Learning from James
1:1-27 - Even the most difficult times can have a godly effect on us - when we ask God for wisdom: ‘Lord, what are You teaching me in this?’ (2-5). Humanly speaking, we may be ‘in humble circumstances’. Spiritually speaking, we are in a ‘high position’ (9). Our position is to become even higher - ‘the crown of life’ (12). Before that happens, there will be many temptations (13-15). We can face these temptations with confidence in the God of faithfulness and His ‘Word of truth’ (16-18). God’s ‘Word’ is ‘planted in us’ so that we may become ‘doers of the Word, and not hearers only’ (21-22). Don’t let God’s Word ‘go in one ear and out the other’ - ‘like water off a duck’s back’. Let there be His controlling - ‘a tight rein on the tongue’, caring - looking after the needy, and cleansing - ‘unstained from the world’ (26-27).
2:1-26 - The Gospel turns the world’s values upside down - the ‘poor in the world’ are ‘rich in faith’ (5). We are to live according to the Gospel. We are not to be controlled by the world’s way of thinking. If we ‘show favouritism’, we place ourselves in a dangerous position - ‘judgment without mercy’. Even where there is the threat of judgment, there is the promise of mercy - ‘mercy triumphs over judgment’ (9,13). God is calling us back from the brink. He is saying, ‘It’s not too late’. Even at ‘the eleventh hour’, God is calling us to receive His mercy (Matthew 20:6-9). He wants to change us. He wants us to put Him first. For Abraham and Rahab, God came first - not Abraham’s son, not Rahab’s country (20-26; Genesis 22:12; Joshua 2:9). Don’t let anyone or anything come before Him. He must come first - every time.
3:1-4:12 - So much harm can be done by a hurtful word. so much good can be done by a word of witness. An evil ‘fire’ can be turned into a godly fire: ‘It only takes a spark to get a fire going, and soon all those around can warm up in its glowing. That’s how it is with God’s love, once you’ve experienced it. You spread His love to everyone. You want to pass it on (3:5; Mission Praise, 348). Use your words with wisdom - ‘the wisdom that comes from heaven’ (17-18). Don’t fight to get your own way. Ask God to show you His way (4:2). Be careful how you speak: ‘Do not slander one another...Who are you to judge your neighbour?’ (4:11-12). May God deliver us from hypocrisy - ‘out of the same mouth come praise and cursing’ (3:10). May He give us ‘more grace’ - to be ‘humble’ and not ‘proud’, submitting to God and resisting the devil (4:6-7).
4:13-5:20 - Don’t worry about ‘what will happen tomorrow’. It’s in the Lord’s hands (4:14-15). We must not lose sight of ‘the purpose of the Lord’. We must remember that ‘the Lord is full of compassion and mercy’ (11). We look forward to ‘the Lord’s Coming’ as the great Day of our salvation (7-8). We must not, however, forget God’s words of warning: ‘The Judge is standing at the door’. God speaks to us concerning ‘the misery that is coming upon you’. What is He saying to us here? - He is warning us: Be careful how you live - Don’t trust in riches. ‘Don’t grumble against each other’ (1-3,9). The warning and the promise belong together. Those who are facing judgment can be brought to the Saviour. May God help us to speak His Word - the warning as well as the promise - , always praying that sinners will be saved (16,19-20).