Today James, the brother of Jesus and leader of the church in Jerusalem, writes a letter to the Jewish Christians during a time of persecution to encourage them to live out their faith. He tells them that wisdom comes from the Lord and temptation is from Satan.
James gives them four instructions for living as Christ followers:
1) Be doers of the word – “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves… What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,’ but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”
Works don’t save us, but they do prove our faith. James gives examples using the lives of Abraham and Rahab. Both Abraham and Rahab acted based on faith – Abraham’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Isaac, and Rahab’s willingness to hide the spies and to send them back safely.
2) Don’t be prejudiced- It appears that favoring the rich is a problem within the church. So James gives a rebuke – “My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality. For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes, and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, ‘You sit here in a good place,’ and say to the poor man, ‘You stand there,’ or, ‘Sit here at my footstool,’ have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brethren: Has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?… If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you do well; but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.”
3) Control the tongue – “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell… But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison. With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God. Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.”
4) Don’t envy – “But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.”
It is by the power of the Holy Spirit that we are able to be doers of the word, not show partiality, control our tongue, and not envy others. James says, “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.”
More from James tomorrow so keep reading. (James 1:1-3:18)