The Book of James has been called the “Proverbs of the New Testament.” So, it is with that in mind that we conclude this year’s study of the Wisdom Literature with that great book. Most scholars are convinced that this is the James known as “James the Just,” who was the Lord’s brother. He is referred to as such in the New Testament (Galatians 1:19) and in secular history, such as Josephus’s Antiquities (20.200). He played a prominent role in the early days of the church, including the Jerusalem Conference (Acts 15), until his execution in A.D. 62. This means that if it was he who wrote this epistle, it was before 62 A.D.
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.
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some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com.