Thursday, March 9, 2017

Following the Law to Avoid Temptation - Readings from James and Sirach

Below are texts from James 1.12-16 and Sirach 15.11-20.


The passage in James is another example of an allusion by Jacob (James) the brother of Our Lord, to the Book of Sirach. In this passage, Jacob warns his readers, probably Jewish Christians, that they bear responsibility for falling into sin. We cannot blame the Lord for our failings. Rather, it is our own desire that causes us to sin and to suffer whatever consequences result from it.

In the Book of Sirach, there is a more complete teaching on this issue. The writer of Sirach teaches us that we have a choice to sin or to follow the law. This is against notions that we do not have a free will. Orthodox teaching is that we do in fact have a free will.

The Book of Sirach is also called, Ecclesiasticus, “Church’s Book,” because it was used extensively in the Catechesis and liturgy of the Church. This is example of the continuity between the Church and Judaism, for the teaching of Sirach is expounding the Torah and it’s Wisdom. The writer of Sirach, and other books of the Hebrew Bible, saw the Torah as the bearing the Wisdom of God (Hagia Sophia). The Church continued this tradition by maintaining the Hebrew Bible as her Scriptures. The teaching of Torah, in turn, is expressed in the commandments.

St. Paul teaches us this continuity in the teaching between Israel and the Church.

Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.” - Romans 3.31

So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.” - Romans 7.12

“...from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.”

  • 2 Timothy 3.15-17

In the passage from 2 Timothy, St. Paul states the Scripture is “profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness…” Remember he is only speaking of the Hebrew Bible here, not the Newer Testament. The word Torah means, “instruction.”

It is our choice to follow the commandments of God. Our Lord Eyesus Kristos taught us in His sermon on the mount, “"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”  - Matthew 5.17-19 RSV

Some Christians will object that we cannot keep the commandments, and that we have no free will. But the Prophets promise us that the Ruach Ha’ Kodesh (Hebrew), the Menfes Kidus (Ahmraric), the Holy Spirit, indeed will enable us to keep the commandments of God: “...I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances.” - Ezekiel 36.27 RSV

Later on in his epistle, Jacob will teach us, "What causes wars, and what causes fightings among you? Is it not your passions that are at war in your members? You desire and do not have; so you kill. And you covet and cannot obtain; so you fight and wage war. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” - James 4.1-3 RSV

The indulging of our desires not only bring misery to ourselves, but to those around us, and the source of wars.

His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie teaches us that "If we lived by the laws he gave us and were worthy of being called Christian, peace would have reigned on this earth." - Haile Selassie I (December 25, 1937)


Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.

Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

- James 1.12-16 RSV

Do not say, "Because of the Lord I left the right way";
for he will not do what he hates.
Do not say, "It was he who led me astray";
for he had no need of a sinful man.
The Lord hates all abominations,
and they are not loved by those who fear him.
It was he who created man in the beginning,
and he left him in the power of his own inclination.
If you will, you can keep the commandments,
and to act faithfully is a matter of your own choice.
He has placed before you fire and water:
stretch out your hand for whichever you wish.
Before a man are life and death,
and whichever he chooses will be given to him.
For great is the wisdom of the Lord;
he is mighty in power and sees everything;
his eyes are on those who fear him,
and he knows every deed of man.
He has not commanded anyone to be ungodly,
and he has not given anyone permission to sin.

- Sirach 15.11-20 RSV

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