I chuckled nervously as I back tracked to explain and soften something I had just said that came off potentially offensive in today’s cultural climate. I sighed and said, “I don’t even know what I can say anymore!”
While I want to work on my boldness (yet tact in execution) of truth despite how it may not align with the ever changing standards of today, this is something that James didn’t struggle with. He spoke truth with boldness and wisdom and even a little sarcasm.
The book of James contains three key themes in the Christian life which are expanded on throughout the short book. These themes speak on trials, wisdom, and economic/social differences. While James was addressing Jewish Christians who were dispersed throughout the Roman empire, these themes are still highly relevant to our lives today.
This epistle is packed with advice and conviction for believers which can make studying it uncomfortable and readily avoidable to Christians who’d rather read a feel good message. If you struggle with this book, you’re not alone. Even Martin Luther question if it should be in the canon as James simply eluded to Jesus’s teaching more than he spoke of Jesus himself. And skeptics are concerned it contradicts Paul’s teachings in the New Testament. While Paul teaches that we are saved by faith apart from our works of the law, James says that our faith without works is dead. (We will expand more on this as we go and see how it does not make the Bible contradict itself.)
Despite these concerns, James is an epistle we all should study and seek to understand. Many scholars agree that James is probably the first existing Christian writing. Most also agree that while his humble opening in 1:1 does not specifically state who he is, the best answer is James, the half-brother of Jesus himself who was also the chief elder in the budding church which was the first generation of christianity. This letter is the roots of christianity. We would do well to read and study this convicting letter.
While we will look further into the actual text starting next week, I found the introduction and greeting so interesting that I do want to make a comment on it.
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in Dispersion: greetings.
This was the brother of Jesus himself. This was the chief elder of a rapidly expanding church body. Yet, he did not say that. He simply claimed to be a servant of God. He did not claim his righteousness for himself but claimed to be a possession of God and simply doing His will. How much more should you and I humbly go about doing God’s will without flaunting our position? We can have boldness to speak truth when we submit to the God of the universe and recognize that it is not our own arbitrary “truth” we are standing up for. When we’re consumed by our own reputation and image, we may shy away from speaking God’s word. But if we, like James, consider God greater than ourselves and His word more steadfast than the varying standards of this world, we can proclaim boldly the objective truth in Christ’s love.
While this is a simple sentence and verse, there is a lot we could learn from simply his opening to this letter. Similarly, we should read this book and every book of the Bible ready to see what God will say to us despite how simple or convicting it may be.
Let’s not shy away from hard parts of scripture. When God calls us out instead of running away, let us lean in. Let us hear what God said through the whole of the Bible and the book of James despite how much it may not align with whatever relativistic modern standards are trending at the time. And let us have both the boldness and humility that God gave James.
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