Woke up with a massive migraine. Took painkillers left over from the car wreck. Woke up five hours later feeling hungover, but the tiny people were no longer using giant sledgehammers on my brain. Now they’re just rubber mallets. Much better. Opened my bible, thinking Psalms, or maybe Song of Songs. Something soothing.
Instead I went to James. I’m as surprised as anyone. Who reads James when they don’t feel good? I don’t know, because I didn’t actually read James. I read the first sentence and then tripped.
I think his opening words meant much more to James and the first readers of his letter, than to us. In fact, I bet most of us just skim over those words, because who pays attention to introductions? The writer is simply identifying himself.
James was the brother of Jesus, and at first did not believe his brother was the Messiah and openly opposed Him. But James eventually became a believer, and very well known in the Church. He was the leader of the church in Jerusalem, and a “pillar” of the Church, according to Paul. James could have identified himself using any number of words. Personally, I think most of us would have pulled out the “brother of Jesus” card for sure.
Who are you, James? “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”.
What comes to mind when you hear the word ‘servant’? I think of foot washing. I think of someone who does the menial tasks, the one who sets up the tables for a church event. I think of terms we use, such as “servant-leadership”, and “he has a servant’s heart”, and how those terms generally refer to “doing”. I have even said “I am a servant of Christ” myself, usually under my breath while I am doing something no one else would volunteer for. And in my best martyr’s voice.
In the Greek language, there are various words used for our one word “servant”, and they have different meanings and shades of meaning. To fit my definition above (minus the martyr’s voice), the word James would probably have had to use is ‘diakonos’:
~ one who executes the commands of another, especially of a master ~ the servant of a king ~ a deacon, one who, by virtue of the office assigned to him by the church, cares for the poor and has charge of and distributes the money collected for their use ~ a waiter, one who serves food and drink.
But the word he actually used to identify himself is “doulos”, or “bondservant”:
~ slave ~ one who gives himself wholly to another’s will ~ one who is devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests ~ those who’s service is used by Christ in extending and advancing His cause among men ~ all who obey God’s commands; His true worshippers
Big difference. James identified himself not as someone who did things for God, but as someone who had willingly enslaved and bound himself to God. He was completely and utterly devoted to God and to Jesus, laying down his own will and interests. A bondservant is one who is completely given over to the one he serves. It is a position that expresses the absolute highest devotion.
It is no small thing to be a doulos of Christ. It is not something we can use to
guilt convince people to volunteer to do more in the church.
This kind of study and digging fascinates me, and I could literally spend hours and hours doing it. But my desire to go deeper, and to know the heart of God more, won’t be satisfied by a word study, unless it results in revelation from the Holy Spirit. It was when I was reading my study notes about the life of James that I got the revelation that took me deeper.
James was martyred in 62 A.D. Not because he was a diakonos, but because he was a doulos.
James, Paul, Peter, and Jude all identified themselves as bondservants (doulos) of Christ. In their letters to the churches, they give a very vivid picture of what the life, and the faith, of a bondservant looks like. They were obedient, crucified lives. These men weren’t spiritual super heros. They were filled with the Spirit of God, but they were mortal men who had made a choice, a decision to live life, all of life, for God and for the cause of Christ.
Everyone of them were killed for that decision.
How do I want to be identified? diakonos, or doulos? One can make me feel like a martyr, the other, given the right place and time, could actually make me one.
I probably should have gone to the Song of Songs. James wasn’t good for my headache.