James says: “Hi.”
We say: “Hi, James! I’m sorry, we’ve never met.”
James says: "No worries. Here’s some info on me..."
o There are several Jameses in the New Testament. Scholars aren’t certain which James wrote this book; however, it’s most likely to be James, the half-brother of Jesus. (Jesus only had half-siblings because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit.)
o Assuming this is the half-brother of Jesus, we know that he was not a believer of the Lord (Mark 3:31-35; John 7:1-5) until after His resurrection when Jesus appeared to James (1 Corinthians 15:7).
§ P.S. We should never lose heart in continually revealing Christ to others through our actions. Jesus stuck with James for many years despite his unbelief. Eventually, though, he chose to believe. Be encouraged by this today as you serve in an unbelieving world!
o Paul refers to James as “the pillar” in Galatians 2:9, because he became the leader of the church in Jerusalem. When James wrote this letter, it was to the Jewish believers living outside the land of Palestine (the Promised Land).
The prominent theme of James is spiritual maturity. The 1980’s Toys ‘R Us theme song had lyrics that went like this: I don’t wanna to grow up, I’m a Toys ‘R Us kid... (you’re singing it in your head now, aren’t you?). Yeah, that song went bankrupt. Friends, we must grow up spiritually and not allow circumstances to blow us hither and yon. Let’s be solid in our walk and move forward.
James is a bit of an in-your-face kind of guy. He gives it to you straight, with little fluff, and his style is certainly different than Paul’s. Paul would appeal in love; James would tell you how it is. I love them both, and I love how God uses different personalities and approaches to convey His truth. We talked about diversity in the body in our intro video to James — the sense of belonging we innately desire, and Christ’s desire for us to be unified (even the introverts!).
James says: "See, now you know me more. Now, go read the book."
We say: "Let's do this."
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.
- Our theme of spiritual maturity starts out with a bang. In case you didn’t get the memo, we’re to consider trials “pure joy.” This one is still a tad baffling to me, but we’re going to break it down together.
- First, joy does not equate to happiness. Happiness is temporal – it ebbs and flows and is gobbledygook. Joy is drawn from the Fountain of Life and is perpetually available and replenished by the Spirit. Psalm 87:7 exclaims, “Singers and dancers alike will say, ‘My whole source of joy is in you‘” (Holman Christian Standard Bible). Experiencing joy in fiery trials doesn’t come through striving or working hard, but it does come through a mind that is fixed on Him and a heart that is surrendered to His will and His way. Let’s pray now – before the trials come – that the Lord will shift our focus away from the pain and onto the promise. That is where true joy is received.
- Verse 4 encourages us to allow the work to happen in our life. It doesn’t say to make work, it doesn’t say to get in the way of God’s work, it says to “let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” Amen? Amen!
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
- Verse 5 is a promise. PROMISE ALERT! We want to cling to God’s promises because He is forever faithful in upholding them. When you’re in uncomfortable situations or hard spots, what’s your go-to reaction? Is it a text message to a family member? Is it a rant phone call to your BFF? Inhale deep and then ask the Lord for wisdom. Wisdom is the application of knowledge. We must know the Word, but we must also know how to apply it in our life. That’s where God is He gives generously to His children – without picking at you or being critical. Verse 6 goes on to remind us that if we’re going to ask, then let’s ask and expect. Don’t simply go through the motions, but genuinely expect God to impart applicable direction to your life.
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
- Commentator James Hiebert quoted Richard Lenski saying, “As the poor brother forgets all his earthly poverty, so the rich brother forgets all his earthly riches. By faith in Christ the two are equals.” In God’s eyes, we are equally loved and our earthly positions have no eternal value. Jesus said in Matthew 8:20, “Foxes have dens and birds have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head." Christ was an example of humility, meekness, and absolute surrender.
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
- Let’s be certain we understand the difference between a trial and a temptation. A trial is an outward test, which may be sent by God. Temptations are inward enticements, which come from Satan or out of our own evil desires. It’s important to know the difference. Our friend, Job, is an example of a trial. Did he experience the turmoil because of sin? No. He was “blameless and upright, and one who feared God” (Job 1:1). God allowed Satan to test Job (it was a test, not a temptation), and there was a limitation (see Job 1:12). While it was an excruciating test, which I cannot fathom, God was faithful in restoring Job a double portion. Job was a true example of verse 12 which reads, “Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.”
- As mentioned earlier, temptations are inward enticements, so be careful what “entertainment” goes into your eyes, ears, and body. It will flow from your heart eventually, and we’re told this very thing in Luke 6:45: “A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.”
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.
- It’s interesting how James prompts us to not be deceived. 1 Timothy 2:14 tells us that Adam was not the one deceived, it was Eve. This is a critical point (for all of us, but especially for women). When we are deceived, we believe something that is not true. God gives us good and perfect gifts – He does not withhold from us without it being truly beneficial to our walk. Let’s read how The Message puts it in Matthew 6:13: “The world is full of so-called prayer warriors who are prayer-ignorant. They’re full of formulas and programs and advice, peddling techniques for getting what you want from God. Don’t fall for that nonsense. This is your Father you are dealing with, and he knows better than you what you need.” God knows what you need friends, so don’t think you are being cheated.
19 My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.21 Therefore, 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.
- You’re probably beginning to sense James’ straight-forward style. He continues the tone here in verse 19 when he says, “…take note of this” (that’s code for, “Listen up!”). So, let’s pay attention to what is said. We are to be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry. Quick, slow, slow. Quick, slow, slow. One quick, two slows – I typically get that flip-flopped in life. I just experienced this fumble recently. I pushed a team too hard (too quick for too long) and they began to wear down. Thankful, God revealed this to me, and I was humbled and expressed my fault. Listening is not a natural skillset – it is a disciplined and developed characteristic. People are lousy listeners, myself included. Oftentimes, what people are saying is not what is taking place in the heart. We must learn to be still and listen between the words. God, give us ears to hear (Mark 4:9).
22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror 24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. 25 But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it—not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it—they will be blessed in what they do.
- These few verses don’t need much expounding. Don’t just listen, do. Practice action today. What divine interruptions has God placed in your path that you need to not merely listen to, but do what He says?
26 Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.
- While we are not justified by works, but by faith (Romans 5:1 says, “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.”), the transformational work God does in us cannot be contained. There is a natural, outward display of our godliness because of the inward work God does in our heart. It’s not our work, it’s Christ’s work in us. Be mindful, though, this principle applies both ways. When we feed our heart garbage, toxins become the outflow. I don’t know about you, but I want to be a cool, refreshing glass of water on a hot day to people who are walking the road of life. Amen.