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Literature / Epistle of James

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One of the General Epistles that make up the New Testament. James, the Lord's brother, gives some practical advice for Christians to follow.

Structure of the book:

  • Salutation (James 1:1)
  • Surviving trials and temptation (James 1:2-18)
  • Authentic religion (James 1:19-2:26)
  • The need for wise teachers (James chapter 3)
  • Peace with God and one another (James chapter 4)
  • Discipline in the Christian life (James chapter 5)

This book provides examples of:

  • Accomplice by Inaction: James 4:17 states that it's not just doing evil that is sinful, but also not doing good when given the opportunity.
    Therefore to him that knows to do good, and does it not, to him it is sin.
  • All Crimes Are Equal: According to James 2:10-11, breaking any part of God's Law makes you guilty of breaking the whole Law, since, in the examples shown, being an adulterer makes you as guilty as being a murderer.
  • Call-Back: To Abraham and Isaac, to Rahab the prostitute, to Job, and to Elijah the prophet, all from the Old Testament. He also calls back to The Four Gospels, reminding believers to not swear an oath on anything, but simply let their Yes be Yes and their No be No.
  • Conflicting Loyalty: James 1:8 says, "A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." Later on in the letter, James emphasizes this point by saying that if you are making friendship with the world, you are becoming an enemy to God.
  • The Corrupter: A warning to believers in James 1:13-14:
    Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted by God, for God cannot be tempted with evil; neither does He tempt anyone. But each man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed.
  • Determinator: James 1:12 states that followers of God who persevere in trials will receive the crown of life which God promised them.
  • Egocentrically Religious: Addressed in James 4:3:
    "You do not have because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures."
  • Forgiveness: At the close of the letter, James says that if anyone sees their brother or sister straying and turns them back, then they will save a soul from death and "cover over a multitude of sins".
  • God Is Good: James 1:5 says that God gives wisdom generously and without criticism to those who ask Him. Verse 17 from the same chapter says: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning."
  • Greed: James 4:1-3 comments upon this:
    Where do wars and fights among you come from? Do they not come from your lusts that war in your body? You lust and do not have, so you kill. You desire to have and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have, because you do not ask. You ask, and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your passions.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: From James 1:19-20 in order to deal with this problem:
    Therefore, my beloved brothers, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God.
  • Happiness in Slavery: In James 1:1, Christians are spoken of as "bondservants of the Lord" approvingly.
  • Hard Work Hardly Works: Discussed in Chapter 2. While Paul states that nobody can earn grace by works because God's grace is a gift, James states that believers are not saved by works, but rather they are saved unto doing good works, otherwise, as said in James 2:20, "faith without works is dead". Catholic interpretation of the Scripture states that both faith and works are what ensures one's salvation, while Protestant interpretation states that it's faith that saves while works are merely proof of having the saving faith.
  • No Sympathy for Grudgeholders: James 5:9 is a warning to those who hold a grudge.
    "Grudge not one against another, brethren, lest ye be condemned: behold, the judge standeth before the door."
  • Open Mouth, Insert Foot: James spends the middle part of Chapter 3 telling believers how dangerous the tongue is.
    Even so, the tongue is a little part of the body and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles. The tongue is a fire, a world of evil. The tongue is among the parts of the body, defiling the whole body, and setting the course of nature on fire, and it is set on fire by hell. (James 3:5-6)
  • Pride: James quotes the Book of Proverbs when dealing with this issue, saying that "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." He also warns believers not to boast about tomorrow, because they do not know whether they will live to fulfill anything that they say they will do tomorrow.
  • "The Reason You Suck" Speech: The first several verses of Chapter 5 is this to the rich:
    Come now, you rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted and your garments are moth-eaten. Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have stored up treasures for the last days. Indeed the wages that you kept back by fraud from the laborers who harvested your fields are crying, and the cries of those who harvested have entered into the ears of the Lord of Hosts. You have lived in pleasure on the earth and have been wayward. You have nourished your hearts as in a day of slaughter. You have condemned and killed the righteous man who does not resist you. (James 5:1-6)
  • Satan: For how to deal with him, James 4:7 says to "submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you."
  • Second Coming: James 5:8 mentions this as an encouragement to believers.
    "Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh."
  • With Us or Against Us: James 4:4 is a warning to spiritual adulterers.
    "Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God."