January 1 – chapter 1
January 2 – chapter 2
January 3 – chapter 3
January 4 – chapter 4
January 5 – chapter 5
As we kick off our start through the New Testament, we do so by looking at The Letter of James. You may or may not be familiar with it as this short five chapter, 108 verse letter written by “James.”
First question . . . James who? 1:1 states “James, a servant of God an of the Lord Jesus Christ.” (NIV) Three different “James” are considered as likely authors, two of them disciples, James, son of Zebedee and James son of Alpheus. The third, and typically considered as author, is James the brother of Jesus. Of course there is always the possibility that the letter was written by someone else completely, yet gave it the name “James” is honor/memory of James or because they were a disciple or companion with James. Either way, we’ll never quiet know. However I am inclined to thing that one of the disciples or Jesus’ brother had a hand in writing this letter.
Here’s why . . . James lacks an address to any specific community. He writes to “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.” (1:1 NIV). He’s writing to the People of God (which includes all of us) in a manner that I found rather comforting as I reread these words again, especially if we consider this to be one of the earliest writings of the New Testament. Here’s what I mean . . . as you read through the letter, do so imagining Jesus teaching you, one on one. What would you take note of? That’s the mindset that I find the Letter of James, and it’s almost as if it becomes an extension of Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, teaching us how to live life by caring for one another.
This in brings the debate of chapter 2, as James highlights “works.” Martin Luther struggled with this as it was contrary to Paul and the understanding that we are “saved by grace through faith.” I won’t disagree, but I won’t go as far as Luther to say that James’ is an Epistle of Straw! For if we are to live a life of faith, than our actions in how we care for one another certainly ought to mirror what we believe. I would reiterate James’ words ” Faith without deeds is useless?” (2:20 NIV) Our call, as followers of Jesus is to be the hands, feet, voice, and mouth of Christ. It’s a tall order, but that is the walk of discipleship, and I believe James’ is encouraging us to do just that.
As, James encourages us, I’ll encourage you, pick up your Bible, read through the Letter of James as if you are hearing Jesus teaching you first hand, and share your thoughts on how this letter of scripture might be speaking to you.