Grow to Know God in the Book of James

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 knowinging Jesus better.    

The seven lights of the Jewish Menorah, which lights up their synagogues to this day. However, Jesus is the Light of the world.

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 without putting our knowledge into practice is worthless. Thus, our knowing God must result in actions for others’ benefit.  

In Jerusalem, Jews gather at the "Wailing Wall" of the Temple to pray and leave messages in the cracks.

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 through prayer to the God who created them. James also contrasts human and divine wisdom as opposites.

A Jew reads from the Old Testament. It's a shame that most Jews fail to accept Jesus as the Messiah who has already come!

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:

  1. Submit to God
  2. Resist the devil (and he will flee from you [through prayer to God])
  3. Come near to God (and he will come near to you)
  4. Wash your hands
  5. Purify your hearts
  6. Grieve
  7. Wail
  8. Change your laughter to mourning (“mourn”)
  9. Change your joy to gloom
  10. Humble yourselves before the Lord (and he will lift you up)
Of course, the rest of the chapter tells us what we are to do with these commandments. Our dirty souls must be cleansed through prayers of confession and commitment, not denial of the sins that remain in us.
We need our own "wailing walls" of private prayer places confessing our sins and imploring God to overcome our sinful-nature qualties.

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. 

The Bible is God's guide for our lives. Read and discuss it with other Christians.

I invite your comments resulting in a conversation about growing to know God better based on James’ letter. 

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