Reading the Bible isn’t easy. There’s a lot going on; it’s pretty old, and trying to pronounce the names is enough to leave anyone feeling defeated. And that’s not even breaking through the top layer to dive into the deep meaning of the prophecies within the Gospel.
So for someone trying to figure out where and how to begin reading the Bible, it can feel pretty daunting.
I stumbled upon a social media post (of all places) where someone said their favorite book was the Book of James. And I thought, “Okay. If she likes it, it must be pretty cool – let’s check it out.” I’m pretty influence-able.
So I decided if I can read the Book of James, I can read pretty much any book in the Bible and before I know it, I’ll have read the whole thing, right?
We’ll see. Let’s not get ahead of ourselves, here.
Book of James Bible Study
Some Facts About The Book of James
Before you dive into this study, there are some general facts you should know about the Book of James – you know, the stuff you should probably know before you dive into trying to figure out what the words on the pages mean. The background. The foundation. The reason it was written in the first place.
- The book of James is believed to have been written between AD 48-52
- James is the brother of Jesus
- James went on to lead the Jerusalem church and had great influence
- The Book of James was written for a broad audience and focuses on the themes of wisdom, faith, moral, and ethical conduct
- The Book of James also highlights the importance of wisdom, and putting faith into action
The Book of James is only five chapters long but those chapters all have a resounding theme that obedience to God’s moral standards is a true testament to living through faith.
It’s kind of like saying, if you’re going to talk the talk, you better walk the walk, right? Which was made clear to me personally last night when I told my child that no, he couldn’t eat a box of Mike’n’Ike’s at 8:30 pm because it’s not good for him to eat sugar that late at night. As I then turned, grabbed my own box of Mike’n’Ike’s and may or may not have eaten the entire thing after tucking him in. Oops. Sorry kiddo. Sorry James. Sorry Jesus.
While there are only 5 chapters in the Book of James, there are 11 central messages that James is trying to make clear.
- Trials and temptations
- Listening and doing
- The sin of favoritism
- Faith and deeds
- Taming the tongue
- Two kinds of wisdom
- Submit yourselves to God
- Our will vs God’s will
- Warning to rich oppressors
- Patience in suffering
- The prayer of faith
So even though the Book of James itself is relatively short, I feel like these eleven messages can get pretty long, as they should – when you take the time to read them and truly understand what they’re trying to teach us.
I’ll break them up into different posts so your mind won’t feel like it’s going to explode with #infooverload each time you sit down to (hopefully) read the words I’ll be sharing.
Trials and Temptations
“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.”James 1:2-3 (NIV)
Can you imagine? Viewing our problems as times of joy?! That’s a total mindset shift in itself, right? I talk to my clients about this all the time; part of making any lifestyle change, whether it be a physical transformation or an emotional one, begins with reframing how we view our situations. Learning to view obstacles as opportunities, and changing the way we view failure. Taking that “I Can’t” mentality and turning it into “I Can.”
Whew. Who would have thought that I’ve been fulfilling part of God’s word in my day to day job? Kind of.
We have this common saying that you live and you learn. It’s an example I teach my son almost daily – we learn from our mistakes. That it’s okay to fail because in that failure we can grow. In doing this I am trying to teach my son about responsibility and in a roundabout way, maturity. How to learn from a situation; to learn from our failures, to learn from our struggles, to seek out wisdom, and to do better next time.
James tells us right off the bat that hey, you’re going to go through challenges. It’s not an “if” – but a “when.” And when this happens, you need to learn to embrace it because it’ll actually end up being a really good thing. Why? Because you’ll learn from it. You’ll grow from it. You’ll mature from it.
He’s telling us not to rush through the unpleasant moments. Even though that’s our first instinct, right? We despise pain and suffering (I mean.. who honestly wouldn’t?) But just like with any area of our life we’re trying to improve or any way we’re trying to grow, we have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.
It’s not fun, but it’s important. James tells us that when we can take our time and learn from our trials, we’ll grow to be steadfast. We’ll become immovable, unshaken, deeply rooted – and guys, that means we’ll become strong.
Verses 5 through 8 go on to encourage us to ask God for wisdom, and to do so with confidence and humility. It’s the never ending question of wondering “why is this happening?” But James tells us that we need to look further into trying to understand God’s greater purpose.
It’s kind of like how sometimes we pray really hard for something we want? Only that prayer doesn’t necessarily come to life because God has something else, something far greater, planned for us? So while we may not get what we felt we wanted, we always end up with what we needed?
These moments can end up testing our faith. But if we can stay rooted, remain unshaken, and learn to turn toward God for strength and give him thanks even in our darkest moments, we will be blessed.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.” – James 1:12 (NIV)
Listening and Doing
Okay moms, you’ll understand this sentiment. How many times have you told your child to do something only to have him or her NOT do the thing you’ve repeatedly instructed them to do? You can put your hands and feet down – believe me, I feel your pain on this one.
It’s a common occurrence in our household, more often than I’d like it to be. But it seems that whatever I say has a magical way of floating in one of my 9 year old’s ears and straight out the other.
He may hear me, but he’s not listening to what I’m saying. And he sure as Heaven ain’t doing what he’s hearing me say.
That’s the difference between hearing and truly listening. We hear all sorts of things; background noise, traffic, the television.. even silence tends to have a sound every now and then. But how often are we truly pausing to listen to what we’re hearing? You know – paying attention, really focusing on the words, and then going and doing the thing we’re being lead to do?
“Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like someone who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But whoever looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues in it – not forgetting what they have heard, but doing it – they will be blessed in what they do.” – James 1:22-25 (NIV)
This is especially important in how we choose to speak. There is power in our words. And honestly, this is a lesson that I need to learn because I am someone who is quick to get annoyed, quick to feel impatient, quick to feel overwhelmed, and I often let my words reflect those emotions, all while having the nasty habit of sliding off my tongue before I’ve even had a moment to process my emotions.
James reminds us, “Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless.” – James 1:26 (NIV). Harsh, but I need that reminder. God wants us to be slow to anger. Because what good does it do to react in anger? Anger is an emotion that doesn’t produce the righteousness that God wants for us.
Moral of all of this is that James chapter 1 speaks heavily to me. I personally, need to spend a little more time understanding the hardships and praising God through my fear, my anxiety, and my overwhelm, and I need to slow down my words before they do more harm than good.
That’s a promise I’m going to make this week – something to focus on improving – letting the words I use reflect the words God would want me to use and not the words that get thrown out carelessly in the heat of the moment.