GOOD MORNING, SIBLINGS!
Today we read the book of James! Our readings are James 1-5
I’m not a respecter of pet peeves. I think if we have minor things that annoy us, we should get un-annoyed. Pet peeves are our problem to deal with, no one else’s. As a result of my conviction about these, I try not to have any, and when I find myself in possession of a pet peeve I get over it, plain and simple.
Having said that, I’m about to tell you how I break my own rule of thumb here. There are two pet peeves which seem to be loyal, dedicated, and steadfast pets for me. I’ve tried to send them on their way and they refuse to go.
One of those comes into play today and that is that James was not named James. He was named Jacob, or Yacov in transliterated Hebrew (remember, there was no “J” sound in Hebrew). He actually shared a name with the Jacob who would later become Israel. And yet, here we are with the book of James. Some Bibles though, still call this the book of Jacob. I love it when a Bible translation bucks tradition and clings to the Father! You know, as servants of YHWH we really are rebels.
The book of James went through a few trials because lots of folks didn’t want it in the Bible, including the infamous Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation, whose book “The Jews and Their Lies” would go on to serve as a great inspiration for Hitler.
This book (James) was deemed “too Jewish” as it upholds the “old” testament teachings, Torah, and obedience to the commandments as part of salvation. (Remember, obedience isn’t the root of our salvation, it’s the fruit). Of course, the elephant in the room is that Messiah is/was a Jew and taught all of that as well.
In short, the writings of this book cast a negative or disputing light on some church doctrine and so attempts were made to remove or invalidate it.
- Now about Jacob (oh, alright, James). He was the chief rabbi of the Messianic Jewish community in Jerusalem. He was a master Torah teacher and the spokesperson for the entire Messianic community. He was also a judge and authority on the law of Torah- highly respected by Messianic Jews, Gentiles, and Non Messianic Jews. Understanding his background, it is clear to see that he is teaching directly from the Scriptures, specifically the books authored by Moses, or Torah.
- Also of note and no doubt a tremendous influence on him – Most believe (I am one of them) and historical evidence supports him being identified as the brother of our Messiah. There are some who dispute this but there are people to dispute everything. Test it, pray on it, see for yourself what conclusion you come to and feel free to discard my view. I’m not seeking to be right but what is right. And who is the source of “right”? YHWH.
The greeting in James 1:1 is a very unique one in the Bible. “To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion…” Dispersion is referring to the areas outside of Israel. Often, this is called the diaspora. As a resident of the United States, we are living in the diaspora. I like to keep that thought in my mind when I look at the culture around me, at the pain and injustice, hate and various evils which rise and fall like the ebb and flow of the ocean, each wave different but made of the same stuff. This is the diaspora. We will reach our homeland when we are living with our Father at last. Until then, we are in the diaspora.
The twelve tribes, who are those? Recall that there are twelve tribes of Israel (of course Manasseh and Ephraim made it thirteen when they were put in Joseph’s place). These are YHWH’s chosen people. But after all we have read, after seeing YHWH’s plan so clearly laid out by reading His word from start to finish, by now we understand that we are grafted into those tribes and counted as His chosen people as well, so this letter is very much addressed to us also.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, 3 for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. James 1:2-3
Y’all, we are being built up. Our muscles are being strengthened. This is how we transform from our natural selves to be more like our Messiah. This is how we learn to serve Him, learn to love others, learn to walk in HIS wisdom rather than our own.
I am so grateful that this letter is so straightforward and its placement being, in our modern Bibles, after Paul’s letters, is a divine book stop and reminder to grow our roots deep in the Father’s unchanging wisdom so that our trunks may grow up straight in His truth.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask YHWH, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given to him. -James 1:5
Seeking wisdom. The Father honors that, when we come to Him seeking His wisdom, by giving it freely to us so that we can serve Him and apply it to our lives. Y’ALL!!! He WANTS His children to be wise! He has so many gifts He wants to give us!
James 1:14 I think it is important to admit that we lead our own selves into temptation 9/10, when we do not heed His wisdom and instead choose our own path. We should be obeying Him but instead we go following our flesh and offer up flimsy excuses as to why it will be okay this one time or in this one area. Our own desire lures and entices us – because we allow it, because our hearts are not wholly set on Him, because we call Him God but we still hold ourselves as our own god to an extent as well. Wholehearted. Shema, hear and do. These are the goals. This is what we should strive for. And when we fall short, we should admit it, humble ourselves, and learn from the correction in order to prevent ourselves from trusting in our flesh in the future.
I’m going to highlight a few more verses and then head off for a bit.
Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. James 1:19-20
I’ve been there. I get offended on YHWH’s behalf and I can go off half cocked into battle slicing and dicing with my words to speak up for Him. Or, I decide that a worldly cause is a Godly one and I set that up as my idol and commence to worshipping it and championing for it as if it were YHWH himself, only to end up misrepresenting YHWH, drawing attention away from Him, and destroying my witness for Him in the process. Meanwhile, the Father is waiting on us to focus on Him and humble ourselves enough to do as He says rather than to follow wherever our flesh leads. For the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Mmm. That’s something to chew on.
Oh how I love this one. I tell it to myself every day and it has kept me out of a lot of grief!
22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. 23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. 24 For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. 25 But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. James 1:22-25
I lived most of my life thinking YHWH just wanted me to be a good hearted person and the rest was up to me. Once I read the book, realized the gift of His wisdom, and began applying it to my life, THEN I found freedom! Relying on YHWH’s wisdom over our own has given us freedom we’ve never known apart from Him. This is where the whole “Shema” comes in. Which means, not just to hear, but to hear and do.
Shema is an action word. The Father’s wisdom and teachings do us no good if we ignore them.
James 2:2 For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in…
The original word used by James for assembly here is synagogue. You can see it in the Greek texts here: https://biblehub.com/interlinear/james/2-2.htm
While they may not have been successful in removing this “too Jewish” book, they still tried to make it “less” Jewish. ~sigh, head shake, eyes roll to Heaven~ I’m grateful for His mercy, that’s all I got to say on that.
James 2:14-20 is a BIG sticking point for the whole “Grace gives us free rein to live however we want” crowd because it tell us that our life should show the fruit of their faith. This passage right here is one of the main contention points people have had with James throughout the generations. However, I want to encourage you to dive on in because it is clear, concise, well written, and beautifully applicable to our lives this very moment.
What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.
But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.”
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by my deeds. You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.
You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? James 2:14-20
There is a famous quote, author unknown but often attributed errantly to Francis of Assisi that states, “Preach the gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” This is precisely what James is instructing us to do, albeit in terms of how to live our lives in a way that is pleasing to YHWH and in accordance with His Word. You see, honoring YHWH, following His commandments, making His wisdom our guide in our lives – that is preaching the gospel! Living as Messiah lived, walking in His footsteps, that is preaching the gospel! If you’ve ever talked to a young person who was disillusioned with Christianity the first thing they usually say is that Christians are hypocrites. And if we take an honest look around we’d find they have a point. Here, James is admonishing us to not just talk the talk, thereby painting the whole body of believers as hypocrites in the world’s eyes, but walk the walk as well. Live our lives as a living sacrifice to YHWH’s will above our own.
James 3-4 details, with example after example, the importance of controlling our tongue and our passions, which tend to work in tandem with one another. We will express the truth of our heart with our mouths. I cannot stress enough how important it is to linger over these verses.
I have many more passages underlined in these readings but I imagine you’ll end up with the same ones. I have a dear friend whom I’ve known for decades who told me once “I always go back to the book of James. Whenever I feel I’m drifting away, I go to James.”
While I am a big “whole Bible” person and have benefitted greatly from learning to read the NT books in light of the foundational texts of Scripture, I can absolutely see how the book of James can lead us back home should we find ourselves on an unexpected path.
I appreciate you letting me be here with you. May our hearts be so full of His love that it spills over into everyone we encounter.
Armor up, we just finished another book! Rak Chazak!
Test everything, hold tight to what is good.~ 1 Thess 5:21
We are saved by Grace alone: Obedience is not the root of our salvation, it is the fruit!
May YHWH bless the reading of His Word!