James 1-2

The Epistle of James opens with greeting "to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations." He then encourages "my brothers" to "consider it pure joy" whenever they face trials because "the testing of your faith develops perseverance." He tells them that the positions of both the poor and the "will fade away" and that "blessed is the man who perseveres under trial." He tells them that no one should ever say "God is tempting me," for each is tempted "by his own evil desire," but "every good and perfect gift is from above." Everyone should be "quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger." It's not enough to "merely listen to the word...do what it says." And anyone who does not "keep a tight rein on his tongue...his religion is worthless."

In chapter two, he tells the believers not to practice favoritism, using, as his example, a well dressed man and a "poor man in shabby clothes." "If you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers." Because whichever part of the law you break, makes you a lawbreaker. And "judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful" because "mercy triumphs over judgment." In the rest of chapter two, he discusses the issue of faith vs. works (deeds). "What good is it," he asks, "if a man claims to have faith by has no deeds?" It is not enough to believe in the one God, because "even the demons believe that - and shudder." He describes Abraham's faithfulness as doing what God ordered when he bound Isaac - deeds, not faith. In the same way, Rahab is praised for her deeds, not her faith.

Thoughts, questions, issues

James 3-5

In chapter three, James talks about, well, talk. Like many of the proverbs, he spends time talking about the power of the tongue, calling it "a world of evil among the parts of the body" for "it corrupts the whole person, sets the whole course of his life on fire...No man can tame the tongue." He then writes of wisdom, both that which comes from heaven, "all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere," and that which is "earthly, unspiritual, of the devil" and is represented by "bitter envy and selfish ambition."

In chapter four, he encourages the readers to submit themselves to God. He tells them both that they do not have what they want because they don't ask God, and that when they do ask, they "do not receive, because [they] ask with wrong motives." He tells them that they must "humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up." He urges them not to slander one another, and not to judge the law, for "there is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy." And he warns them not to boast of what will happen in the future, because, after all, "you do not even know what will happen tomorrow...you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes."

Chapter five starts with a warning to the rich because earthly riches cannot last. Particularly, those who have gotten rich immorally should beware "because of the misery that is coming upon you." He tells them that all must be patient in faith "until the Lord's coming," and repeats admonition not to swear, but to just say "yes" or "no." Finally, he urges them to prayer, in all conditions. "The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective."

Thoughts, questions, issues