*These notes comes from a four week bible study at First Presbyterian Church San Angelo, Texas. Link to the wrest of the study here
– Structure of a proper biblical letter address
From, descriptor, Cesar’s title to,
1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the
Early church makes connection between 12 tribes of Israel
God and Jesus being one
Israel was Grace
scattered/cast out from Jerusalem/promised land. They had been commissioned by Jesus to go into the world and spread the word but failed to do so, probably preferring the comfort of Jerusalem, until they were forced to flee from the persecution that began with Saul stoning Stephen.
Purpose of the letter
2 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4 and let endurance
How we get to joy (emphasized through repetition)
have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.
Who wouldn’t strive for these things? We reach growth by putting in the effort through prayer, reading the bible, attending church and church activities, and spreading the word
5 If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. 6 But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; 7, 8 for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.
If you ask in faith, what you need (not necessarily “it” specifically) will be given to you. God is intimately close with us and desires our happiness. We often forget this and do not ask, choosing to rely on other means than God.
9 Let the believer[c] who is lowly boast in being raised up, 10 and the rich in being brought low, because the rich will disappear like a flower in the field. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the field; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. It is the same way with the rich; in the midst of a busy life, they will wither away.
When you have enough money to provide for whatever you want, you do not have to ask God to provide. This is James’ problem with money. No amount of money will save your soul or solve your problems. We need to trust in God, not money.
Growth and eternal life gained
12 Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord[d] has promised to those who love him. 13 No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. 14 But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; 15 then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved.
Temptation leads to death. The problem is not necessarily there being temptation, but rather our choice in reacting to it.
17 Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
God is unchangeable and the father of light. He keeps you from temptation by his provision for you.
19 You must understand this, my beloved:[g] let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for your anger does not produce God’s righteousness. 21 Therefore rid yourselves of all sordidness and rank growth of wickedness, and welcome with meekness
the implanted word that has the power to save your souls.
We usually consider our anger righteous, but our anger is typically focused on our own selfishness/not getting what we want.
Contrast to anger
22 But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves[h] in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing.
We have to put our faith into action and serve/spread the word to others, otherwise we are missing out by being so wrapped up in ourselves.
26 If any think they are religious, and do not bridle their tongues but deceive their hearts, their religion is worthless. 27 Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to keep oneself unstained by the world. Anyone who doesn’t have someone to walk with them.
Religion is powerful and can be used for both good (love) and darkness (control). Unfortunately, many people use religion to subjugate others and to justify their abuse. Religion should be used as power with a purpose (leading others to the love of God), not unbridled power (getting others to bend to your will). Your practice of religion should be to the benefit of others, not their detriment.
Conclusion – We are not perfect, but the more we live in the word and resist temptation the more we can experience joy. The trials we face are opportunities to minister to other who are facing trials and to realize that your problems are not to big to face. As you invest in others, they will invest in you and they will invest in others because of growing from your investment in them.