The author of the book of James is not the James, the son of Zebedee, one of the 12 disciples. We know this because Herod had that James killed, as recorded in Acts 12. It is thought by some that this James was actually the half-brother of Jesus. His mother was Mary and his father would have been Joseph. So he grew up in the same household as Jesus, but as you’ll hear in the opening verses, he only introduces himself as the “slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The audience for the book is “the twelve tribes”, or Jews who have been dispersed to various places. We’ll also see that it is applicable to the entire Body of Christ. Its purpose is call us all to holy and right living, among other things that will become evident as we read.
After James writes his greeting, he immediately launches into the subject of dealing with difficulties. The Jews, believers in Jesus and otherwise, had been scattered, and under all sorts of persecutions.
James wanted them to know that hard times are meant to grow our faith. It’s actually appropriate to read this right after we completed Job, don’t you think? Given what we read in Job, I don’t think it’s necessary to camp on this point, except to say that when something is repeated in scripture, it’s because God really wants us to understand that it’s important.
There is no doubt that difficulties arise in every life. James wants us to see that God can and does use those times for our benefit. Don’t let anyone tell you that you must’ve done something wrong if you’re going through the fire.
And then he goes on to say that just hearing the scriptures is not enough. Don’t think that by going to church or reading the Bible, or listening to this podcast for that matter, is enough to make you righteous. You must act on what you hear. The Word has to make a difference in your life. You must take action on what you hear.
Then in the next chapter he talks about valuing some people over others, and how that is not what we should do. Each person has value, whether rich or poor, important in the eyes of men or insignificant. In God’s eyes, we are all the same. There are no celebrities in Heaven.
James 2:14-20 has caused a lot of controversy over the years, but in my mind it is quite clear. The message is this: if you say you love God, but your life doesn’t show it, you are fooling yourself. To expand on that thought, if I love God, I am going to just naturally begin to do things that show the love of God. I don’t do those things to gain God’s favor, and I don’t do them to earn points in Heaven. I do them because He has changed who I am. If I am the same person I have always been, then I have not truly met Jesus, and I am still lost.
The example James gives is that of Abraham. He said he had faith, but until he showed that he was willing to sacrifice his son, Isaac, his faith was incomplete. It was only when he raised the knife to sacrifice his son that God pronounced him complete. And then, as James quoted from the Old Testament, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” And James said that Abraham was called the friend of God.
Now, don’t misunderstand. We are saved by faith alone. There is nothing we can do to earn any part of our salvation. Zero. Nada. Nothing. But unless my faith results in a changed life, it is worthless, because a true faith in God fills us with the Holy Spirit, who brings about the fruit of the spirit that was talked about by Paul in Galatians 5:22 and 23: … love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control…
Fruit just naturally grows on the tree, right? The apple tree doesn’t have to *try* to grow apples, it just does. Same with the fruit of the Spirit. If you have truly become a new person by yielding yourself to Jesus, then these things will become evident in your life.
How’s the fruit harvest in your life?