Summary: A in-depth look at James Chapter one encouraging the reader to view the book of James in full context. This entire series is also available as an IBOOK via ITUNES for the nominal cost of $4.95
James is my favorite book of the Bible. I have always been drawn to its practical approach and straightforward method of approaching the subject of living one’s faith. James doesn’t spend a lot of time discussing doctrine, though the book is full of doctrinal concepts. Instead, James concisely proclaims how believers are to respond to various people and situations and in doing so truly demonstrate a superior faith.
James was written not to one particular congregation, but overall to congregations that were dispersed throughout the known world. Despite that, James scores a direct hit to a common problem in churches both then and now. There were those in the churches that James was writing to that considered themselves to be more spiritually mature than others. They asserted this so-called maturity and attempted to seek positions of authority, social prominence, and power within the church.
While there were those willing to submit to such assertions and view these assertions as true, others objected and battled in an effort to assert their own prominence within the church.
Into these sad circumstances, James writes his letter, establishing a measuring stick for true spiritual maturity. By the time the churches completed the reading of this letter, I can imagine there were some red faces in the local congregations. Some should have been embarrassed because they had accepted the assertions of superiority. Some should have been ashamed because they had made the assertions. Still others should have recognized areas of shortcomings.
Years ago I went shooting with my younger brother. We went to an indoor target range for the first time. Rather than shooting at those familiar circular targets, Doug opted for a man-shaped silhouette target. After winding the target out the full length of the range he proceeded to empty his six-shooter at the target. When he drew the target back he removed it from the clip and held it up for me to see. In the target was one bullet hole, down near the bottom, where the man’s wrist would have been. Doug approached his target with a grin, “I winged ‘em!” (His next series of shots were much improved)
Doug wasn’t really proud of the fact that he had winged his target. Instead, he was glad he hadn’t missed all six shots. He used what he learned and quickly corrected his aim and began to do more than wing the imagined burglar. This is what believers need to do when they read James. They have an opportunity to recognize their shortcomings, correct them, and begin to do better.
Reading the book of James provides the believer an opportunity to measure himself not on the scale used by the world or even the church. It allows the believer to measure himself based on God’s ways. We can be pleased in the areas where we believe we are succeeding. Being proud of our occasional success in hitting the target will never be adequate before the Lord. James offers us the opportunity to sharpen our spiritual shooting skills.
James touches on so many areas of a walk with God. He deals with temptations and hard times. He spends a great deal talking about the tongue and how we talk. He talks about the need to put our faith into action. He deals with the issues of fighting over position within the church. He lays it on the line.
James hits the target dead center. I hope you will not find one or two areas of spiritual success and be satisfied, but rather adapt and correct those areas where you are missing the mark.
Verse 1: Introduction and Greeting
Unlike most of Paul’s letters, James begins with a very simple explanation of his role in Christ’s kingdom. He calls himself a servant. He doesn’t claim apostleship, though his readers likely knew he had been the leader of the church at Jerusalem before the believers were scattered about by persecution. Instead, he calls himself a servant.
James is going to condemn self-promoters and position seekers as his letter develops. It is interesting to note that he chose for himself a simple title of humility before Christ rather than asserting authority.
Though the Greek word used is different, a Jewish reader might have related James’ reference to being a servant of Christ to the bonding of a servant to a household. (Exodus 21:2-6). Under Old Testament Law a servant was to be freed during the Jubilee year. However, a servant could by choice refuse freedom and become part of the household. If he freely chose to do so, he would be taken to the doorpost of the house and his ear would be pierced with an awl. This choice was made out of a sense of love and loyalty.
I believe James may have been referencing this choice. He was (by choice) a servant of Christ. He humbled himself to this position and it was the perfect position to use to present the truths he was about to share in this letter. He did not assert authority even though he spoke with authority. His priority was the message he was sharing rather than his own personal position or reputation. He chose to call himself a servant in order to demonstrate what he was preaching-- that believers were not to be seeking to claim spiritual authority over other believers.