James nick named “old Camel Knees” [because he had worn callouses on his knees from praying] is the half-brother of Jesus. He is an after the resurrection believer. He and his siblings did not believe that Jesus was the Christ. We don’t want to confuse this James with the James that is martyred in Acts, that person is John’s brother, the sons of Zebedee.
There are so many topics covered in this short book, yet the value of the book is unmeasured. There is often a thought that James is advocating salvation by Works, which would be contrary to Paul’s Gospel of Grace. These two men are not in competition, but is cooperation. Paul speaks of Salvation, whereas James speaks of sanctification. James writes to a Jewish converted audience. His emphasis on faith without works and works without faith fits into the Jewish ritualistic religion. Faith is seen in the good works of the person. We work because we are saved, not to be saved. Paul tells us in Ephesians 2:10 – that God has prepared beforehand good works that we should walk in them. Jesus was confronted with the question of how could people see that He had the power to forgive sin with the Lame man in Mark 2. But so that the audience knew that Jesus is the Son of God, He told the man to rise up and take his mat and walk. The faith of belief is seen by the things we do. There is a fine line for us because many people do good deeds, but they may only be humanitarians at heart not believers.
The topic of trials and tribulations is a straight forward encouragement to the hearers. This is difficult in western Christianity, for we feel that we have done a noble thing if we have avoided persecution. Nothing could be further from the truth. If our lives are lived out correctly, then we will [should expect] trials and tribulations. I often have to be reminded that it is only when I am hurting or struggling with life/walk that I grow the most. As a child I wanted to be tall, but I would have to experience growing pains to do so. If we are to grow to the full stature of God [Eph. 4:12-13] then there will be pain involved. Matt 5:10-12 informs us that in is suffering for the sake of the Gospel, not fall-out from our own inconsistent behavior.
2 Timothy 3:12 and Jame 1:12 have been verses recently that I have clung too. There is must about our world that hurts and scars us as believers, but we must have the proper perspective, if the world persecuted Jesus, then we also will be persecuted. The issue in Western Christianity is we don’t want to suffer for our faith – what a contrast to our brothers and sisters dying for the faith in the Middle East!
So much of James is counsel for us about how to live, so that our religion will not be in vain. How to control the tongue is an often used passage when gossip and slander become issues in the Church. It is sad that the Church seems to kill it own.
James talks about prayer in chapter 4; he points out the reason we do not get answered prayer – we ask not for the Kingdom of God’s glory, but for our own comfort. This chapter has strong admonishment for holiness for the believer. James offers a great example of how strong prayer is as a weapon against evil when he speaks of Elijah’s prayers. Prayers are strong for the healing of the sick, against the wickedness of evil and Satan and dealing with conflict. Obviously there must have been members that were at odds with each other because James continually speaks of not complaining and quarreling with each other.
Finally, James gives the exhortation to be patient. James 5:7-11 specifically challenges us to live our lives under the timetable of the Lord. God is not slack as some men count slackness, but is patient towards us, wishing that none should perish but that all would come to repentance. James 1:12 – Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.