There are several different ways we could study this book, but I want to try to make our studies as useful to you as possible. In each lesson I present from this book, I will try to accomplish two purposes: (1) help you achieve a basic understanding of each passage we examine and (2) stimulate you to examine your own life and apply the inspired truths we encounter.
Anytime we study God's word we need to do some serious thinking and soul-searching. I believe you will find that although this epistle was written over 1900 years ago, it is exceedingly practical--as if it were written yesterday. You may find some parts of the book comforting as you see that your life is measuring up to God's divine standard, or you may find that this book is difficult as it challenges you to develop a better attitude and more dedication in your Christian walk.
It is my intention to comment on every verse of this epistle, although some verses will receive much more attention than others will. Some verses simply have more gems to be mined and pondered. I won't comment on every phrase or word, but I believe that giving attention to each verse is important--that way the context is not abused. Also, if each verse were not important, why would God have included it in His holy word?
Let's begin by considering James' salutation, or greeting, first. "James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad" (1:1).
The human writer identifies himself as "James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ." Of course, we understand that the Holy Spirit is the true author (cf. II Pet. 1:20,21) and this letter was written primarily for Jewish Christians that had been scattered due to persecution. But, that is not to say that it doesn't apply to all Christians today.
As I mentioned earlier, it is most likely that this James was one of Jesus' half-brothers. That's right, Jesus had half-brothers--i.e., Mary and Joseph's own children (cf. Matt. 13:55). If you were James, wouldn't it be tempting to mention your family relationship to Jesus? Wouldn't it be tempting to say: "This is James and I'm one of Jesus' own physical brothers, so, you'd better listen to what I have to say"? We don't see James doing this; he is too humble for that. Instead, he merely refers to himself as a slave of God and of Jesus. He was a bondservant, which is another term for a slave who willingly and voluntarily serves. Can you honestly describe yourself like James does? Are you a slave of God? Do you willingly and voluntarily serve Him as your Master because you love Him? Does His will come before your own in all things? Do you do the things He commands and requests promptly and cheerfully? These things are included in the idea of being a slave for God.
God wants us to be His slaves; He expects us to be His slaves. We need to remember I Corinthians 6:19,20 daily - "Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." Dear Christian friends, do you think of yourself as belonging to God? James did, and you should too. The Lord gave you life, abilities, time, resources, and health, and He expects you to serve Him faithfully.
We will continue this study tomorrow.