Today I would like to take a look with you at James, chapter one. Please get out your Bible and follow along as I talk about different sections. If you don’t have time right now, just set a reminder for tonight or tomorrow morning to go through it.
Because this is the first chapter of the book, James includes a greeting here. Basically the greeting goes like this: “This is James, a servant/slave/bondservant of God and Jesus, and this letter is to the Christians that are dispersed/scattered over the world. Hi.” (LPV, Levi’s Paraphrased Version)
You might have heard before that James was Jesus’ half brother. (You know, because Jesus’ real father is God.) Think of what that means for the above statement! James was saying he was a slave to his own brother, Jesus. Think of the humility and wisdom that are made evident by those words. Now let’s get to the next section.
Testing of Your Faith
(v. 2-4) Here James talks about trials and how they are actually beneficial. He tells us to see our sufferings as good things, because of the fruit that they produce. This is contrary to the culture. If you lose your job for no reason, that’s seen as bad, but James is saying you should be joyful in it, not necessarily happy, but joyful. Happiness is a trait of joy, but it certainly isn’t an exact copy. We know this because one of the traits of joy is the fact that it is not dependent on current feelings and events. Happiness certainly is. Think of all the people who have intense trials, and yet they seem to be the most joyful people. That’s what James is talking about here. Thank God for your trials. They are the fire that burns away at you until all that is left is gold (the goodness and holiness of Christ in you).
Asking for Wisdom
Want wisdom? Ask God for it (v. 5-6). But ask in faith that God can and will provide it. Read His Word, listen to people who talk about His Word, and talk with your Christian friends for wisdom. Don’t go to other sources for the things that you’ve asked of God.
(v. 16-17) Here James says “Do not be deceived. Every good thing is from God.” (again, LPV) Don’t expect to reach happiness by buying things, losing weight, or meditating. Joy and happiness come from God. Why? Because they’re truly good. And if anything is truly good, it comes from God. If someone tells you they know the trick to happiness, peace, contentment, success, or getting a nice wife/husband, don’t believe them! Everything good comes from God.
Holding Your Tongue
(v. 19-20) Here James is reminding us to, well, shut up and listen. He tells us not to be angered quickly, and he reminds us to act like Jesus. Not being rude or mad, loving everyone, and dumping evil out of our lives. Pretty hard tasks if you ask me, but that just proves the fact that we must depend on Christ.
Don’t Just Listen
(v. 22-25) When you read the Bible, do you at least slightly remember what you read later that day? Do you try to change your actions after reading, or do you count the Bible as an ideal and not a reality?
If you find yourself lacking memory of recently read passages, you need to make your meditation strategy better. Here are some ways to make a passage stick:
-Ask God for wisdom.
-Read it more than once.
-Look things up about it.
The Good Religion
(v. 26-27) James makes it clear here that the real religion, the religion of Christ, is about doing good, not looking good. He says that we must (1) serve and love people and (2) not be stained by the world. What does being “stained by the world” mean? I don’t quite know. But here is an illustration that I think captures the message.
The Wedding Dress
Imagine a wedding. There are hundreds of people. The church is full of anticipation. Two by two, the people walk down the aisle. Then the music starts to really become exciting, and at that moment, the bride walks down the aisle. But there’s something wrong. Her dress has dirt, and dust, and leaves stuck to it. The groom and all the people look at her in shock. She doesn’t seem to understand. When she gets closer, the groom whispers in her ear “What happened to your dress?”
“What do you mean? She whispers back, laughing a little bit.
“Your dress! It’s stained! What did you do to it?” He responds.
“Oh, yes, that. Well, I thought it looked really nice, and so I decided to wear it around town a bit.”
Back to the Point…
Do you see what I mean? Don’t stain yourself! Don’t read, watch, listen to, or hang around people who encourage you to be proud, violent, and/or sexually immoral. Don’t believe the lie that there is good that comes from sin. All good comes from God.
Until Next Time…
I hope to write some more on this book that some have called “the Proverbs of the New Testament.” Until then, I hope that I have given you some things to think about. God bless us and guide us as we mature in our faith, through Him.
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