is negated. It must belong to you and in you…and BE you.
Beautiful language? Yes. Unique and memorable? Yes. The truth of God’s word? Absolutely! Paul stated it a little differently, but just as truthfully in Colossians 3:16-17—“Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”