October 8, 2009

James 1

Last week I started leading a five week study through the book of James. I will be posting thoughts, questions, and comments from our discussions that happen each Wednesday night throughout our time with James. (I would have posted sooner but just recently recovered from a scratched left eye that had me operating with just one eye, quite poorly I might add.) Please feel free to use this as a place to share your thoughts and questions through our study of James as well.

Background context of James
A couple things to point out before we jump in...

-the author of this book is James, the half-brother of Jesus (Galatians 1:18-19) also known as "James the Just"
-initially James did not believe Jesus was who He and others said He was and it was the Resurrection that convinced James otherwise (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)
-not long after his conversion James was chosen by Peter and John to be the leader of the Church in Jerusalem and even met with Paul and Barnabas over the Gentile controversy (Acts 15:1-21)
-James wrote his letter sometime between AD 47-49 more than likely from Jerusalem

James 1

Vs 2-12 "Trials": notice the pattern that is described, trials > stronger faith > perseverance > develops maturity which includes asking and receiving wisdom from God.
Vs 8: in the Greek "unstable" = restless...is it possible that when we find our minds being split between the things God wants and the things we want we find ourselves getting restless?
Vs 12: James' reference of or to a Beatitude (Matthew 5:10-12)

Vs 13-18 "Temptation": notice another pattern that is given, self desire > lures us away > deceives us (Greek impregnates) > sin > attempts at justifying > full-grown sin > death. This image of being impregnated, giving birth and allowing sin to "grow-up" is a powerful image to not only childbirth but raising the child. If we allow this pattern to continue in our life we will be forced to deal with the pain and hurt that "full-grown" sin produces, which eventually leads to death.
Vs 14:
in the Greek "desire" = longing, craving or passion...

Every thought-seed sown or allowed to fall into the mind, and to take root there, produces its own, blossoming sooner or later into act, and bearing its own fruitage of opportunity and circumstance. Good thoughts bear good fruit, bad thoughts bad fruit.

~from As a Man Thinketh by James Allen
Vs 19-21 "Anger": not so much another pattern as it is a sort of formula, listening (to understand) + silence + patience = an aspect of a righteous life. How much drama could we avoid in our homes, workplaces, neighborhoods, churches, schools, etc. if we would actually do this?!? If only we would be more willing to listen to someone in an attempt to understand where they are coming from or their perspective instead of always wanting to share our opinions or "advice" we might actually be able to accomplish some things. Someone brought up in our discussion the idea of reacting vs. responding. We are ready to react but when it comes to being willing to patiently respond, that's another story.

Vs 22-25 "Doing": here a connection is made between faith and practically living it out. The deception comes when we fail to enact the things we learn from the Word. It is not the Word that deceives but ourselves when we fail to live by it.
Vs 25: "law of liberty" brings about freedom. It is only by continuing in this Law of Love that true freedom is found. The Greek for "continues" is = persevering, to remain beside, or abide. What a powerful thought of abiding in God's Law of love...loving Him with everything we are and everything we have; and our neighbors as ourselves.

Vs 26 "Tongue": the Greek for "rein" = hold in check. The power of the tongue cannot be ignored or overlooked, it can even deceive our hearts to the point of making our faith "worthless" (Greek = idle, empty). Think of the difference that could be made in the world if we would actually check the things we say while being "quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry". This stuff has the ability to transform lives and relationships.

Vs 27 "Treating the Unfortunate": in the Greek "distress" = difficult circumstances. If we think this means we only need to care for orphans and widows than we are sadly mistaken, they happened to be the most neglected individuals in James' day, especially in the life of the Church. It's clear that those who are neglected in our day, inside and outside of the Church, include more than orphans and widows, though many of them are still neglected today.