The Apostle James, Jesus’ half-brother who was one of the leaders of the early church, wrote his book to his fellow Jews. They were converted Christians. James’ letter is an example of wisdom literature, that is, instructions for the Jewish Christians’ and our lives in knowing Jesus better.
James begins with his teachings about the advantages of suffering. In other words, God allows suffering in our lives to shape our characters to be more like his qualities. Then, James tells us that favoritism is wrong and that head-knowledge about God without putting our knowledge into practice is worthless. Thus, our knowing God must result in actions for others’ benefit.
Then, in chapter three, James gets even more practical. He says that our tongues must be tamed. Obviously, the only way to control our tongues is by way of Jesus’ triumph in his death and resurrection through prayer to the God who created our brains, which guide our speech. James also contrasts human and divine wisdom as opposites.
Our sins prevent us from knowing God better. In chapter four, James condemns selfish prayers (verses 1-3), proud accepting of the world’s values (verses 4-6), condemning each other (verses 11-12), and making self-centered plans without God’s direction (verses 13-17). In verses 7-10, James gives us his ten commandments:
- Submit to God
- Resist the devil (and he will flee from you [through prayer to God])
- Come near to God (and he will come near to you)
- Wash your hands (from sinful self-centeredness)
- Purify your hearts
- Change your laughter to mourning
- Change your joy to gloom
- Humble yourselves before the Lord (and he will lift you up)
In chapter five, James also tells those who are taking advantage of the poor to stop. At the end of his letter, he describes our need to pray in true faith for our own needs and each other’s needs. We should also help each other obey the Lord, always in humble love.
I invite your comments resulting in a conversation about growing to know God better based on James’ letter.