Today I would like to draw your attention to the words “lay apart” in the verse above. These words are taken from the Greek word apotithimi, a compound of the words apo and tithimi. The word apo means away, and the word tithimi means to place or to lay something down. When these two words are compounded together, it gives a picture of someone who is laying something down at the same time he is pushing it far away from himself. Therefore, this compound word means to lay something down and to push it far away and beyond reach.
An example would be a person who is about to sinfully indulge in eating too much pie but suddenly realizes what he is doing. So instead of diving into the extra piece of pie and eating it, he chooses instead to lay it back down on the table; then he deliberately shoves it away from himself lest he should overindulge one time too many! He lays it down, and he pushes it away. This is the idea of the word apotithimi James uses when he tells us to “lay apart” all filthiness in our lives. But there is another very important meaning to this word in the New Testament!
In New Testament times, the word apotithimi was frequently used to describe someone taking off his dirty clothes at the end of the day. How do you deal with your dirty clothes at the end of the day? You take them off and put them away in the clothes hamper! Now James uses this illustration to explain how you must deal with wrong attitudes and actions in your own life. Just as you wouldn’t go to bed in dirty clothes at night, neither should you go to bed with wrong attitudes. You must deal with them like an old set of filthy clothes. You have to decide to get rid of those bad attitudes!
James 1:21 could be interpreted to mean:
“You must make the choice to remove those filthy, stinking garments from your life, to permanently lay them down and then deliberately push them out of your range forever….”
Also, it’s important to realize that dirty clothes don’t fall off your body by accident! To get them off, you have to push the buttons through the button holes, unzip the zipper, and slip the clothes off your arms and legs one piece at a time. Dirty clothes don’t automatically come off just because you realize they are dirty. They will only come off if you do something to remove them! This is exactly what James has in mind when he tells us to “lay apart” all filthiness from our lives.
When James says to “lay apart” all filthiness from our lives, he is telling us to first acknowledge what is wrong and then to take appropriate measures to remove those areas from our lives. If you are going to get free and stay free, it won’t happen by accident. You must start taking steps to remove those negative things from your life—to lay them down and push them so far away that you’ll never be able to reach them again!
Are you struggling with a sin today? Does a wrong attitude keep trying to conquer your life? If so, you must begin to look at that sin or wrong attitude like an old set of filthy clothes that isn’t worthy for you to wear anymore. Make the decision to step out of every destructive area of your life that has held you captive. Once you make that decision, the Holy Spirit will give you the power to carry it out!