Dear church family,
Thank you for making the book of James part of your steady diet of Scripture reading over the next couple of months. So many commentators have labeled James as a sort of New Testament Wisdom Literature. They note its many proverbial qualities, the lack of a strict organization, and its many commands (imperatives and exhortations) and have determined that it is an incredible collection of practical wisdom for the individual believer. Now there is no doubt that each of their observations contains a great deal of truth, but I want us to approach the book of James differently.
As you read the book of James repeatedly over the next couple of months, please see it as a work primarily written to communities under pressure. It is written to believers spread across the Mediterranean world who gather in house churches. It is written as a manual of renewal to be employed by Spirit-filled believers who are eager to flesh out the wisdom delivered by Jesus in all his teachings and especially encapsulated in the Sermon on the Mount. Read the book of James and note the many ways that he instructs the whole church (its local manifestation). Here are some things to watch for:
- Religion that pleases God is focused on taking care of communities in need. (James 1:27)
- We need to be loving to all who come into our worship services regardless of their socioeconomic status. (James 2:2)
- You do well to fulfill the royal law, which is about loving your neighbor. (James 2:8)
- Teachers within the church community come under greater strictness and scrutiny. (James 3:1)
- Jealousy and selfish ambition hurt the church community because they usher is disorder and vile practices. (James 3:16)
- Under certain conditions, the church elders should be called to minister in both a private and public way. (James 5:14-15)
- The whole church is responsible to bring wayward brothers and sisters back to the truth. (James 5:19-20)
Wow! And that is just a partial list. So please do not think of the book of James merely or mainly as it applies to you individually controlling your tongue or making sure that works accompany your faith, but rather think about it as a manual of corporate life for the local body of Christ.
Have a blessed week and we will see you on Sunday.
Love in Christ,