Book 20 of the NT, having five chapters, and written by James, a half-brother of Jesus, about AD 50. He wrote to the Israelite believers who, because of persecution, were scattered among the nations. There they were tempted to just have an intellectual belief without the outworking of true faith which affects all aspects of life in a transforming way. Time to read: 15 min.
Outline. A very practical book that touches many key points of the Christian life; trials, temptation, treatment of others, the immense power of the tongue and prayer, the outworking of our faith. He exposes unethical practices and teaches right Christian behaviour that will bring about personal transformation and loving actions towards others.
Main lesson. Christianity is not just giving mental assent to some nice concepts; it is genuine belief being outworked in real life – where ‘the rubber meets the road’. Allow the Word of God to transform you into a ‘doer’ of what it teaches, proving your faith through your conduct and what you speak. Salvation is gained only through the work of Christ, but once we are saved, we are to love and serve others.
Key verses and thoughts: * “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything...If we remain faithful, persevering in trial we will receive the crown of life” (Jas 1:2-4,12, 5:11). Do you grasp the benefit of trials? In spite of his calamities Job did not turn from God but offered a sacrifice of praise and maintained a right attitude which was ultimately rewarded (Job 1:21, 42:10-13). It is not through the absence of difficulties and persecution that character and maturity come, rather through successfully overcoming adversity and trials. Our faith needs to be proved genuine. How can this be done except through being tested? God tests us through challenging situations in life with the aim of making us into over-comers but Satan tempts us in the weak areas of our character with the aim of getting us to sin.
* “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me’. For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after sin has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death” (Jas 1:13-15). Temptation doesn’t originate with God but instead in our own sinful human nature. Wrong thoughts lead to wrong desires, conception, then the birth of wrong actions, and conclude in death. For, as in the natural physical realm, invisible elements join at conception (unless there is radical interference) and grow continually until a new life, visible to all, results. Deal with bad attitudes and impure thoughts of the soul so the progression of wrong desires leading to the resulting sin is aborted. Evil is the result of what happens when we do not have God’s love foremost in our heart. God will not allow us to be tempted beyond our endurance (1 Cor 10:13). What are my personal temptation weak points? How am I guarding my life so I don’t conceive sin? If you do, remember that through the blood of Jesus we can be forgiven for the penalty, but the consequences we will have to live with as a reminder of the seriousness of evil committed. Keep away from the fire so you won’t be burnt!
* “Do not merely listen to the Word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (Jas 1:22-27). Knowledge should effect a change within as it is outworked in our personal life and overflows to benefit hurting people. James declares that both faith and action are required, one without the other is futile (Jas 2:14-26); the wrong words we speak corrupt the whole person (Jas 3:1-12); the motivation and attitudes of our hearts are areas we need to give particular attention to (Jas 3:13-18).
* “Don’t show favouritism” (Jas 2:1-13). Resorting to favouritism by judging the outward appearances or attributes is a totally wrong appraisal of another. God often endows “those poor in the world’s eyes to be rich in faith”. Do we like being subjected to favouritism? No. It brings division and criticism as certain people are singled out for special treatment. We all will naturally have more affinity for some people than others, yet Jesus died for all, love’s everyone and wants everyone saved (1 Tim 2:4). Our dealings with others should be unbiased, not determined by sex, age, nationality, physical or material aspects or natural affinity.
* Submission to God and His will are vital to live a victorious and spiritually successful life (Jas 4:1-17, 5:13-18). This requires yielding to God’s rightful Lordship and purposes, while resisting the devil and denying your sinful nature. If we fulfill these conditions, maintaining sensitivity and obedience to the Holy Spirit, while being accountable to others, we set ourselves up for God to move on our behalf (2 Chr 16:9). As we ask God with the right motive (that He be glorified and His kingdom extended, not for our own pleasure) and our requests line up with the overall purposes of “what is the Lord’s will” we will see amazing results for “the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective”. How do I measure up?
See also: actions/activity, favouritism, God’s will, James, prayer, temptation, test/testing, tongue.