Wednesday 10 April

 15Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.’ 16As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil.

17Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.

“Arrogance” does not always come dressed in loud, swaggering, abrasive behaviour. It can be subtle and hidden. In its less obvious form, it might be called presumption.

I am guilty of presumption every time I assume that I know what is going on and act as if I am in control of the circumstances of my life. Such an attitude “is evil” because it leaves out of the equation the reality that there are always forces at play in any human situation that are greater and stronger than any human being can control or even fully understand.

We think we understand what makes people tick. But the profoundly mysterious mixture of genetic inheritance, nurture, societal forces, physical components, and the outcome of choices made, is so dense that no single understanding will ever be able to perfectly explain any human behaviour.

The “boasting” attitude that puts too much confidence in human understanding, will always cause me to fail to do “the right thing” even when I know what is the right thing to do.

It intrigues me that James appears to hold that, even one who is arrogant and boastful, does actually know what is “the right thing to do.” “Sin” is not ignorance.

Earlier in James 1:21, the writer instructed his readers to

Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.

The word of truth, the awareness of right and wrong, is “implanted” deep in the being of every living human being. The challenge is to come back to an awareness of this “implanted” word, to discover the truth the resides within. To “sin” is to go against my true nature.  It is to fall short of that beauty and truth for which I was created and which, no matter how far I may stray from it, continues to exist at the core of my being.