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Ron Miller's Bible Commentary

James 1: Stand with Confidence

Background and QuestionsNew International VersionRon Miller's Notes

The 'twelve tribes' probably refers to Hebrew Christians. Jews had been dispersed throughout the world in 723 BC and again in 597 BC, and were referred to as the 'diaspora' or 'scattering'.
"To all Hebrew Christians everywhere in the world."

{1:1} James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.

This James is the brother of our Lord Jesus. He became a believer sometime after the death of Jesus, and served as the head of the church in Jerusalem. His humility is shown by his claim to be simply a servant; he does not try to use his family relationship to Jesus to bolster his position.

What trials have led to maturity in your life?

{1:2} Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, {1:3} because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. {1:4} Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

We normally are dismayed and troubled when we have trials and temptations. But we are to see them as joy, and as wholly joy, because they give us an opportunity to grow in our faith.

What effect does doubt have on a person when he or she prays?

{1:5} If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. {1:6} But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. {1:7} That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; {1:8} he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.

Knowledge is knowing facts or things, or how things work. Our society is well educated in many subjects. But wisdom goes far beyond this, wisdom is knowing the right thing to do and includes having the good sense and will to do what we know is the right thing. Simply knowing what we should do is not wisdom, knowing and doing is wisdom. Doing requires faith, without the faith to put God's advise into practice, we gain nothing.

What will eventually happen to the wealth of a rich person?

{1:9} The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. {1:10} But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. {1:11} For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.

Humble circumstances usually means poor, or unable to pay bills, or needy. It may also mean those in a low social class, such as servants. It refers to everyday working people.

What reward awaits the person who perseveres under trial?

{1:12} Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.

There is a reward in heaven.

From where does temptation come?

{1:13} When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; {1:14} but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. {1:15} Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Here is the cycle of sin. We are drawn by our own desires. Too often, we glibly say, "The devil made me do it!" Usually it is our own desire which leads us into sin. But the desire itself is not sin, it is sin if we allow the desire to grow and we give in to it. It may be a desire to brag or boast! 'Lust' has a pretty physical or even sexual meaning today, but the term means any strong desire, and it includes the desire to gossip, to dominate others, to eat too much, to be greedy, and others.

"Don't fool yourselves!"
How did James describe God's relationship with the people He created?

{1:16} Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. {1:17} Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. {1:18} He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.

God provided for our new birth, salvation, by the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross at calvary. But James and the early Church learned of this through the spoken word, the message of the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles. This 'word' is the Gospel message, which was later written as Scripture in the New Testament. (James may be the first New Testament book to be written.)

"Listen before you speak".
What is the relationship between anger and righteous living?

{1:19} My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, {1:20} for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. {1:21} Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you.

How do we become slow to anger? When you feel angry, try to count to ten before speaking.

In James's day, most Christians could not afford copies of Scripture or letters and could not read the Scripture at home, but only hear it read in a public worship or teaching service.
"Don't just read the Bible, do what it says!"

{1:22} Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. {1:23} Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror {1:24} and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. {1:25} But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it--he will be blessed in what he does.

In our Bible studies, we must learn to apply the word to our lives, and not just learn Bible facts and stories. We must 'do' and not just hear or read. This may take deliberate thought and work. After reading this chapter we may ask ourselves, "Is there something I should do differently this week?"

What is Pure Religion?

{1:26} If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. {1:27} Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

If we speak rashly, insult people, or are simply thoughtless in gossip, then we fool ourselves by thinking that we are 'good' or 'godly' people.

What good has ever come out of a difficult situation in your life?

How can being quick to speak and quick to anger get you into trouble?

Whom will you help this week as part of practicing Pure Religion?

Ron Miller's Bible Commentary (C) Copyright March 2012 by Ronald Miller, All Rights Reserved