The Purpose of the Book
The primary aim of the writer was to encourage those to whom he wrote to endure patiently their trials, and to eliminate those serious defects from their hearts and lives that rendered them un-Christian in nature.
It is the design of trials to make Christians mature. We should, therefore, rejoice in trials (1:1-4). We all need wisdom to recognize this, and God will supply it (1:5). Our faith, however, must be stable and without doubt, or we will receive nothing from the Lord (1:6-8). We must not allow outward circumstances to change our status with God (1:9-11). Patient endurance leads to a crown of life (1:12). Evil may not be blamed on God, because it is the result of man's improper desires (1:13,14). Eventually, the desire leads to spiritual death (1:15,16). God is the source of all good; and it is through the power of His word that we become spiritual children (1:17,18). But, to be blessed by the word, we must both hear and do it; and this includes the practical principles of Christianity such as providing for the fatherless child and the destitute widow (1:19-27).
It is sinful to show partiality. It is wrong to favor the rich over the poor and to treat them unequally (2:1-4). In reality, there is more reason to be partial to the poor than to the rich, because the poor are heirs of God's blessings, but the rich oppress and mistreat others (2:5-7). The royal law requires us to treat everyone equally, and to avoid unfair or partial treatment (2:8-11). To obtain mercy, we must be merciful (2:12,13). Faith, apart from works, is dead. In order for faith to bless us, it must always be accompanied by obedience to God's commands (2:14-26).
Teachers have a greater responsibility (3:1). It is very difficult for any of us to control our tongues. The tongue is possible of great evil (3:2-8). It is absurd to suppose that a person is either wise or good if he curses others (3:9-12). If he has wisdom, it is from below, and not from God (3:13-16). There is a heavenly wisdom. It exhibits itself in kindness toward others and in a life that is filled with good works (3:17,18).
Conflicts arise because of improper desire (4:1,2). This improper desire is never satisfied. Some do not ask God for their needs; others ask, but for the wrong things (4:2,3). Friendship with the world is enmity with God (4:4,5). The most effective way to avoid sinning is to resist the devil and to turn to God in humility and repentance (4:6-10). We should avoid all faultfinding and critical judgments. We must not be guilty of attempting to use the powers and privileges of God Himself (4:11,12). God must be considered in all of our plans and purposes. We should live for today, because we have no assurance that tomorrow will come (4:13-17).
Let the rich take notice (5:1-3)! That which they have obtained by fraud will be a witness against them in the judgment that will come upon them (5:4-6). The faithful are to bear their sufferings patiently. They can be assured that a day of comfort is coming (5:7-11). They are to avoid unnecessary oaths. They are to find comfort for life's trials and an expression of its joys through prayer and singing (5:12,13). The sick were to avail themselves to the miraculous power of healing that was in the hands of the elders of the church (in the first century; 5:14,15). All are to confess their faults and pray for each other (5:16-18). If a brother falls into sin, he is immediately to be helped so that his soul may be saved from spiritual and eternal death (5:19,20).