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FRAMEWORKS: The Letter of James

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Why Read James: If you think you can live like you want as a Christian, James disabuses us of this idea. This letter, written to the church wherever they may be scattered, shows the reality of such a church in a pagan world. First (ch.1), there are trials & temptations to be overcome, recognising that such things develop maturity in the believer. Second (ch.2), there is the recognition that all believers are equal and so we should not treat some more favourably than others. As a community of faith, that faith should be seen by deeds, the good lives we lead. Third (ch.3), there is the recognition that although we are all imperfect we should be careful the way we speak as God's representatives, with lives energized by heavenly wisdom that develops humility in us that reveals our Christlike nature. Fourth (ch.4), we should seek to be a peaceful community, recognizing that conflicts arise because we sometimes hold on to selfish attitudes; instead God's grace should develop humility that accepts one another and is able to live contented lives, trusting God. Finally (ch.5), he addresses the affluent in the community of God's people who may ignore the needs of their poorer brothers and sisters, or wrongly treat their workers. The call is to be patient in the face of such sufferings, living lives of prayer. Although many of the topics that James had in mind were applicable in the wider church of the first century, they are nevertheless relevant for any period.





[Note: Because it is sometimes difficult to follow the flow of a letter like this, we have added a synopsis of each chapter & passage to help clarify where James is going with his writing.]

v.1 Greetings

v.2-12 Facing Trials

v.13-18 Facing Temptations

v.19-27 Listening and Doing

[Chapter 1 Synopsis: We may be scattered but there are various commonalities. We may be going through tough times – trials – but they only serve to build perseverance in us. And don't confuse trials with temptation because the latter come from our rampant desires. All these things work to transform (mature) us, to create peaceable, pure lives which is seen in practical ways, for example how we use our tongue]



v.1 Greetings


v.1 (James to the scattered people of God) James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:




v.2-12 Facing Trials


[Passage Synopsis: As scattered believers in a fallen world, life is often tough but it will develop perseverance and from that spiritual maturity if you hang in there, not worrying about your status, just your faithfulness.]


v.2,3 (facing trials – be blessed because it produces perseverance) Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.

v.4 (perseverance produces maturity) Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

v.5 (but if you don't know how to handle it, ask God for His wisdom) 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.

v.6 (but asking believing He'll give) 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.

v.7 (if you don't you don't get) That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

v.8 (you say one thing but believe another) Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.

v.9 (in a lowly position? God has high regard for you) Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position.

v.10 (beware affluence, it goes so easily) But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower.

v.11 (just like plants that die from lack of real resources) 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.

v.12 (but if you hang on in through a trial, God will bless you) 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.



v.13-18 Facing Temptations


[Passage Synopsis: Rightly assess pressures – understand where temptations come from, so have self control. God only brings good, as your salvation proves.]


v.13,14 (don't blame God for temptations, it's your own selfish desires) When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.

v.15 (if you let desire run amok it will cause havoc) Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

v.16 (be clear in your understanding) Don't be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.

v.17 (all good things come from God) Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.

v.18 (and that includes the eternal life he gave you to transform you) He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.



v.19-27 Listening and Doing


[Passage Synopsis: This transformation comes by responding to God's word with obedience, and see by the gracious way we live and speak and care for one another.]


v.19,20 (let that transformation include your responses) My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires.

v.21 (so get rid of evil and let God's word transform you) 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.

v.22 (don't just listen to God, obey Him) Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.

v.23,24 (listening without acting is like forgetting what you saw in a mirror) Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like.

v.25 (responding to God's will through Jesus and administered by His Spirit will bring you freedom) 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.

v.26 (self-control is to include the tongue) Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.

v.27  (a good heart before God is revealed through the way we care for the needy) 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.



Continue to Chapter 2