Summary: “Why do people go to church or participate in worship services when it doesn’t make a difference in how they live each day?”
We are reading from the New Testament letter from James. James is found toward the end of the New Testament and it’s a small letter, just five short chapters. James, the writer, was the oldest half brother of Jesus Christ. He was also the brother of Jude who also wrote the epistle that bears his name. In his earlier years, before the resurrection of Jesus, James was not a believer. Although Christ was surrounded by people who loved him and believed in Him, His own family and hometown of Nazareth had a difficult time accepting His deity….until later. You remember the words from the disciple Nathanael, (also known as Bartholomew), in John’s Gospel when he asked; “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?” Also in John’s Gospel we read in chapter 7 that “even Jesus’ brothers did not believe in Him.” But later we read in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthian Church that “Jesus”, after His resurrection, “was seen by James and all of the Apostles.” James became the key leader in the Jerusalem Church being called one of the “pillars” of that church along with Peter and John. He was also known as “James the Just” because of his devotion to righteousness. James was martyred about 30 years after the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.
Perhaps you remember back in 2002, media reports, including an article published in Time Magazine, that an ossuary bearing the inscription “Ya`aqov bar Yosef akhui Yeshua` - ("James son of Joseph brother of Jesus") had been unearthed in Israel. The ossuary was exhibited at the Royal Ontario Museum in Toronto, Canada, however, in June of 2003, the Israeli Antiquities Authority published a report concluding that the inscription was a modern forgery based on their analysis of the patina.
James wrote his epistle to believers scattered as a result of persecution at the hands of King Herod Agrippa and unrest that followed the stoning of Stephen, the first martyr put to death for his public pronouncement of his faith.
James was devoted to the pursuit of wise living using Godly wisdom, not theoretical or worldly knowledge. He was devoted to Godly living, Godly behavior. He had a passionate desire for his readers to be obedient to the Word of God. His words are as relevant today as they were when he wrote them ten short years after His brother was crucified and resurrected. I would encourage you to read this Epistle throughout the week. He writes about profiting from trials and loving God in the midst, and qualities needed when we go through trials – being swift to hear, slow to speak (the untamable tongue) and being slow to anger. He writes that we should be doers of God’s Word, not just hearers or talkers. James widely read statement of “faith without works is dead” is found in this letter, as well as the importance of Godly wisdom, humility that cures worldliness, patience and persevering. But this morning we read from the fourth chapter, verses 11-17, speaking of our conduct, how we conduct our lives and worship, not being quick to judge, not being filled with pride or arrogance.