It is always good to have a "recipe" or "instructions" to follow - especially when you are trying to create something you are not familiar with - new experiences demand solid instructions in order to not get things messed up along the way. The same is true in our spiritual walk - we have not walked this way before, so we need the "recipe" or "instructions" for how it is that we are to live. Today we will explore a couple of important principles - contrasting the way we should live against the way we often choose to live. Probably above all, we need to understand what it is that we are choosing to have "made of our lives" - it should be to be counted wise and to build a reputation that is rock-solid. Reputation is how we are known - it reflects either the wisdom or foolishness of our choices. Some people refer to a reputation as the "character" of a man or woman. Today's 'recipe' or 'instructions' is really focusing on what develops a "solid" character.
Do you want to be counted wise, to build a reputation for wisdom? Here's what you do: Live well, live wisely, live humbly. It's the way you live, not the way you talk, that counts. Mean-spirited ambition isn't wisdom. Boasting that you are wise isn't wisdom. Twisting the truth to make yourselves sound wise isn't wisdom. It's the furthest thing from wisdom—it's animal cunning, devilish conniving. Whenever you're trying to look better than others or get the better of others, things fall apart and everyone ends up at the others' throats. (James 3:13-16)
There is a simple contrast presented here: Live well, wisely and humbly - OR - be mean-spirited, twisting the truth, focusing on what makes you look good, but destroys relationships. It doesn't take a rocket-scientist to evaluate the "best" course of action when faced with these two sets of 'instruction' side by side. We want to be known as having made wise decisions with our life. Individuals who bring tragedy into lives of others are certainly known for their actions, but we would not say they have a "good" or "solid" reputation. The problem arises when we are faced with two 'recipes' or sets of 'instruction' on how it is we are to live. One will produce something 'close to' what we may want, but it won't be the same as the real deal! If you have ever tasted sugar-free anything, you know exactly what I mean! The most important portion of this instruction is that our actions and words should match. We lose credibility when we say one thing and then act completely opposite of what we just said. We cannot call ourselves disciples of Christ and then never spend any time or effort at being involved in learning what it is to be a disciple. We cannot say that we are ambassadors of Christ if we never make any effort to bring the message of reconciliation to others. We cannot say that we care for people, then engage in all kinds of destructive behavior that tears down others.
The "carelessness" we engage in pursuit of some of our activities in life can be quite frustrating when we see the outcome. We end up having to "go back" to "undo" our mistakes and to "redo" our efforts all over again. "Redoing" life is costly - we cannot make up for lost time, missed opportunities that would have existed the first time around a lot easier than they do now, and we often find relationships are just not the same once we have "damaged" them. The simple truth is that it takes more work to "redo" life than it would have resulted in if we'd just have taken the time to consider the result of our actions before we ever pursued them the first time around! Thank God that we have the opportunities for "do-overs"! I am grateful for each one, but it is apparent to me that the "do-over" cost more than I often wanted invest in the first place! I have had my share of "doing again" what I did not do right the first time. We've heard it said, "If the job is worth doing, it is worth doing right." If a relationship is worth having, it is worth "doing it right" the first time - and that includes our relationship with Christ. That means that we don't allow things in the relationship that damage either of those involved.
Much discord in our homes, work relationships, and even in society in general, could have been avoided if we were more concerned with maintaining solid character (both for ourselves and the others in the relationships). Relationships are much more complicated than some of the other 'recipes' or 'instructions' we set out to follow - but the principle of "connecting" correctly, with fore-thought and intention, applies within each and every relationship we engage in - including our relationship with Christ! Just sayin!