James opens this letter by including the greeting “to the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.” Often, when the Bible refers to the “dispersion” or “diaspora” it refers to the fact that the Jews had been scattered around in various places by all of the exiles and such. But the term takes on New meaning after the events of Acts 11:19. It was there that we are told of the scattering of Jewish Christians to “as far as Phoenicia and Cyprus and Antioch” in the wake of the persecution that followed the stoning of Stephen (Acts 7), and it grew to include the Christians that were Gentiles who fled for the same reason. It is clearly a mix of this group to which Peter speaks in 1 Peter 1:1.
Although this chapter, like all of the book, is full of wisdom, without question the most famous passage in chapter one is found in verses 2,3, and 4: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” The persecuted Christians he addressed here would have been having their full share of trials; and it resonates soundly for us today. Anyone who has been a child of God for a long time knows without question that the trials and hardships we experience throughout life help to build our character, and when we stand firm in our faith in the face of them, that faith is greatly strengthened over time.
The chapter is just 26 verses long, but contains wisdom rivaling many different chapters of the Book of Proverbs, so we will not attempt to comment on every one of them. We have already written at some length of this chapter in this previous post. So we will leave it with the observation that we often pray for God to do something for us – usually when we have trouble of some sort in our lives. How often, when things work out to our advantage or great relief, do we forget the urgency with which we asked for His help? Do we not sometimes even look at it without regard to God having any part in the resolution? James 1:17 always gets me thinking about this: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights…” We should never hesitate to give thanks to our Lord for the blessings we receive.
Chapter 2 of James spends fully half of the chapter on the subject of showing partiality to those who are rich over those who are poor. The second half deals with faith, and though it is a very important part of the chapter, we have covered it in this previous post if you would like to read more about verses 14-26.
The chapter begins by talking about how it is a sin to show partiality to those who come into the assembly. But the following verses make it clear that it is a sin to do so under any circumstances or setting. How natural it seems to most of us to consider ourselves compassionate toward others. But how natural still it is to turn our attentions more fully to those who surround us that are more popular. Usually, they are favored because of their station in life, their better dress, fine cars, and other material reasons. But sometimes, their material possessions may not have so much to do with it.
Often, all it takes to make them more attractive to us is literally how physically attractive, or even athletic, they are. It is a sad fact that those who are less attractive, or perhaps even those who seem less capable to most people often get left out – or even left behind. That is a lesson that those who are left out begin to learn even as children. Sadly, those guilty of this sin often never outgrow it. Sadder still, are the hearts that often get broken.
The key is in the tie-in to verses 8-11. The Lord commanded us to love our neighbor. But as the scripture points out, you can love your neighbors and treat one of them better than the other for really lousy reasons. Conducting ourselves this way, the verses say is no better than committing murder while patting ones self on the back for not being an adulterer.
Bible Reading Schedule for this month
Click links below to read or listen to audio of one of this week’s chapters in Colossians and Luke
2 Cor 12, 2 Cor 13, James 1, James 2, James 3
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All of my comments in this blog are solely my responsibility. When reading any commentary, you should always refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word.