Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts. James 4:8
At the sink, two little children cheerfully sing the “Happy Birthday” song—two times each—while washing their hands. “It takes that long to wash away the germs,” their mother tells them. So even before the COVID-19 pandemic, they’d learned to take time to clean dirt from their hands.
Keeping things clean can be a tedious process, as we learned in the pandemic. Scrubbing away sin, however, means following focused steps back to God.
James urged believers in Jesus scattered throughout the Roman Empire to turn their focus back to God. Beset by quarrels and fights, their battles for one-upmanship, possessions, worldly pleasures, money, and recognition made them an enemy of God. He warned them, “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. . . . Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded” (James 4:7–8). But how?
“Come near to God and he will come near to you” (v. 8). These are sanitizing words describing the necessity of turning to God to scour away the soil of sin from our lives. James then further explained the cleaning method: “Grieve, mourn and wail. Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom. Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up” (vv. 9–10).
Dealing with our sin is humbling. But, hallelujah, God is faithful to turn our “washing” into worship.
Where in your life does sin persist? Have you turned back to God to let Him clean you up?
Holy God, thank You that Your cleaning methods for purifying sin draw me back to You. Wash my hands and purify my heart as I return.
The name James is the English equivalent of the Hebrew name Yaacob (or Jacob, like the ancient Jewish patriarch). Several prominent New Testament men bear this name. One was the son of Zebedee—one of Jesus’ twelve original disciples who was martyred (Acts 12:1–2). Another was the James who wrote the letter that bears his name, of whom we know some important things. First, he was the half-brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3). It seems that he didn’t come to faith until following the resurrection when the risen Christ appeared to him personally (1 Corinthians 15:7). Acts 1:14 lists those gathered in the upper room after Jesus’ ascension, mentioning His brothers, which presumably included James. Eventually, James became a primary leader in the church of Jerusalem, arbitrating the church’s council on Paul’s mission to the gentiles (Acts 15:13).