While Luther said that this book does not belong in the Bible, Bronkema says it is one of the most powerful and motivating books in the Bible. Luther probably has the clout on this one, but I also see from what angle he is coming. Remember, Luther was all about salvation by grace through faith. If there is any hint that we can in any way work to gain our salvation, then he is going to react very negatively to that concept. The book of James is full of that concept. Let’s learn a bit about this book of the Bible.
It is generally agreed that James was written by the eldest brother of Jesus. You can see the list of Jesus’ siblings in Matthew 13:55. It was thought to have been written in around the year 50 and was written to the 12 scattered tribes (James 1:1). Who those scattered tribes are may not be too difficult to figure out. They are either Christians who were scattered all over the Mediterranean, or Jewish Christians who were living lives of covert worship. I think it is important to understand that this letter was written not by Paul, but rather by someone who knew Jesus first hand, someone who grew up with Jesus, someone who had not believed that Jesus was whom he said he was (John 7:2-5), someone who eventually took a leadership position in the church and in fact led the Jerusalem council (Acts 15). James knew Jesus and grew up with him. Let’s look at chapter 1.
I think we have three statements that we need to analyze more closely. The first is found in vs. 13. In the verses preceding we see James speak about persecution and how persecution is a blessing from God because it produces faith. It is the old “builds character” or “what does’t kill you makes you stronger” argument. He then makes a general statement which for the most part is ignored by Christians. He says: “No one, when tempted, should say ‘I am tempted by God’ for God cannot be tempted by evil and he tempts no one.” We are never tempted by God. It is our own sin which places us in temptation. It is the sin of others that places us in temptation. This is a key principle to remember. We are tempted and we do fall into persecution but it is not God who creates these “opportunities”. He is able to help us get out of them, but he does not create that. Remember that the next time you want to ask: “Why is God tempting me?”
Another verse that is rich is vs. 19 where we read: “Let everyone be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.” Are you following the mess that is happening around sports in our country? I love sports and I think it is a great platform to speak out, until someone tells you that you should be quiet and know your place. I think those who say that should read vs.19 and be chastised by it.
The next verse which is crucial to not skip is vs.22 which tells us to be not hearers of the word but doers. That verse is then matched with what perfection religion is. It is a religion which does. Go to vs.27 and you will see what it means to be a doer of the word and not just a hearer. It is a great chapter with many, many important nuggets to follow.