James 1

Author: The author of this epistle (letter) is James, also called James the Just, who is thought to be the brother of Jesus Christ (Matthew 13:55; Mark 6:3). James was not a believer (John 7:3-5) until after the resurrection (Acts 1:14; 1 Corinthians 15:7; Galatians 1:19). He became the head of the Jerusalem church and is mentioned first as a pillar of the church (Galatians 2:9).

Date of Writing: The Book of James is probably the oldest book of the New Testament, written perhaps as early as A.D. 45, before the first council of Jerusalem in A.D. 50. James was martyred in approximately A.D. 62, according to the historian Josephus.

Purpose of Writing: Some think that this epistle was written in response to an overzealous interpretation of Paul’s teaching regarding faith. This extreme view, called antinomianism, held that through faith in Christ one is completely free from all Old Testament law, all legalism, all secular law, and all the morality of a society. The Book of James is directed to Jewish Christians scattered among all the nations (James 1:1). Martin Luther, who detested this letter and called it “the epistle of straw,” failed to recognize that James’s teaching on works complemented—not contradicted—Paul’s teaching on faith. While Pauline teachings concentrate on our justification with God, James’ teachings concentrate on the works that exemplify that justification. James was writing to Jews to encourage them to continue growing in this new Christian faith. James emphasizes that good actions will naturally flow from those who are filled with the Spirit and questions whether someone may or may not have a saving faith if the fruits of the Spirit cannot be seen, much as Paul describes in Galatians 5:22-23.

Brief Summary: The Book of James outlines the faith walk through genuine religion (1:1-27), genuine faith (2:1-3:12) and genuine wisdom (3:13-5:20). This book contains a remarkable parallel to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. James begins in the first chapter by describing the overall traits of the faith walk. In chapter 2 and the beginning of chapter 3 he discusses social justice and a discourse on faith in action. He then compares and contrasts the difference between worldly and godly wisdom and asks us to turn away from evil and draw close to God. James gives a particularly severe rebuke to the rich who hoard and those who are self-reliant. Finally he ends with encouragement to believers to be patient in suffering, praying and caring for one another and bolstering our faith through fellowship.

Connections: The Book of James is the ultimate description of the relationship between faith and works. So ingrained in the Mosaic Law and its system of works were the Jewish Christians to whom James wrote that he spent considerable time explaining the difficult truth that no one is justified by the works of the law (Galatians 2:16). He declares to them that even if they try their very best to keep all the various laws and rituals, doing so is impossible, and transgressing the tiniest part of the law made them guilty of all of it (James 2:10) because the law is one entity and breaking one part of it is breaking all of it.

Practical Application: We see in the Book of James a challenge to faithful followers of Jesus Christ to not just “talk the talk,” but to “walk the walk.” While our faith walk, to be certain, requires a growth of knowledge about the Word, James exhorts us to not stop there. Many Christians will find this epistle challenging as James presents 60 obligations in only 108 verses. He focuses on the truths of Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount and motivates us to act upon what He taught.

The epistle also puts to rest the idea that one can become a Christian and yet continue living in sin, exhibiting no fruit of righteousness. Such a “faith,” James declares, is shared by the demons who “believe and tremble” (James 2:19). Yet such a “faith” cannot save because it is not verified by the works that always accompany true saving faith (Ephesians 2:10). Good works are not the cause of salvation, but they are the result of it.

( Source: http://www.gotquestions.org/Book-of-James)

40 DITW - Day 26

James 3:13 (NIV)   13  Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.  


If you want to be known as a wise person then show it by living a life that is pleasing to God.  A life pleasing to God is characterized by humility, putting the needs of others above your own and truly celebrating when things go well for them.


40 DITW - Day 25

James 2:17-18 (NIV) 17  In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. 18  But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds." Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.

James says to those who are believers, it is not enough to profess that you believe in Jesus and that He is your Savior and Lord - there is a second part to the profession of faith...a changed life.

Some of those who are in the church professing to be Christians are not!

Faith is not some kind of nebulous feeling that we work up; faith is confidence that God's Word is true, and conviction that acting on that Word will bring His blessing.

Jesus says, Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Matthew 7:21 (NIV)

People with dead faith substitute words for deeds. They know the correct vocabulary for prayer and testimony, and can even quote the right verses from the Bible; but their walk does not measure up to their talk. They think that their words are as good as works, and they are wrong. Any declaration of faith that does not result in a changed life and good works is a false declaration. That kind of faith is dead faith. John Calvin, wrote, "It is faith alone that justifies, but faith that justifies can never be alone." The word "alone" in James 2:17 simply means "by itself." True saving faith can never be by itself: it always brings life, and life produces good works.
The person with dead faith has only an intellectual experience. They may understand the doctrines of salvation, but he has never submitted himself to God and trusted Christ for salvation. He knows the right words, but he does not back up his words with his works. Faith in Christ brings life (John 3:16), and where there is life there must be growth and fruit. Again as Jesus points out in Matthew that we know the tree by the fruit it produces.

I like how The Message puts it...
17  Isn't it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?...20  Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?

Faith and works are inseparable, two sides of the same coin.

Lord thank you for saving me and freeing me from the death trap of sin.  Thank you for the life I have found in you, now as your Spirit is at work in me making me more like you I pray that my outward actions will reflect the inward work of the Holy Spirit.

40 DITW - Day 24

James 1:22-25 (NIV) 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 a man 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 the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does.

James tells us that if we want to know what God wants you to do then ask Him, believing that He will make it plain to you.  God does not want to hide Himself from you, He wants to show you the path in which you are to walk, so ask Him.
However when you ask you must also be willing to listen to what He says and be prepared to do what He tells you to do.  If we are listening but not doing what He says then we are fooling ourselves into believing that we are pleasing Him with our actions, in fact one of the signs of a maturing Christian is that we are obedient to God's directions.

Obedient action is required if we want to experience God's blessings in our lives.

Father open my eyes so I may see what you desire of me.  May your word become alive to me so I may see You more clearly and do what is required of me. 

40 DITW - Day 23

SCRIPTURE:  What passage are we reading together today?

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

James 1:19–20 (NIV)

OBSERVATION What does the passage say?

When you read the whole chapter you see that James is speaking primarily to Christians.  He is encouraging and instructing them in how to become spiritually mature by showing them the marks of spiritual maturity.

In these verses he says that one way we see spiritual growth in our lives is by allowing the Word of God to become real in our lives.  Godly action must have it’s genesis in the Word of God.

He says that we are to start with listening and be careful to get some understanding before speaking.  Then he goes on to say that we should be even slower to get anger because our human anger is a deterrent to spiritual growth.

As you listen to the word you begin to see what God requires of us and it should lead us to God-honoring actions.

What does it mean?
What does the Bible say about this elsewhere?

If the Word of God is to lead us to life transformation then we must take time to listen and accept the Word.

Listening to the Word is the understanding of allowing it to take root in our lives.  Don’t let it go in one ear and out the other, but to listen to the Word requires that we think deeply about it.  Ruminate on it.  Chew on it and meditate on it and then let its true meaning become clear.

James says that we must also accept the Word.  That understanding of acceptance is that after “listening” to it we follow through with action that reflects what we have learned.  It is what verse 22 is saying.  Listening is not enough - action is required.

LIFE APPLICATION:  What am I going to do about it?

In order to listen to the word I must take time to read, study and meditate on its truths.  I do that by becoming a student of the Word of God.  Practicing SOUL.  But having discovered the truth I will apply it in a practical way to my life.

40 DITW - Day 22

This week we are learning to paraphrase the passages.  Looking forward to seeing your paraphrases.

Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

James 1:2–4 (NIV)


My fellow brothers in Christ…
Hard times are just as important as good times because they help you grow up completely, properly and well-balanced as children of God.  The hard times really solidify our belief about God and His plan for us and it is in those times we truly discover the goodness and faithfulness of God.  Now that is reason for celebration, so make a choice to be glad in the middle of the hard times.  

James 1:2-4 (PGV)


40Days DEVO:  



Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. 14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up

In James 5 we are reminded that this life here on earth will have trouple.  Workers are deprived of their wages, people are sick. etc.  The chapter also speaks about prayer as well. The laborer cries out to God, the sick pray for healing.  Put the two thoughts together and we get another mark of a mature Christian:  one who is prayerful in spite of trouble.  Instead of giving up when troubles come the mature believer continues to pray and seek God.

The thing with prayer is that it is an issue of faith - we do not pray if we do not believe.  When we pray we are submitting to God and admitting that we need help.  When we pray we are confessing that God is powerful and mighty and able to save us.

The mature believer prays, believing that God is able to work mightily on our behalf.  The mature Christian believes that God can, God will and even if He doesn't we will still trust Him.

James 4

James 4:1-3 (ETRV) 
1 Do you know where your fights and arguments come from? They come from the selfish desires that make war inside you. 2 You want things, but you don't get them. So you kill and are jealous of others. But you still cannot get what you want. So you argue and fight. You don't get what you want because you don't ask God. 3 Or when you ask, you don't receive anything, because the reason you ask is wrong. You only want to use it for your own pleasure.

Take time just to meditate on this verse.

Our conflict with others come because we are being selfish and wanting our way instead of being godly and allowing the self-sacrificing nature of Christ to be formed in us. We will do whatever it takes to get our own way. Think about your marriage relationship, your relationship with your parents or kids, or co-workers, relationships with God’s people…what conflicts are you facing?
Can the conflict be settled if we chose to put others above ourselves?
Examine your motives for wanting what you want, is your motivation for selfish pleasure or for the glory of God?
What desires do you need to surrender to God today?
What relational conflicts do you need to resolve by choosing to die to yourself and allow Christ’s nature to be developed in you?

Are we growing up in Christ or simply growing old?

James 3

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly

The whole thrust of James is about growing up in Christ - becoming spiritually mature.  So James has already explained to us two characteristics of a maturing Christian:  they are patient in trouble, looking at the hardships as God continuing to grow them up instead of taking the hardships as a personal attack; and they practice truth, in other words they don't just posture themselves as mature believers but their actions show their maturity.  Now he heads into another sign of a mature believer, the ability to have control over what they say.  It is good stuff and we can glean much from the chapter but I was struck by the opening remark as he transitions into this area of maturity. Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.
I understand the context of it is that believers should not be too eager to tell others their faults because we all make many mistakes; and when teachers, who should know better, do wrong, our punishment will be greater than it would be for others.

But this statement got me thinking about leadership and maturity.  After all teaching falls under the broader context of leadership in the churh.
As a leader in the church I understand a few things from James (and Paul too).
A leader in the church must be further ahead in their spiritual maturity from the ones that they are leading.
A leader in the church must be an example of patience in the middle of hardships, choosing to find out what God is doing rather than asking why me.
A leader in the church must not just talk about spiritual maturity it must be obvious in their lives by the way they respond.
A leader in the church must lead by example in the way they speak. Are their words bringing unity in the body?  Is it bringing honor and glory to Christ?  Is it building up edifying those around them?

James says that it is correct that leaders be judged by a stricter standard - after all the more mature you become the more you are to be called to a higher standard.  It is one of the reasons why Paul writes that we should not be too eager to want to lead in the church.

Having said all of that I would say that the body of Christ needs men and women who will lead.  The body of Christ needs men and women who will sacrifice their lives in order to help others grow up in their faith.  The body of Christ needs men and women who will choose to grow up in their faith and be willing to shoulder the responsibilities and hardships that come with leadership.  

Is it you?

James 1

James 1:5-8 (NIV)   If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.   But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.   That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;   he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

I read recently about a man who was wanted to grow in his patience. He knew he was immature in that area of his life, and he wanted to grow up. He honestly prayed, "Lord, help me to grow in patience. I want to have more self-control in this area of my life." That morning, he missed his train to work and spent the next fifty minutes pacing the platform and complaining of his plight. As the next train to the city arrived, the man realized how stupid he had been. "The Lord gave me nearly an hour to grow in my patience, and all I did was practice my impatience!" he said to himself.

James says to ask for wisdom in verse 5, but you can substitute forgiveness, patience, etc.  Here is the thing about asking God and believing He will answer you - the faith to believe for the answer is seen in how we begin to look at life.  Every trial becomes an opportunity for God to work in us.  Too many of us are "double-minded" because we don't see with eyes of faith to realize that the many trials and hardships we are facing are God's answers to some of our prayers.  That difficult relationship you are encountering is God's answer to your prayer for patience or forgiveness.  The lack of finances is God's answer to building your faith that you prayed for.  You get the picture.

What tough time you are going through that you need to see through the eyes of faith? 
Change your view and see God at work.  You are not a victim but a victor in the making if you walk with eyes of faith.