First of all, scholars pretty much agree that this book was written by James, Jesus' physical brother, who was the head of the early Christian Church (not Peter) not the Apostle James the son of Zebedee, the Apostle John's brother. Also James does not identify himself as John's brother, nor does he identify himself as an apostle.
James is listed as Jesus' physical brother in;
53 Now it came to pass, when Jesus had finished these parables, that He departed from there.
54 When He had come to His own country, He taught them in their synagogue, so that they were astonished and said, "Where did this Man get this wisdom and these mighty works?
55 Is this not the carpenter's son? Is not His mother called Mary? And His brothers James, Joses, Simon, and Judas?
56 And His sisters, are they not all with us? Where then did this Man get all these things?"
57 So they were offended at Him.
The fact that James is listed first among Jesus' brethren indicates that he was the second oldest of the boys, Jesus having been the firstborn. Note also, that the Judas listed here is not Judas Iscariot who betrayed him. Judas was a Latin version for the name Judah, a common name at the time. This Judas also wrote the New Testament book of Jude, just as his brother James wrote the book of James.
James and the rest of Jesus' brothers and sisters didn't believe in Him until after His resurrection as was prophesied in what has been called "The Messiah's Lament";
8 I have become a stranger to my brothers, and an alien to my mother's children;
During Jesus' ministry His own brothers mocked Him;
2 Now the Jews' Feast of Tabernacles was at hand.
3 His brothers therefore said to Him, "Depart from here and go into Judea, that Your disciples also may see the works that You are doing.
4 For no one does anything in secret while he himself seeks to be known openly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world."
5 For even His brothers did not believe in Him.
Note that His brothers said, "IF You do these things..."Apparently they had heard of the miracles He had performed, but had not seen them for themselves. However after His resurrection they ALL believed in Him for after they watched with the Apostles as He was taken back into Heaven, Luke records in Acts;
12 Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey.
13 And when they had entered, they went up into the upper room where they were staying: Peter, James, John, and Andrew; Philip and Thomas; Bartholomew and Matthew; James the son of Alphaeus and Simon the Zealot; and Judas the son of James.
14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with His brothers.
OK, on to the Book of James.
1 James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.
Note the humbleness of James here in that he declares himself to be a servant of Jesus Christ without mentioning that he is Jesus' physical brother. He didn't want any authority attributed to him to come from a familial relationship with Jesus.
2 My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials,
3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.
4 But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
This is an important point. Raw metal ores are weaker in strength and less valuable than pure metals and become stronger and more valuable when refined. This typically requires treating the ore with caustic chemicals and high temperatures in order to remove impurities resulting in a pure product. We also strengthen muscles by working out, subjecting them to stress to increase muscle strength.
The same with our faith. It starts out weak but through trials and tests our faith becomes stronger and
also shows us where weak points are. God will test us and train us for our benefit and to strengthen our
Remember, even while Peter was with Jesus, he was allowed to be tested by Satan;
31 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat.
32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."
33 But he said to Him, "Lord, I am ready to go with You, both to prison and to death."
34 Then He said, "I tell you, Peter, the rooster shall not crow this day before you will deny three times that you know Me."
Satan still asks to test and afflict us today.
Some years ago, I was working on a study for this Web site. I was alone in the house and was concentrating on the study when I clearly heard a voice say, "Neither you or your servants will afflict him, nor will you hinder him in his work. Depart from Me."
Startled, I realized that Satan had petitioned God for permission to afflict me somehow, and God had allowed me to hear His answer to Satan's petition.
5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him.
6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.
7 For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord;
8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
This is an important point we need to remember, namely that if we ask something of God we must believe that He is capable and willing to give it to us, asking in faith. Note that James says God will not condemn a person asking for wisdom, for the book of Proverbs says wisdom is of greater value than rubies.
11 For wisdom is better than rubies, and all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.
A poor, wise man is far better off than a rich idiot!
9 Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation,
10 but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away.
11 For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower
falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes. So the rich man also will fade away in his pursuits.
We count the rich as happy and the poor as afflicted, but in many ways the poor are better off than the rich. The rich depend upon their wealth and measure their personal value by their wealth. When the stock market crashed in 1929 a number of stockbrokers jumped out of the windows of high office buildings, committing suicide because their wealth was gone and they couldn't live without it.
The poor in turn make do with what they have and are thankful to God for everything they have been
given. The faith of the poor in God is usually stronger than that of the rich because the poor depend
upon God all the time for their daily food, clothing, and shelter.
There's a story of a rich man who had everything he ever wanted. He lived next door to a very poor man who had very little. One day the rich man was going through his house admiring all of his possessions and he looked outside and saw the poor man out in the front yard of his run-down house playing with his children.
The rich man watched the poor man happily playing with his children and he realized that the poor man
was truly the rich man, and he in turn was a poor man. For even though his neighbor was physically
poor and had few possessions he had a wealth of joy and happiness in his family and his children,
something the rich man could never buy or possess. And if the economy crashed the poor man would
lose little but the rich man would lose everything.
There is no sin in being rich but where those riches figure your life is what is important. Idols come in many forms and money is one of the worst. And as Job said, "we bring nothing into this world and we will take nothing back out." So which do you think will fare better after death, a faithless rich man or a faithful poor man?
12 Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.
14 But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.
15 Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings
Note an important point here - God will test a person but will not tempt them, the difference being that temptation leads to sin and God will not cause us to sin, whereas testing is used for our benefit.
Satan will tempt us and if we give into that temptation, we open the door to sin in our lives. And remember, Satan will only tempt us with stuff that is bad for us. Therefore if we fall into temptation we do so by our own choice as Satan cannot force us to sin. But he tempts us, hoping we will sin knowing that God must punish sin.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.
18 Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.
God will only provide us with good gifts, so if we ask for something and we don't receive it, chances
are there's a reason for it in that it may be bad for us although we can't see it. I remember seeing a
cartoon in a magazine one time where it showed a man on his knees telling God, "Lord please allow me
to show you that winning the lottery won't spoil me!" Uh huh, sure it won't.....
We Christians are considered kind of a firstfruit to God of His creation, in that we are cleansed by Jesus' sacrifice and are counted worthy to be His children, remembering that the firstfruits are the best of the bunch. And we are the firstfruits of mankind because we're made perfect before God after death.
19 So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath;
20 for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God.
Here we are being told that we are to be quick to listen, think carefully before we speak, and be slow to anger or wrath. The difference between anger and wrath is that wrath is a deeper form of anger and usually contains violent intentions. Therefore you can be angry without being wrathful.
People who are wrathful sometimes lose control of their emotions and do things that they wouldn't do if they were only angry. A good example of this is the scriptural story of the virgin birth when king Herod the Great ordered all the children of Bethlehem two years and younger be killed when Jesus was born because Scripture said he was exceedingly wroth at the event.
21 Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.
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 observing his natural face in a mirror;
24 for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
25 But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.
James is expressing the importance of not only hearing God's commandments but doing what they tell you as well in your daily life. It basically boils down to "practice what you preach", for if you preach God's word but don't do His commandments yourselves, what good is that?
This is much like politicians who claim to follow the laws, but break the laws in what they do. They promise everything to everyone when they're campaigning for votes, then immediately forget what they promised after they are elected and do what they wish. If we call them hypocrites, is someone who preaches the Word but doesn't do what it says any better?
26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his own heart, this one's religion is useless.
27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows
in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
James hits on a topic that affects all of us in one way or another. Being a Christian you're in a fishbowl, and the fact is that others will watch you to see what you do. And unfortunately control of the tongue is one of our biggest problems.
1 My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.
2 For if there should come into your assembly a man with gold rings, in fine apparel, and there should also come in a poor man in filthy clothes,
3 and you pay attention to the one wearing the fine clothes and say to him, "You sit here in a good place," and say to the poor man, "You stand there," or, "Sit here at my footstool,"
4 have you not shown partiality among yourselves, and become judges with evil thoughts?
It's sad but we see this in churches today. It is pretty much expected that when you go to church you dress appropriately, usually putting on your better apparel. And unfortunately someone who is better dressed is usually treated better by some than someone who is poorly dressed.
We need to remember that God is no respecter of persons. In other words he doesn't view anyone above anybody else or give respect to one above another.
It's not the quality of your clothing or appearance that matters, it is quality of your heart. If you, Moses, Samuel, and Peter and Paul stood before God He would view all five of you equally, as sinners in need of salvation.
5 Listen, my beloved brethren: has God not chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him?
6 But you have dishonored the poor man. Do not the rich oppress you and drag you into the courts?
7 Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?
8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well;
9 but if you show partiality, you commit sin, and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.
11 For He who said, "Do not commit adultery," also said, "Do not murder." Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
12 So speak and so do as those who will be judged by the law of liberty.
13 For judgment is without mercy to the one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.
James brings up several important points here. Note that he says that God has chosen the poor of this world to be rich in faith. This is true because who depends upon God more for their daily bread, the rich or the poor? The rich trust in their riches to provide for them and provide for their lifestyle whereas the poor must rely upon God daily for everything that they need and would be more thankful to God for what they are given each day.
Remember that when Jesus was born angels appeared with the good news to the poor shepherds in the field not to the political elite or the rich in Bethlehem, Jerusalem or anywhere else.
James also says that if you disrespect the poor you have broken God's commandment of "you shall love your neighbor as yourself". He also brings up an important point that if you break the smallest of the laws you are guilty of the whole set of laws.
The Old Testament Law required that you follow all of its 613 commandments without fail all the days of your life in order to please God. In other words, you had to be perfect all the days of your life to obtain salvation through the law, causing Paul to say;
20 Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin.
This is why the Law had no provision for salvation, as no man could ever follow the entire Law without fail. In God's eyes it didn't matter which law you broke, you were guilty of breaking the Law period, and were therefore a sinner. Jesus however, could and did follow the law to perfection all the days of his life, therefore He was qualified to fulfill the requirements of Law and create a better covenant based on better promises.
And above all remember this that if you disrespect a poor believer you disrespect both Jesus and the Father who sent Him. The faith of little children is absolute and we are to have childlike faith in God. In light of this Jesus said concerning children and their faith;
37 Whoever receives one of these little children in My name receives Me; and whoever
receives Me, receives not Me but Him who sent Me.
14 What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?
15 If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food,
16 and one of you says to them, "Depart in peace, be warmed and filled," but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit?
17 Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
18 But someone will say, "You have faith, and I have works." Show me your faith without
your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
James hits the nail squarely on the head here. As it is said, "actions speak louder than words". It has also been said that good works alone cannot get you into Heaven. Both are true. Jesus commanded that we help each other and remember the poor but if we don't do either, can we truly say they were following His commandments? It is much like asking someone to help you move. They promise to help, but do nothing. What good is that?
Remember, James said that we are to be doers of the Word and not hearers only. And if we see a poor person in need and have the means to help them but don't, we have withheld mercy to that person. And if we fail to show mercy to others, Jesus in turn will not have mercy on us at our Judgment.
19 You believe that there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe--and tremble.
20 But do you want to know, O foolish man, that faith without works is dead?
21 Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered Isaac his son on the altar?
22 Do you see that faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect?
23 And the Scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness." And he was called the friend of God.
24 You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.
25 Likewise, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?
26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Works alone cannot get us into heaven because none of our works will ever be perfect in God's sight. Faith alone can't get us into heaven because God commands that all believers not only know his commandments but do them as well.
If you truly believe in God you will follow his commandments, and He has commanded us to help each other and treat each other as we would treat ourselves.
1 My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.
Being a teacher of the Word is one of the gifts of the Spirit and is a desirable gift, but we must also be very careful in that we will be judged by Jesus at our Judgment for what we teach. We must also remember to "practice what we preach" (or teach) for a Jesus said, (italics are mine);F
19 Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Paul also warned his young disciple Timothy against false teachers. These were men who apparently wanted the respect and adulation of being a teacher of the Law but had no idea what they were teaching. They not only taught errors but also confirmed things that they knew nothing about.
1 TIMOTHY 1:5-7
5 Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith,
6 from which some, having strayed, have turned aside to idle talk,
7 desiring to be teachers of the law, understanding neither what they say nor the things which they affirm.
2 For we all stumble in many things. If anyone does not stumble in word, he is a perfect man, able also to bridle the whole body.
3 Indeed, we put bits in horses' mouths that they may obey us, and we turn their whole body.
4 Look also at ships: although they are so large and are driven by fierce winds, they are turned by a very small rudder wherever the pilot desires.
5 Even so the tongue is a little member and boasts great things. See how great a forest a little fire kindles!
6 And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body, and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell.
7 For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind.
8 But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.
9 With it we bless our God and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the similitude of God.
10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so.
11 Does a spring send forth fresh water and bitter from the same opening?
12 Can a fig tree, my brethren, bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Thus no spring yields both salt water and fresh.
It is important that we remember to watch not only what we do but watch what we say as well.
Jesus said to the Pharisees that the tongue speaks what is in the heart;
34 Brood of vipers! How can you, being evil, speak good things? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.
35 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.
36 But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment.
37 For by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned."
If a person claims to be a Christian but knows and frequently uses every curse word in the Devil's
dictionary, is that person a role model of a Christian? Granted, due to temper or stress we all slip every
once in a while and everybody understands that. But if it becomes habitual then that is an
indication of corruption in the heart and needs to be addressed.
Jesus and James are basically saying that if the heart contains evil, the mouth will speak evil things; if the heart is good, the mouth will speak good things. A person with a good heart will do good things whereas a person with an evil heart will do evil things.
Physical abuse harms the body but verbal abuse harms the heart and the spirit and in many cases is far worse than physical abuse because the pain it causes can't be seen. And even if you retract the words and apologize to someone you hurt, the harm has still been done. And while they may accept your apology they will still remember the hurt that you caused.
Remember especially that Jesus said that every idle word we speak, we will give an accounting of it at the Day of Judgment, and our words will either justify us or condemn us before His throne.
13 Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.
14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth.
15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic.
16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.
18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.
In these last verses James is essentially saying to examine yourselves and see what is in your heart. Others cannot see your heart so they will watch your words and actions which reflect what is in your heart.
If you claim to be a Christian you're immediately in a fishbowl where others will watch you to see what makes you different from them. And if they don't see anything different between you and them what is to convince them to accept Christ?
Some watch you closely to see if what you have is something that they want while others will watch you closely for evil reasons. A good example of this were the Pharisees, the religious rulers of Jesus' time who hated Him because he pointed out their hypocritical lifestyles.
6 Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered.
7 So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him.
God had commanded in the Old Testament Law that the Sabbath was to be a day of rest and no work was to be performed during the Sabbath. The Pharisees had become so rigid in their interpretation of the Law that they considered the act of healing to be "work". Therefore if they could catch Jesus healing on the Sabbath day they could accuse him of violating the Sabbath.
Scripture then records;
4 Then He said to them, "Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?" But they kept silent.
5 And when He had looked around at them with anger, being grieved by the hardness of their hearts, He said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." And he stretched it out, and his hand was restored as whole as the other.
6 Then the Pharisees went out and immediately plotted with the Herodians against Him, how they might destroy Him.
1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members?
2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask.
3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your
James makes a very good point here in that we too many times ask for what we want, not what we need.
Singer Janis Joplin once sang a song called, "Lord won't you buy me a Mercedes-Benz" in which the premise of the song was that her friends all drove Porsches and she felt like she needed to keep up. Another time I saw a cartoon in which a man was on his knees, telling God, "Lord, let me show you that winning the lottery won't spoil me!"
Granted, these are extreme cases and while they are amusing they get the point across. In today's materialistic world the accumulation of wealth determines your status in society. The rich are looked upon with respect and the poor are shunned.
If you really think about it there only three things we truly need for our physical life in this world, namely food, clothing and shelter. One of the authors of Proverbs understood this and had the right idea what he said;
7 Two things I request of You. Deprive me not before I die;
8 Remove falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches: feed me with the food allotted to me;
9 Lest I be full and deny You, and say, "Who is the Lord?" Or lest I be poor and steal, and profane the name of my God.
Paul also told his traveling companion Timothy;
I TIMOTHY 6:8-10
8 And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content.
9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the
faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
We've all heard the term "everything in moderation". The above Scriptures are good reason as to why. The rich rely on their riches and have no need for God, and the poor may steal to survive, cursing the Lord for their poverty. If we have food, clothing, and shelter we should be content with these things and bless the Lord for what He has given us.
4 Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.
5 Or do you think that the Scripture says in vain, "The Spirit who dwells in us yearns
James is stressing that while we are in the world and therefore must use the things of the world, such as money, cell phones, computer tablets, etc., do not allow these things to interfere with your walk with Christ or become an idol in your life. I remember some years ago when Facebook went down for several days and people were in a screaming panic or deeply depressed because it wasn't available, showing that Facebook had become so important in their lives that they couldn't live normally without it.
During the Great Depression, bankers and stockbrokers were jumping out of office windows because their money was gone and they couldn't live without it. Jesus said concerning money;
24 "No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
Note: "mammon" is another word for money. Money is a tool and as such must be used wisely. But
what is said of fire can also be said of money - it is a good servant but a bad master. Riches can come
and go but Jesus Christ will stay with you forever.
There is no sin in being rich but how you use the riches you have determines whether it is sinful or not.
6 But He gives more grace. Therefore He says God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.
7 Therefore submit to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Many people remember the second half of verse seven but not the first half! If you submit yourself to God and follow his commandments He will give you power to resist Satan and Satan will flee from you.
8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded.
9 Lament and mourn and weep! Let your laughter be turned to mourning and your joy to gloom.
10 Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and He will lift you up.
James isn't saying that we should be sorrowful all the time. But if we sin we are to be sorrowful, repentant for our sin, humbling ourselves before God and not taking our sin lightly.
11 Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge.
12 There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?
We need to carefully consider verse 11. While we can't judge people we can judge their actions. Our present laws are designed so that if we break the law we are held accountable based on our actions, and even that requires proof. We may consider a person as being evil based on their actions, but we cannot judge their hearts nor consider them to be unworthy of salvation because only the Lord has that authority. And we need to remember that while we may not perform the particular sin(s) that we are judging in a person, we have sins of our own that are just as bad in God's eyes. And we also need to remember that while we were still sinners God sent someone to talk to us about Jesus and God's plan of salvation.
13 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit";
14 whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away.
15 Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that."
16 But now you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil.
17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.
As we go through our lives we often tend to forget that each day, in fact each breath is a gift from God. We tend to speak of the future as if it is guaranteed to us which it is not. James is stressing for us to bear that in mind when we make plans for the future, understanding that God determines how long each of us will live. If we plan for the future without asking God to grant us that future and asking his permission to fulfill our plans, we are being arrogant and sinful in His sight.
1 Come now, you rich, weep and howl for your miseries that are coming upon you!
2 Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are moth-eaten.
3 Your gold and silver are corroded, and their corrosion will be a witness against you and will eat your flesh like fire. You have heaped up treasure in the last days.
4 Indeed the wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out; and the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of Sabaoth.
5 You have lived on the earth in pleasure and luxury; you have fattened your hearts as in a day of slaughter.
6 You have condemned, you have murdered the just; he does not resist you.
James is speaking out against a corrupt practices that the rich do to defraud people of their rightful due. While they have much silver and gold, their greed is causing their riches to corrupt their spirit so that they are spiritually poor and destitute but their greed has also blinded and calloused them to doing what is right and just in the sight of God and men.
A person could heap up riches during their lifetime but what good will it do them after they are gone? And if you become rich through fraud and deceit, you will give an accounting for it at the Day of Judgment. And your works will be a witness against you when you stand before Jesus' throne.
Jesus Himself taught about the folly of greed and riches when he told this story;
13 Then one from the crowd said to Him, "Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me."
14 But He said to him, "Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?"
15 And He said to them, "Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses."
16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: "The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully.
17 And he thought within himself, saying, 'What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?'
18 So he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods.
19 And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry."'
20 But God said to him, 'Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'
21 "So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God."
It used to be said that "He who dies the most toys wins". But then it was said, "He who dies
the most toys, still dies.", a far more truthful view.
The rock group Boston spoke of this in one of their songs which said; "Now you're climbing to the top of the company ladder, hope it doesn't take too long. Can't you see there'll come a day when it won't matter, come a day when you'll be gone."
There's nothing wrong with being rich but where those riches fit in your life and how you obtained them is what determines whether it is good or bad. Money isn't called "cold cash" for nothing - you can love it but it can't love you. And it is better to be physically poor and spiritually rich than to be physically rich and spiritually destitute. Worldly riches (and you as well) can vanish at any time but spiritual riches are forever.
Poet Percy Bysshe Shelley spoke of the futility of attaining riches, power and glory when he wrote a sonnet about king Ozymandias (Greek for Pharaoh Ramesses II - 1303-1213 B.C.) When broken pieces of a massive statue of the Pharaoh were dug from the ancient Egyptian sands, Shelley imagined a inscription on the pedestal the statue had rested upon as saying;
'My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Ramesses' wealth, power and glory had quickly returned to the dust from whence they came.
7 Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, waiting patiently for it until it receives the early and latter rain.
8 You also be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.
9 Do not grumble against one another, brethren, lest you be condemned. Behold, the Judge is standing at the door!
10 My brethren, take the prophets, who spoke in the name of the Lord, as an example of suffering and patience.
11 Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and
seen the end intended by the Lord--that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful.
12 But above all, my brethren, do not swear, either by heaven or by earth or with any other oath. But let your "Yes" be "Yes," and your "No," "No," lest you fall into judgment.
The point that James is trying to make here, is don't worry or fret about things in daily life.
God knows what is going to happen before it happens and he has already planned for it. He
may not act when we want Him to but we need to remember that His timing is perfect.
And if you're in an irritable mood, don't take it out on others around you lest God become irritated with you and treat you in like fashion.
If at all possible do not swear oaths, for when doing so you bind yourself to do whatever it is you swore to do. For example, if someone says "By God I'm going to..." they have sworn and bound themselves by Almighty God that they will perform whatever it is that they said they would do.
Such oaths are not taken lightly by God, as Solomon warned;
4 When you make a vow to God, do not delay to pay it; for He has no pleasure in fools. Pay what you have vowed--
13 Is anyone among you suffering? Let him pray. Is anyone cheerful? Let him sing psalms.
14 Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.
15 And the prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven.
If the elders of the church are unavailable anyone can do the anointing or you can do it yourself. Take a drop of cooking oil or motor oil and apply it to your forehead. The oil represents the anointing of the Holy Spirit which combined with prayer will work to heal the sick person.
16 Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.
Be very careful with verse 16!!! The trespasses we should confess are ones we've committed against the person we're confessing to. No one except God alone has the authority to forgive the sins that a person has committed against someone else. Therefore no priest has the power to forgive sins in place of God!
Scripture reinforces this;
17 Now it happened on a certain day, as He was teaching, that there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come out of every town of Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem. And the power of the Lord was present to heal them.
18 Then behold, men brought on a bed a man who was paralyzed, whom they sought to bring in and lay before Him.
19 And when they could not find how they might bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the housetop and let him down with his bed through the tiling into the midst before Jesus.
20 When He saw their faith, He said to him, "Man, your sins are forgiven you."
21 And the scribes and the Pharisees began to reason, saying, "Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
22 But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, He answered and said to them, "Why are you reasoning in your hearts?
23 Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven you,' or to say, 'Rise up and walk'?
24 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins"--He said to the man who was paralyzed, "I say to you, arise, take up your bed, and go to your house."
25 Immediately he rose up before them, took up what he had been lying on, and departed to his own house, glorifying God.
26 And they were all amazed, and they glorified God and were filled with fear, saying, "We have seen strange things today!"
The scribes and Pharisees were correct in that no one on Earth has the power to forgive sins not committed against them directly, as only God can do that. But Jesus, being God, demonstrated that He had this power, being himself God, and proved it through this miracle.
The priests of some religions claim to have power to forgive sins just as Jesus did, however Scripturally they have no authority to do so, neither has God granted this authority to any man.
If you're irritated and snap at someone, you can confess that sin to them and ask for their forgiveness. But if someone steals from someone else we do not have the authority to forgive their sin, only the person they've wronged can do that.
17 Elijah was a man with a nature like ours, and he prayed earnestly that it would not rain; and it did not rain on the land for three years and six months.
18 And he prayed again, and the heaven gave rain, and the earth produced its fruit.
People underestimate the power of fervent prayer. The prophets and other great men of the Bible were no better in God's sight than anyone else. Scripture states clearly that God is impartial in His dealings with men as the apostle Peter found out.
Peter had been asked by a believing Roman centurion to preach the Gospel to both him and his family and friends, saying that an angel had appeared to him, telling him to send for Peter for that very purpose, which astounded Peter and those with him;
34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: "In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality.
35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.
Jew, Gentile, rich, poor, color of skin, it makes no difference to God, He accepts all who willingly worship Him in spirit and truth, accepting all who are cleansed of sin by faith in Jesus Christ;
1 PETER 1:17-21
17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one's work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear;
18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers,
19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.
20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you
21 who through Him believe in God, who raised Him from the dead and gave Him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.
19 Brethren, if anyone among you wanders from the truth, and someone turns him back,
20 let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save a soul from
death and cover a multitude of sins.
It is imperative that we reach sinners for Jesus, but especially those who are straying or have fallen away from the faith. There is a poisonous doctrine of "once saved, always saved" in which once you accept Jesus, if you fall away, you will still be saved.
If this were true, why would the Scriptures give such dire warning as;
26 For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
27 but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries.
28 Anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses.
29 Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace?
30 For we know Him who said, "Vengeance is Mine, I will repay," says the Lord. And again, "The Lord will judge His people."
31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
2 PETER 2:20-22
20 For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning.
21 For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them.
22 But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A dog returns to his own vomit," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."
If we turn a straying brother or sister back to Jesus, He will forgive them and will again forgive their sins and save them from the Lake of Fire.
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