Introduction: 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
- Read James 1:2-4. What do trials and testing do for us?
(We discussed this last week. It makes us mature and
complete – we have all the tools needed to be on the path
to right living.)
- Read James 1:5. Wait a minute! If being mature and
complete is the complete toolkit, why does James mention
- Is wisdom the same as maturity? (Maturity can simply
mean “old,” and we all know some old people who are
- Think about this for a little while. James says that
tough times teach us perseverance and maturity. How
is that different from wisdom?
- If wisdom is different, how does it relate to this
issue of being persecuted? (A difficult experience
can teach wisdom to deal with that kind of problem.
But, it takes wisdom to realize this. James tells us
things we don’t like to hear – trials and testing do
us some good. Then he says, if this doesn’t make
sense to you, ask God for wisdom.)
- Look again at James 1:5. How do we acquire wisdom? (Ask
God for it!)
- If you are honest, how many of your “persecutions”
and “troubles” are your own fault? If you were wise
in the beginning, would you have avoided these
- Is this another aspect of wisdom – wisdom not
only shows us the benefit of trials, but it
will help us to avoid going through trials?
- In Matthew 5:10 Jesus says we are blessed when our
troubles arise from doing right, from standing up for
Jesus. James does not limit the source of the
trouble, although he does refer to the “testing of
your faith” ( James 1:3). Will trouble be an
opportunity for learning regardless of the reason for
it? (I think so.)
- How often do we teach our young people about wisdom?
You can learn things the hard way or the easy way. If
you create your own trouble you have the opportunity
to learn. But, if you ask God for wisdom, you can
learn without the pain. Is this something that we
- Is some pain inevitable? (Jesus refers to pain
that results from doing the right thing. Living
in a sinful world opens us up to pain.)
- Look again at James 1:5. Why does the text refer to God
not “finding fault?” Why mention this in the context of
asking God for wisdom? (God will not say, “You’ve been too
stupid in the past, or made too many mistakes, to deserve
- How is intelligence different than wisdom? Or, are
they the same? (Wisdom can be called “emotional
intelligence,” and it is something that can be
learned. You are born with a certain amount of native
intelligence – and increasing it is difficult. But,
your wisdom can greatly increase.)
- Read James 1:19-20. What wisdom lessons do we find here?
(These are rules of emotional intelligence. Listen before
you talk. Listen carefully. Think about what you are
about to say and don’t speak immediately when you are
angry. The rule is that listening should be automatic.
Speaking or getting angry should be carefully considered.)
- What does this have to do with trials? (If you follow
this rule, the number of trials you face will greatly
- Read James 1:6-8. What is the context here – what is this
person asking for? (Wisdom.)
- Is God’s gift of wisdom guaranteed if we ask and
believe? (Yes! James says that only doubting will
keep us from having the gift.)
- What is the problem with doubting? (It allows our
emotions to go all over the place. It makes us
unstable. Worse, it denies us the gift of wisdom.)
- Look again at James 1:8. How serious is the problem of
doubting God? (It makes us unstable in all that we do.)
- Do you know people like this? They have weak faith. They
are always facing some sort of trial. The result is that
their life is “blown and tossed” about. James says the
cure is believing God.
- Read James 1:9 and Proverbs 8:12-13. James just told us
that if we ask God for wisdom, He will give it to us.
Proverbs adds that wisdom hates pride. Now James tells us
that those in “humble circumstances” should take pride. Is
- Are these “humble circumstance” people the ones who
doubted and missed out on wisdom? (It is hard to
believe that James actually means “pride.” Instead,
I think he is saying that if we live modestly because
we are poor, there is no shame in that.)
- Read James 1:10. Let’s try the Bruce Cameron paraphrase:
“Those rich low-lives should be happy to know they will
die soon.” Do you think this reflects the general teaching
of the Bible?
- Read Ecclesiastes 5:19 and Deuteronomy 28:12-13. What
do these say about wealth? (They say that wealth, and
the enjoyment of wealth, is a gift of God. It is a
reward for obedience.)
- What do you think: is there a connection between
being poor and being righteous?
- Read James 1:11. Here is a hint about wealth – the rich
guy dies while he is still working! No wonder he is rich.
Is James saying that rich people die more easily?
- I believe that the entire Bible is inspired by God.
How should we understand James’ nasty note about
wealth when the Bible elsewhere says wealth is a
blessing from God? (I don’t think James is saying
that poor people should be proud and rich people
should expect to die soon – as if wealth caused
death. Instead, James is saying that whether we are
rich or poor, we are all subject to death. Human
dignity exists for all as long as they have life.
The rich man may still be rich (“he goes about his
business”), but that does not keep him from dying
just like the poor person.)
- Read Ecclesiastes 9:4. Would you rather be a lion or
a dog? (A lion!)
- Would you rather be a live dog or a dead lion?
(Solomon votes for the live dog. I think that
is James’ point – death is the great equalizer.
The rich should not think they are superior,
because they, too, will die.)
- Read Luke 8:14. This is part of Jesus’ parable about the
Kingdom of God being like a farmer planting seed. What is
the caution here about wealth? (The rich can become
preoccupied by their riches and pleasures and turn away
from the gospel.)
- Read Proverbs 18:11. Is this true? (Yes. Money can protect
you from many bad things.)
- What is the problem with that? (You depend on your
money and not on God. When you rely on money more
than God, money is your idol. You are fooled because
you “imagine it an unscalable wall” – and it is not.)
- Consider what we have studied. We should prize
persecution. We should take pride in “humble
circumstances.” The rich will die soon. Is there a theme
here? (Yes, the common theme is to trust God. That is also
the key to wisdom, trusting that God will give us
understanding about the important things in life.)
- Friend, why not ask God for wisdom right now?
- Next week: Enduring Temptation.