If you look closely at the image you can see stamped in each bar of gold the number 999.9. This number represents the measure of purity of the gold which can also be read as 99.9%. When I consider its weight, it’s value and the process of refining to get to that high measure of purity I have to ask these questions: “Why not 100%”? “What is it that binds to this natural element that holds is back from perfection?” A quick search online will tell you that the 0.1% is comprised of other metals that give the gold strength and uniformity in shape.
The book of James carries a lot of weight when it comes to practical instructions for holy living. We read about facing trials and temptations, listening and doing, faith and deeds, submitting to God and many other valuable lessons. When we consider the holiness of God and living a life that reflects that holiness we have to have a measure to stand against, James 3:17 helps put that into perspective: “The wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.” The degree of purity that James refers to is that of 100%, a purity of wisdom that is unmatched on this side of heaven. In the previous verses James use some very strong words to describe any wisdom that does not come from heaven. In the light of this pure and holy wisdom flows the instruction to us today to live as James describes, peace loving, considerate etc.
You can’t add anything to 100%, it is the fullness of itself. As hard as it might be because of who we are and because we live in a fallen world, there will always be a percentage of vulnerable space in how we live and act in this life. Instead of mercy we may offer up revenge or harshness, in place of being considerate we may be disrespectful or impatient. James tells us to “get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.” (1:21). The beautiful part about this challenge is we don’t have to do it alone, we have a God who leads and guides us. We, like the gold need more than just our own strength to live a holy life, we need a God who is full of mercy and grace. As His church and His people we need each other, and to me that is worth more than gold.