The Book Of James
The book of James speaks directly to the concept of faith and how we know our faith in Christ is real.
The book of James is short, merely five brief chapters. Yet James packs these chapters with a blunt, in your face instruction on faith and Christian living.
Written by Jesus’ brother James, the book was an epistle to Jewish Christians scattered by persecution. Its major theme is living faith, faith that reveals itself not in our words but in our transformed lives.
In Chapter Two, James hits us right in the face with the meaning of living faith. Verses 14-17 say,
“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.” (NKJV)
How would the person of true faith have responded to this brother who was naked and starving? Wouldn’t a transformed person love this brother by taking care of his needs? Indeed! Faith is a responsibility to bear. It’s the responsibility to fulfill Christ’s greatest commandment, to love our neighbors as we love ourselves. If we shrug this responsibility off our faith is dead and lifeless.
And if this is the kind of faith we are walking around with, bear in mind what James says next in verses 19 and 20,
“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?”
Clearly belief alone is not enough. And, if faith without works is dead, what do we have left but belief? This becomes frightening when you consider that most of Christianity believes that faith is the key that allows us into heaven. If faith is something more than simple belief, considerable energy should be put into discovering what real faith is.
James goes on in Chapters Three and Four to teach up what living faith is. He outlines how the Christian should behave, how the Christian should show that his life has been transformed. Behavior is part of the works that prove our faith is alive and not just the ‘right words’.
James tells us in Chapter Three that the tongue, or the speech that comes out of our mouths will indicate the nature of our spirit. (Verses 10-12)
“10 Out of the same mouth proceed blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be so. 11Does 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.
Here, James uses metaphors to indicate that a transformed spirit should not yield the fruit of the old, dead spirit. This behavior, a wicked tongue, is an indicator of our faith, our living faith. What comes out of your mouth more often? Blessings or cursings?
Verses 16-17 reinforce that behavior is an indicator of our spiritual condition:
“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.”
How does your behavior measure up? We all struggle and we will never be able to achieve perfection, but an awareness of how our behavior is linked to the condition of our faith will indeed help keep us on the narrow path.
Chapter Four deals with specific ways the faithful ought to behave. We need to watch our pride, we must live humble lives, we must love our brothers, not judge them and we must watch for boasting. Specific behaviors to avoid or adopt. These are the signs that indicate a living faith, a faith that transcends belief alone.
Things to remember:
· Faith without works is dead
· Belief alone is not enough
· Behavior is our indicator of faith; do we display a transformed life?
· James gives us specific information on how the transformed Christian with a living faith behaves. If faith is our key to heaven, we need to heed his advice.
All Scripture is quoted from the New King James Version.