Want to learn more about James? Use these Bible Studies for personal devotion, group Bible studies, or teaching a church class. Below are links to the lessons in this 13-part series.
Which do you prefer: to study a topic or a book of the
Bible? My preference is to teach books, rather than topics. Why?
Because God arranges the order of the material. This quarter we are
studying a book! But, of all the books to teach, James would be a
contender for my least favorite. On the surface, James stresses
works, not grace. He seems to have some sort of dislike for those
with money, even though he says showing favoritism is a sin. Some of
his statements seem to contradict other statements in the Bible. If
you like a challenge, then we have one! We are going to be challenged
to dig deeply into James and try to understand what he, through the
inspiration of the Holy Spirit, is really teaching us! This week
let’s start by learning about James’ background.
In Matthew 5:10-12 Jesus says those who are persecuted
“because of righteousness” are blessed, and those who are insulted
and defamed because of Jesus are blessed. Most people would call that
a bad day at work! The Dali Lama, a Buddhist, has some interesting
things to say about being mistreated by enemies. He says something
like, “How many enemies do you have? How many people mistreat you?
Consider this an unique opportunity to improve your character!” Jesus
and James are pointing us on the path to heaven, the Dali Lama is
not, but they all understand the relationship between problems and
character development. Let’s dive into our study of the Bible and
Let’s review our last two studies. James writes to
Jewish Christians who have fled their homes because of persecution.
James tells them that they should find joy in trials. Those who have
fled their homes were probably unable to take all of their wealth
with them. So, James next suggests that they should take pride in
“humble circumstances.” Joy and pride for those dealing with serious
problems. These are challenging teachings. If you could have joy and
pride in the midst of trouble, that would be wonderful! Let’s race
into our study of the Bible to see what challenging solution James
How much advice do you get? It seems that I’m getting
advice from others all the time. Some is given without me asking for
it. Some I ask for and really want. Lots of advice comes my way just
in the day to day details of life. A few days ago, I was helping to
put together a toy car for my granddaughter that was big enough for
her to sit in. The manufacturer gave me advice about how to assemble
it, but I decided that some of the advice was wrong, and it turned
out I was right. On the other hand, when my phone GPS gives me advice
on driving directions, I take the advice very seriously. How we react
to advice reflects what we think about the source of the advice. That
is what our Bible study is about this week. Let’s jump right in!
Several times, in connection with a church
event, I recall conversations that shocked me. A couple of
times I recall talking to church members who I did not know
well, and they thanked me for talking to them. Why should they
thank me, I asked? Because they felt a class difference
between us. Once, a friend told me he was amazed I would be
his friend because of the differences in our jobs. Another
time, a medical doctor in church noted that we were both
wearing suits, and suggested that those who did not were of
lesser worth. I pointed out that we wore suits to work, and
that might be the primary reason for what we wore to church.
It was not a question of worth. There are other examples I
could recite. Each time someone suggested that my education or
my job made me more worth-while than someone else, I was
either surprised or offended. James talks about this in our
study today, but what he says (at least on the surface)
offends me too. Let’s dive into the Bible and have an honest
discussion of “class” issues!
“Faith versus Works” is the everlasting theological
debate. How about rephrasing the discussion by saying “Faith that
Works?” Does that help? Or, is that just a different way to say
that works are a key ingredient to salvation? Perhaps we need a
better understanding of what “faith” means. Let’s dive into the old
debate by looking at what James and Paul write and see if we can
learn something new from the Bible!
James previously counseled us to be quick to listen and
slow to speak (James 1:19), to keep a tight reign on our tongue
(James 1:26) and that our words are a consideration in the
judgment(James 2:12). This reflects a statement of Jesus in Matthew
12:37 that our words will acquit or condemn us. Clearly, our tongue
is a very important part of living a life in accord with God’s will.
Let’s plunge into our study of the Bible and learn more about it has
to teach us about our words!
Have you ever said, “That person needs an attitude
adjustment?” Have you ever thought that your attitude could use
improvement? In our study this week, James has some practical
thoughts on wisdom and our attitude. Once again, he suggests some
things that seem inconsistent with other Bible texts. We will puzzle
out those apparent conflicts. Let’s dive into our study of the Bible
and see what we can learn about attitudes and wisdom!
Two weeks ago, we learned from James what terrible
damage our tongue can create. Have you ever said something that is
judgmental? I know I have. We had an older member of the church who
would bring new people to church and at the same time insult current
church members. It seemed like she was bringing some in and driving
others out. When I discussed the insults with her (I think she was
insulting me at the time), she told me that was just the way she was.
Is that the way we all are? Perhaps this reflects a deeper problem of
thinking that we are superior and everyone should conform to our
views. This week James writes about being judgmental and bragging
about the future. Let’s dive into our study of the Bible and learn
A New York Times’ best-selling book called “Drive”
reports on what makes employees satisfied. It reveals that just
paying employees more money is not the key to job satisfaction. Money
is important, of course, but only to a certain point. Once an
employee can live reasonably comfortably, then what becomes more
important is the ability to be creative, to believe you are doing
something worth-while, and to be given the freedom to make job
decisions. Is this also true for the rest of life? Money is not the
mainspring of happiness? James seems to have a bias against the
rich. Let’s dive into our study of the Bible and see what we can
learn from James about wealth and happiness!
In our study last week, James told the rich a terrible
time was coming upon them. Part of the reason was that they had been
unjust to their workers. This week James addresses a different
audience, church members. The message last week and the message this
week, however, seem to have some relationship to each other. Let’s
plunge into our study of the Bible and see what we can learn!
Have you heard someone announce that they worship on
their own? They are tired of “church” and communing in the
wilderness is better because the wilderness does not say unpleasant
things to them. While it is important to have private time with God,
in our study this week James points out the benefits of regular
fellowship with other Christians. Let’s dive into our study of the
Bible and learn more!
Our study of James has been a bit unusual, right? You
heard from me things you rarely hear. James is part of the Bible, yet
I would challenge what he wrote, and suggest that what he meant was
something different than what it appeared that he said. The reason
for this is that James writes things that seem inconsistent with the
rest of Bible, especially inconsistent with the writings of Paul. The
main concern is what James writes about grace. His statement in
James 2:24, that we are justified by our works and not faith alone,
and his statement in James 2:21 that Abraham was considered righteous
when he offered Isaac as a sacrifice, take some explaining. Let’s end
our study of James by jumping into a review of what the entire Bible
teaches about the means of our salvation!