“James a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings” James 1:1.
This letter which conservative scholars believe to have been written by the Lord Jesus’ half brother James is addressed to the twelve tribes, indicating that it is written mainly to Jewish believers.
Since this letter as well as the book of Hebrews is addressed to Israelite Christians some passages may be confusing if everything is interpreted from the Gentile standpoint.
Still, both books are important to all Christians, and certain passages are not to be cast aside as, just not applying, if one does not understand them.
It is of passing interest to note that the letter is addressed to the twelve tribes. There is certain folklore about a missing ten tribes of Israel, and I believe that the Mormons think that the ten tribes settled in the Americas; James does not subscribe to this belief.
The idea seems to have taken hold because after the ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom of Israel were carried off by the Assyrians circa 720 B.C. they are not mentioned as having returned as a nation like Judah.
Not only are the twelve tribes mentioned here, they are also enumerated in the book of Revelation, in a future event, see Revelation 7:1-8. By this, it would seem that the lost ten tribes of Israel stories may be rejected.
For your own research you might want to examine these two passages, Isaiah 11-11 and Jeremiah 31:7-9.
It should be noted too that James was written about 45-50 A.D. roughly fifteen years after the crucifixion and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, named in the above salutation.
Many of us can remember the Viet Nam war, more lived during Desert Storm; as a result, if someone were to make a false statement about those conflicts, we could say, “No, I was there, that is not true.”
The same holds true of the life of Christ, accusations such as, the body was stolen, He did no miracles, or He swooned on the cross and awoke later, would have stopped the whole idea of Jesus the Messiah if it were not for many eye-witnesses.
“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” I Corinthians 15:3-8.
The above was written 56 A.D. James the author of the book of James is also mentioned in this passage, along with Cephas who is Peter. This many eye-witnesses would hold up in court, but not in the minds of those who do not want to believe.
“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience.” James 1:2-3.
The dictionary defines joy as, great delight, or happiness; the Greek word here means, the cause or occasion of joy, gladness.
The idea of joy in trials is quite foreign and likely to be rejected outright since we feel little enough joy in life as it is. To feel this strong emotion in troubles seems to be asking a bit much.
However the joy in this case is not something to be worked up, rather it comes from a knowledge that trials produce a godly character in us. If this is something that one treasures, then it is a good thing.
For example a man may spend grueling hours building a house for himself, or toil against many obstacles building a boat, a woman may spend hours knitting something, often having to unravel it and redo it to get perfection, or she may work years learning to make wedding dresses. Can they have joy in these time consuming, arduous tasks?
A godly perspective is needed when considering joy in trials. Yet when in aguish one does not often consider such things, so if you find yourself unable to have joy, do not beat yourself up over it, rather, pray to your Father and He will strengthen you.
These “various trials” are a part of the Christian life and should be seen as Job saw God’s hand in his trial.
“But He knows the way that I take; when He has tested me, I shall come forth as gold.” Job 23:10.
In this case “the testing of your faith produces patience”.
Alternate words for patience are, “endurance or perseverance”, as noted in my Bible’s margin. So the testing gives us endurance or perseverance. As one joke goes; the impatient person prays, “God, give me patience, and I want it now”.
Unfortunately, patience, endurance, or perseverance, are not things we learn on our own or instantaneously, but they are things that even worldly men need to truly be successful in life. And more the Christian if one is to live a contented godly life.
“But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.” James 1:4.
Through trials we gain endurance, and endurance is a state of, needing nothing necessary to our completeness.
When we reach this stage, patient endurance has brought us to spiritual maturity, which is what the word perfect means in the last part of the verse, “…that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing”.
Difficult as these things are to understand, we are not alone in the trials of endurance.
“Therefore we also, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which so easily ensnares us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. “ Hebrews 12:1-2.
It serves little purpose for us to complain of these things when our King, Jesus, has endured far worse than He asks us to go through. His courage should be recognized by us and it should inspire us to greater things. As the apostle Paul said.
“…forgetting those things which are behind and reaching forward to those things which are ahead, I press toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 3:13-14.
“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.” James 1:5.
Wisdom falls into two categories, worldly, which is demonic and godly wisdom; it is the latter which the Christian must seek.
“Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their own craftiness’; and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.’” I Corinthians 3:18-20.
“For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding…” Colossians 1:9.
“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.” James 3:17.
The tendency is to use worldly wisdom to solve our problems, not so much because we prefer it; rather more that it is what we have grown up with, in school, those we associate with, and in general problem solving through life.
The main way to differentiate which is which is to be a student of the Scriptures, the more we learn of Christ, the easier it is to see how He feels about a given situation and His response to it. The book of Proverbs is also an excellent source of wisdom; in fact, Scripture says this of itself.
“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” II Timothy 3:16-17.
It is your knowledge of these Scriptures that the Holy Spirit draws upon to point you in the right direction in any given situation. It is true that the Spirit can show you the right thing to do even without a good knowledge of the Bible, however, the more you know the better off you are.
But, “if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God”, when you come to a trial and you do not know what to do, or even why it is happening, ask of God.
This has to be our first response; too often we dither about trying to muddle our way through a given problem without even thinking of asking God; you are prolonging the agony, stop and ask.
The Lord tells us that if we ask for wisdom He will give it to us without reproach, that is to say, without blaming or scolding us.
How often has someone looked at you like you were an idiot because you could not grasp some difficult task? How often have they even said, “Are you stupid or something?”
If someone is honestly trying, they should not be treated that way, yet our parents, supervisors, and co-workers are sometimes guilty of this, forgetting that they had to learn the same thing they are teaching another. God is not like this!
“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. For let not that man suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord…” James 1:6-7.
The man who doubts is one who wavers between belief and unbelief. He goes from wanting God’s wisdom to trying to solve the problem in his own wisdom.
If such a person were to gain God’s wisdom for his problem, he may just as likely go with his own worldly wisdom, ignoring God’s wisdom and making his situation worse by doing things his way.
Do not be surprised, there are many people like this. If they will not go before God with the heart to do what He tells them, then they will not get an answer.
“…he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” James 1:8.
A double-minded man is one who still has one foot in the world and one foot in Christianity, as a result you have what may be called the ugly Christian.
“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.” Matthew 6:24.
It is important to understand the truth of this statement, many think that they can break this rule, but there are no exceptions, a person with one foot in the world will always become more worldly, not a better Christian.
“Let the lowly brother glory in his exaltation, but the rich in his humiliation, because as a flower of the field he will pass away.” James 1:9-10.
Notice how the lowly brother is to glory in his exaltation; it is one sentence, the rich too, are to glory in their humiliation, or being made low.
If the rich are to take a place among the poor as equals in the body of Christ, the poor are exalted and the rich are humiliated. This humiliation is not in the sense of being put to shame; rather it is a humble Christ like attitude.
“Likewise you younger people, submit yourselves to your elders. Yes, all of you be submissive to one another, and be clothed with humility, for ‘God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.’ Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you in due time, casting all your care upon Him, for He cares for you.” I Peter 5:5-7.
“…because as a flower of the field he will pass away. 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.” James 1:10b-11.
This is the great leveling field of the church, the rich man sees that all of his endeavors will fade away and the sands of time will cover it so none will even know he existed.
The only true lasting riches are in Christ with whom we will spend eternity, and the things built there will be everlasting. The Lord even goes so far as to say as much.
“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21.
Thus far we have dealt with trials which are defined as: “adversity, affliction, or trouble, sent by God serving to test or prove ones character, faith, holiness” taken from www.blueletterbible.org.
Beginning with James 1:12, we will see what temptation is next.
That You May Be Perfect, James 1:1-11 taken from godisrevealed.com posted on 8-10-11, updated on 9-25-20.
Scripture taken from the New King James Version, copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission, all rights reserved.