Today begins our journey through Scripture. Each time a new book of the Bible is introduced, brief background information will be provided so that you can better understand the text. Following the Scripture passage, a small devotional and prayer log can be pondered, printed or journaled daily. My prayers are with you as we seek to grow in wisdom of God’s Word together this year.
The Book of James
James wrote the letter in order to strengthen and encourage the faith of Jewish Christians who were being persecuted and oppressed. He primarily addressed social and ethical aspects of the gospel instead of purely doctrinal matters because he knew that the believers were struggling with questions of how their faith should impact their daily lives. James encouraged his readers to display love, Christlike attitudes and speech, and perseverance during trials.
James the brother of the Lord (Mt 13:55), is the author of this book; however, he did not mention this familial relationship in the epistle. His authorship has been disputed because four men bearing the name of James are mentioned in the New Testament. James, Jesus’ brother, was bitterly opposed to the Lord during Jesus’ earthly ministry, but he was converted by a special and private interview with Jesus following His resurrection (1 Co 15:7). He became a man of prayer, emerged as the leader of the Jerusalem Church, and was slain by Jews in AD 62. He claimed as his authority for penning this message his position as “a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1).
Since James was martyred in AD 62, this letter must have been written before that date. Some believe James is one of the oldest New Testament books, but specific references to events or dates are not found.
From its content, several things become clear about the people to whom the letter was written. Almost certainly the readers were Jews. James identified himself as a follower of Christ and acknowledged his readers as believers. The letter implies that the Jewish believers were mainly poor people who were caught in a situation of considerable social tension. Oppressed by wealthy landlords and hauled into court by rich people who also scorned their Christian faith, the readers were exhorted to be patient and endure these trials to the end. In any case, most agree that the letter was prepared to be circulated among the churches since no single geographical location is identified.
Maligned by Martin Luther as a “strawy epistle,” the book of James has often been misunderstood, yet the pivotal theme in James is how faith and works relate to one another. In a pastoral tone and straightforward manner, James instructed Christians in practical ways of living out their faith. Once a person accepts Christ as Lord and Savior, the indwelling Holy Spirit should bring a noticeable difference into his/her life. However, some people mistakenly believe that one can trust Christ for salvation yet continue to live like an unbeliever. James was trying to combat this thinking by saying that if Christ does come into your life, then you will act differently. Your lifestyle will reflect and give evidence of the life of the One who lives within you.
Other key themes addressed in James include:
*trials and temptations
*the relationship between the poor and the rich.
Background information found in the Evangelical Commentary: Edited by Dorothy Patterson & Rhonda Kelley
James chapter 1
New International Version
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
Trials and Temptations
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. 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.
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.
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.
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 firstfruits of all he created.
Listening and Doing
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.
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.
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.
January 5, 2015 Daily Devotional
Although we do not like to endure trials, we have all seen testing lead to perseverance and perseverance lead to maturity. In verse 12 of chapter 1, James tells us that one who perseveres under a trial is BLESSED.
1. Verse 5 tells us to ask for WISDOM.
Whom do we ask for wisdom?
Why do we ask for wisdom?
When do we ask for wisdom?
How do we ask for wisdom?
2. Verse 13 switches from the topic of trials to the topic of temptation. How do you feel the two are related?
3. Verse 19 teaches that we should be ________________________________to listen, ________________________________ to speak, and ________________________________to become angry. James reminds us that anger does not promote the righteousness that God desires.
In your personal life, how are you doing with listening, speaking and becoming angry?
How can you improve?
4. Reread James 1:22-25. Explain the simile that James uses when he compares those who are merely hearers of the Word to one who looks in the mirror and turns away.
1. Pray that the wisdom from God’s Word will direct, correct, and instruct you today.