James finishes his letter with a call to prayer. Although it may seem unexpected, it is totally appropriate when we think that in order to become "perfect and complete" we must rely on God's power. Prayer is reliance on God's power! When we embody this truth ourselves, we become a community of prayer and praise in a world of self-sufficiency and entitlement. We embody the kingdom of God.
After James addresses the wealthy and powerful, he turns his attention to the poor and powerless. What is his call to the poor and oppressed? To be patient. This is a message for all of us; no matter how much money you have in your bank account, we have all experienced areas of need or brokenness. How do we patiently endure those times? What is it we are patiently enduring for?
We live in a world of economic injustice. It seems as if the 'rich get richer and the poor get poorer.' The love of money is the downfall of many in our culture, and James is quite aware of this. Money has the potential to cause us to ignore God and to become indifferent to the needs of the least, lost and left-out. The question the Christian community must wrestle with is this: has our wealth blinded us to the things of God? The wealth we are given is to be shared with those in need. As we live in this way, we reflect the kingdom of God that exalts the poor and humble.
Jesus' physical body rose up out of the grave and lives. What does this mean today for us? Those who are in Christ may now live out their resurrected lives through the power of the Spirit... even here and now!
James warns us against the temptation of putting ourselves in the place of God. First and foremost, speech that judges or criticizes a fellow-Christian usurps the place of God. The other danger is in relation to one's future plans. We have no idea what today will bring, let alone tomorrow. Again, we see that genuine faith produces humility. Once we learn the humility to accept God's sovereign ordering of all life and to live within that, then we see more clearly the life God has called us to live in wholehearted devotion to Him.
James understood how critical God-given wisdom is for enduring trials (1:5). But he also knew the human tendencies to rely on self-guidance and worldly advice when tough times arise. In this section James reminds us that real faith produces gospel wisdom, which in turn produces gospel fruit. James shows us that our goodness comes from God-given wisdom, not our own human wisdom. We see that God's people are to be a community of fruitful, gospel wisdom in a world of envy, jealousy and selfish ambition.
After James discusses the importance of our works over simply saying you believe, he now contends that our words are very much important to our faith, too. So which is it? Should we focus on our demonstration or our declaration of faith? What we find, as we look into the wisdom of James, is that both our works and our words flow from our worship. With hearts rooted in the love of Christ, we will bear the fruit of a faith that speaks and acts.
If we are saved by faith alone, solely because of God's grace, why would James use such bold words about the works we are supposed to have? Just as an apple tree, sprouting from the seed of an apple, will produce the fruit of more apples, as we are rooted in the loving works of Christ we will produce, through the power of the Spirit, more works of love... because of his grace!
James continues to encourage God's people to become "perfect and complete" (1:4), wholehearted in their devotion to God as they love others, especially the poor. In this section James teaches that followers of the "Lord Jesus Christ" (2:1) will not show favoritism, for faith in Christ is in no way compatible with partiality toward others. Real faith fights against prejudice. Real faith produces self-giving love. The Christian community is under the "law of liberty" and now free to demonstrate equalizing love in a world that thrives on status and privilege. In addition, the people of God are to be known for their solidarity with the poor and vulnerable, showing utter dependence on God in a world of self-sufficiency.
The Christian's devotion and obedience to God should be wholehearted, whereas the ‘double-minded’ (1:8) are half-hearted in their relationship to God. Whereas the half-hearted doubt, vacillate, are unstable and restless (1:6–8), the wholehearted are stable and free from doubt because they are wholly devoted to God. This wholehearted devotion to God involves the whole person, since the heart is the inner source of words and deeds and reveals the state of the heart. Therefore, if we are to become "perfect and complete" (1:4) we must examine every area of our lives. James explains that when the true believer is confronted with the truth of Scripture, he or she will respond by conforming to what it teaches.
James continues with a clear distinction between trials and temptations, knowing that when life gets hard is when we are most often lured away and tempted. How do we fight this temptation? How do we examine our own desires and find a better answer to them? Is the Christian life a continual suppression of our desires, much like stoicism? Or do we just give in to desires because we have grace in Christ? The book of James shows us there is a third way, a better way, a righteous way that fills our desires far more than any other thing can.
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When trials come, when you experience suffering, when life doesn't look like you hoped, what is your usual response? Is it joy and thankfulness? Shockingly, that's how James writes we should respond. How can we count it all joy when we meet trials of all kinds? These first four verses of James give away the theme of the entire letter - that God desires to use all we go through in life to complete and whole perfection, that we would lack in nothing, for His glory!
James makes it abundantly clear that, no matter who you are, you're going to face trials of many kinds. Left to ourselves, we are tossed about like a wave on the sea — directionless and without purpose — and our faith quickly wilts like grass under a scorching sun. Why do trials overwhelm us? Because we lack wisdom and we lack faith. That's why we need wisdom that comes from God; wisdom that compels us to see trials from God's perspective. And this wisdom must involve sustaining faith that involves complete abandonment to God and His purpose for our trials. We learn that in order to become a people "perfect and complete" (1:4) we must be wholehearted and single-minded in our devotion to God, not "double-minded" and divided in our loyalty.