The letter from James is so practical and relevant to us in the 21st century. It always amazes me how God can speak through His Word although we are separated by time and culture from those who wrote it. This letter relates to our lives today thousands of years after it was written!
"Blue Jean Faith"—what in the world does that mean? Blue jeans have always been worn by the working man and woman because of their practicality and durability. In recent years they have become stylishly popular as people have determined that comfort can be chic! But if you need long-lasting strength, denim is your logical choice. That is what we want in faith—a faith that lasts and is practical in our world today. We desire to have a faith that works right here and now!
The letter from James is so practical and relevant to us in the 21st century. It always amazes me how God can speak through His Word although we are separated by time and culture from those who wrote it. It relates to our lives today thousands of years after it was written!
This study is designed to help us as women live life as God would have us live it. As we come to the Scriptures alone with God on a daily basis, He has an opportunity to speak to each of us personally; however, together we are stronger than we are separately. My prayer is that you will be faithful to show up to your small group week after week to encourage and challenge one another in your spiritual lives. God designed us for community, and we walk more closely with Him when we follow His plan. Be faithful to meet with your group, even if the trials and stresses of life have made it impossible to complete your own work. God is at work, and He wants to use your group to speak to you and to use you to encourage the other women.
Remember that the Holy Spirit is your Teacher. When you come to verses that you do not understand, take time to pray and ask God to show you what He is saying. He may speak to you as you spend more time considering and meditating on the passage or as you compare it with other verses. Sometimes God uses other people to help—perhaps a fellow small group member, a small group leader, or a teacher. God’s word is truth and it will transform us when we open our hearts to its message. That is my prayer for you—open hearts and changed lives!
This study is designed to help you consistently spend time in God’s Word. You will gain more from this study if you do it day by day, answering just that day’s questions, rather than trying to stuff it all in at once. Each week’s lesson is divided into five days of homework to encourage you to listen daily to His voice. The Bible is God’s message to you, and He wants to speak with you personally.
Unless instructed otherwise, use only the Scriptures to answer the questions. Rather than go to commentaries or notes in a study Bible, enjoy the excitement of letting God speak to you from His word. When we need help in interpretation because of a difficult passage or because of cultural information, I will include it in the lesson. Trust God to help you answer the questions.
Although paraphrases are often easier to understand, it is best to study with a literal translation. Paraphrases are someone else’s interpretation, not the actual words. The NET Bible, the New King James, the New American Standard, or the New International are good choices.
Wisdom for a Blue Jean Faith —Each week you will have a verse to memorize that brings out an essential lesson or thought from the week’s study. Begin learning it the first day, hiding God’s Word in your heart.
Personal Stories —Each lesson includes a true story that relates the truths of the week’s lesson to a woman’s real life experience. Some of the names have been changed to protect the guilty! These stories will encourage you in your walk with God and your growth in godliness.
Sharing Questions are designed for you to write stories, insights, and applications from your own life. You will never be forced to share one of these answers aloud with your group, but growing in community with one another requires us to be open and vulnerable so volunteer to share.
Responding to God questions are reminders that we study God’s Word so that He can speak to us and we are changed thereby. We should be listening for His voice. These types of questions ask for a response to God’s personal message to you. I have found that writing out my prayers helps me to focus better on what I need to say to God. No one will ask you to read yours, but you should always feel free to share your response with your group.
Stronger Jeans are optional questions designed for those who want to dig deeper. Some of the answers will be easy for even a beginning Bible student, and some will require more experience in God’s Word. As a group you will not discuss these, but the background that you gain will certainly enrich your personal study. Feel free to discuss these with your leader.
I would be thrilled if you decide to use one of my studies! They were written just for women, with their needs and concerns in mind in order to maximize their spiritual growth. In order to make the most of these studies, it is necessary to follow the format in the following order: 1. Personal study should always precede discussion.
2. Weekly small group discussion should precede any lectures.
3. Lectures should be the final thing you do, and they are optional.
“Consider it nothing but joy when you fall into all sorts of trials, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. And let endurance have its perfect effect, so that you will be perfect and compete, not deficient in anything.”
James 1:2-4 (NET)
Blue Jean Faith—what in the world does that mean? Blue jeans have always been worn by the working man and woman because of their practicality and durability. In recent years they have become stylishly popular as people have determined that comfort can be chic! But if you need long-lasting strength, denim is your logical choice. That is what we want in faith—a faith that lasts and is practical in our world today. We desire to have a faith that works right here and now!
As you begin this study, ask God to help you make your faith very practical. Ask Him to help you live out what you believe. Align yourself with God’s purpose and His plans. The best place to be in life is living right in line with the work and character of the Creator. If you will consistently spend time in God’s word and discuss it with other believers, God will show you how to live out your faith.
The book of James begins with one of those hard, but necessary topics: trials. The author deals in a very practical way with the subject and gives us insights to help us make it through difficult times. Begin today learning your memory verse, which we will call “wisdom for a Blue Jean Faith.” If you will place these truths in your heart week after week, by the end of this study you will have ten verses which can help you make your faith more durable and practical!
1. Spend your time today reading through this book as if it were a letter from an old friend. Don’t worry at this point about understanding everything; just get a feel for the book. Record your initial thoughts and feelings below.
2. Responding to God: Write a prayer to God, expressing your response to Him about something you read in James. Maybe you need to thank Him for a blessing. Perhaps you need to praise Him for something about His character. Or maybe you need to confess that you aren’t doing well at something He asks of you! You will not have to share your answer!
Stronger Jeans (optional): The book of James seems to involve many loosely related topics. As best you can, choose themes for each chapter and an overall theme of the book. If you know how to put it in a book chart, you may want to do that. This will be your optional assignment for the entire week.
Today we begin looking in more detail at this book. Some questions will require you to observe simply what the verses say. These help you read the text more carefully, to be sure you are noting what it really says and grasping the main points. Other questions will ask you to think more deeply or to share. Before you begin today—and every day—ask God for insight into His word.
Read James 1:1.
1. Who wrote this book and how does he describe himself? How does he describe the people to whom he is writing?
The NET Bible gives us insight into the Greek term used to describe the author: “Traditionally, ‘servant’ or ‘bondservant.’ Though doulos is normally translated ‘servant,’ the word does not bear the connotation of a free individual serving another. . . . The most accurate translation is ‘bondservant’ . . . in that it often indicates one who sells himself into slavery to another. But as this is archaic, few today understand its meaning.”1
2. Sharing Question: What would it mean for you to be a slave, servant, or bondservant of Jesus Christ? Write down one thing that you would have to do differently today if you were to live that idea out.
Read James 1:2-4.
Douglas Moo comments: “’Pure joy’ is a good rendering of the Greek phrase pasan charan (lit., ‘all joy’) since the word pas here probably suggests intensity (complete and unalloyed joy) rather than exclusivity (nothing but joy).”2
3. Consider this attitude that James tells you to adopt. Explain your understanding of it in light of Dr. Moo’s explanation. Does his explanation help you see how you could do this when all around is crashing?
4. James 1:3-4 tells us why we should adopt that kind of attitude. What is a purpose of various trials in your life according to these verses?
We will look more closely at the intended results of trials tomorrow.
5. Responding to God: Consider a trial with which you are currently dealing. It could be a health issue, a loss, grief over your circumstances, loneliness, financial need, or any other situation that has come into your life through no cause of your own. Talk to God about it. Write down a prayer asking Him to give you the grace to look at it from His perspective (vv. 3-4) with the right attitude (v. 2).
Review James 1:2-4 and what you learned yesterday about trials.
1. Compare the reactions to trials in the following verses with what you saw in James.
a. Matt. 5:11-12
b. Acts 5:41
c. 2 Cor. 7:4
d. Rom. 5:3-4
1. How different are these kinds of reactions to what you see in the world today? How do you generally see people respond to difficult times and overwhelming situations that they face?
We saw from James 1:2-4 that there are positive results to trials in a believer’s life. The word in James 1:3-4 translated “patience” (KJV), “perseverance” (NIV), or “endurance” (NET; NASB) is explained by D. Edmond Hiebert: “It presents the picture of being under a heavy load and resolutely staying there instead of trying to escape.” 3
What is your natural tendency in trials—to run or to stay? I think we would all agree that we prefer to run. How do we run? Sometimes running means that our focus is on asking God to take the load away rather than focusing on how He can use it for His kingdom and His glory. Sometimes running means that we put the load down and run away ourselves if we have that option!
Since this is a study for women, I want to be sure you don’t mistake this as a call to put up with physical abuse. Run and get help! But if the abuser is your husband, don’t give up on the relationship in the process. This is your husband so do everything within your power to preserve and rebuild the marriage that doesn’t risk you or your children.
1. Sharing Question: Share with your group a trial—doesn’t have to be a big one like financial ruin or a death threat—from which you chose to run rather than face it. Or share about a trial from which you learned endurance because you did stay under it.
2. Responding to God: Pray about a situation in your life right now that is so difficult that you want to avoid it. Pray for God to teach you “endurance” through this situation. Tell Him that you choose to carry the load until He takes it from you. Write down your prayer below.
Review James 1:2-4.
1. James says that endurance is a positive result of trials for the believer; however it is not the final result. What is the result of endurance, according to v.4?
Dr. Hiebert says that the term for perfect “does not imply absolute perfection, but rather the ethical character of the mature believer.”4
I think that all of us who desire to be all that God wants us to be want to get to that point that he describes, but the way there is difficult. We prefer to run.
2. Consider others whom you admire as “mature believers.” What do you know about their lives and the trials they have endured? If possible, talk to one of them and ask how God has brought them to this place of maturity and trust of Him. Ask about their experiences and feelings. Without sharing names with your small group, share what you learned about the place of trials in the person’s maturation process.
3. Compare 1 Peter 1:3-7 with James 1:2-4.
4. Let’s look at some biblical figures who endured very difficult trials. Compare their stories to what James says about trials in 1:2-4.
a. Joseph—His story is long but read these verses at least: Gen. 37:23-24, 26-28; 39:11-20; 45:3-8
b. David—again, a long story! Read 1 Sam. 18:6-12; 20:32-33; 24:1-15; 26:5-11.
c. Paul—can’t read everything he says either. Read 2 Cor. 6:4-10; Phil. 1:12-26; 2 Tim. 2:8-10; 4:14-17.
5. Sharing Question: What has God said to you from these stories about a trial with which you are dealing? What do you need to do about what you have learned?
6. Responding to God: Spend time praising God for the positives that He brings out of trials. Pray for the ability to have His perspective on your particular trial right now.
Today we will move on from James 1:2-4. I am sure that you are ready!
Read James 1:2-8.
1. Write down all that you learn about wisdom from this section of James.
2. In the context of trials, James provides this instruction about wisdom. How does it relate to trials? In other words, why would he give this information at this point in his letter?
Curtis Vaughn says, “To James wisdom was more than knowledge and more than intelligence. It was a moral and spiritual quality based upon the fear of the Lord—the sum of practical religion.”5
3. Read these cross-references on wisdom and compare them with what James says.
a. Prov. 2:6
b. Prov. 3:13-14
c. Prov. 8:35
d. Prov. 9:1-6
4. What do you learn about God from James 1:5-8?
5. Responding to God: spend time thanking God for who He is according to these verses. Consider how you rely upon God’s revelation of Himself. Write down your response to His character below in a prayer or poem.
At the end of each week’s study you will have a story to read. These are true stories as told by the women who lived them. In some cases, the names have been changed to protect the identity of the storyteller, but most of them include the first name of the real-life person.
It has been 7 years since that hot August day when my husband went out to check the mail and came back in the house looking like he was in shock. I asked what was wrong and he said "you will never believe what I found in the yard." He had found pages from the Bible ripped out and laying against the trunk of the tree. The pages were from the book of Job. I had been studying my Bible when he came into the room. I said "Honey, look down." My Bible was open on the footstool in front of me to the book of Job! That is what I had been studying for a Bible study I was writing at the time.
Well of course we tried to analyze it to death to try to determine what this could possibly mean in our lives. It wasn't until years later that we looked back and realized how God was preparing us for a ministry to people who suffer loss due to crimes against them, or because of natural disasters. And so we have seen firsthand the trauma to individuals who have encountered various trials that have been completely beyond their control.
Loss is difficult in anyone's life, but seeing it in the lives of others is much different than when the loss involves your children or your own personal health. Then it becomes devastating to you personally.
And so, that brings me to James 1:2. How can we count it all joy when we encounter various trials? The trials in our lives have been many. We have experienced difficulties in our lives of all types including health. Within a 5 month period, my daughter, my husband and I have all been diagnosed with different types of cancer. During this same period of time, we sold our house and moved with a closing date set. At the last minute, the sale fell through leaving us with double expenses. At the same time, we were criticized by those closest to us. Does this sound like a Job experience? Job suffered family, possession, and health loss as well as criticism from friends.
So what have we learned from this through the years to sustain us in current circumstances? We have learned that joy does not mean 'happy'. You can have joy without enjoying! You can even be in grief but still experience joy. Joy is deeper than being happy. It is abiding in you as you abide in Christ to strengthen you with His peace in times of trouble. If I am going to count the trials, then I need to also count the joy; all of it for all of them. I know from experience that every trial that has tested our faith HAS produced endurance in us. It is this endurance which has enabled us through the next set of trials. And in those moments when I have felt like giving in to despair, the still, small voice of God whispers; “Trust Me, keep your faith". In those moments when the devastation is overwhelming, God is there to give hope and comfort. He is an ever present help in times of trouble. Is the help when and how we want it? Of course not! If it were, it would be by our own will.
But God works His will in our troubles. And it is there, in His will that we find true joy because we know we didn't have anything to do with the result except to trust Him.
Then, somewhere along the way of trials no matter what they are, He will give nuggets of His truth to cling to; nuggets that come when you least expect them. At a low point in our trials I prayed and told the Lord how weak I was in faith. He strengthened my faith by reminding me first of Job. Then, in a message from a pastor, He reminded me from Rev 3:8 that He knew my strength was weak but that I had kept His word and trusted Him. He would open doors to us that no one could shut. That was my nugget of truth for that particular low point to strengthen me till the next one. It was my nugget of truth to spur me on to continue keeping His word and continue trusting Him. God is so awesome and amazing in how He gives real encouragement to enable us to press on. He knows when we are weak, and it is in our weakness that He is made strong.
And so how do we 'count it all joy when we encounter various trials'?
God will strengthen, He will comfort, He will provide, He will help to see you through. Then when you pass the test, you will have proven the power of God to be victorious over Satan and his schemes to destroy. You will experience joy beyond measure from the endurance of your faith.
Yes, there are times when difficulties may be discipline, but there are other times when trials are a test of our faith; not because we are sinful, but because we are faithful. When God allowed Satan to sift Job (Job 1:8), He knew of Job’s faithfulness to God and the victory to come that would prove the power of God in Job’s life. It is in knowing this and keeping the life of Job in our minds that has given us so much hope in our trials; therefore, in our trials there is true joy! The joy comes from deep, abiding faith and in due time, the reward. Praise Him.
“…Be faithful until death, and I will give you the crown of life.” Rev. 2:10c
1 Note #2 in NET Bible: New English Translation (Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C., 2003), p. 2210.
2 Douglas J. Moo, The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), p. 53.
3 D. Edmond Hiebert, The Epistle of James: Tests of a Living Faith (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1979), 75.
4 Hiebert, 77.
5 Curtis Vaughn, James, Bible Study Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969), p. 22.
“All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or the slightest hint of change.” James 1:17 (NET)
Think of someone whom you know well—a husband, family member, or close friend. What if a person came up and described someone totally different and suggested that it was the same person? If someone described my husband as 6’5” and blonde, I would say that they have the wrong guy! And I would be right to take up for him because I know who he really is!
People of different cultures give us different pictures of God, proving the truth that we cannot fathom God with our own minds (Is. 55:8-9). We can see His power and divinity in the creation that He has made (Rom. 1:20), but beyond the basics, we can’t figure God out on our own. That is why God has always been in the business of revealing Himself to us. We can’t come to understand Him so He comes to us to show us what He is like; we read what He has revealed in the Bible. He doesn’t want us confusing Him with someone else!
When put in hard and difficult times, we sometimes have nothing else to rely upon other than what we know about God and so it is essential that we truly know Him. Pray that you will recognize who He really is so that your life lines up with Him and not a god from your own imagination, who will always disappoint!
Last week we studied James 1:1-8 together, looking at trials in our lives. Review those verses to put today’s verses in context.
Now read what follows: James 1:9-12.
1. In this section James deals with life situations of two kinds of people: (1) the one of “humble means” (NET), “humble circumstances” (NIV) or “the lowly” (NKJV), and (2) the rich. Since they are in contrast, what kind of situation does humble describe? What does he tell the person in each situation to do?
2. Now this is a thinking question and your answer may be “none”. But think about it! What relationship do you see between James 1:2-8 and James 1:9-11? Why would James move into this seemingly new topic?
The word for “pride” (James 1:9 NET, NIV) is “kauchastho (boast). It is used in this identical form four times in Jer. 9:23-24 in the Greek Old Testament (the Septuagint).”6
3. Since the same word is used in the same way in Jer. 9:23-24, read that passage. Then, explain what it means for a believer to “take pride in” (NIV; NET) her/his high position (James 1:9).
4. James says that the believer “of humble means” (NET) is to take pride in his high position. What do you learn about your high position as a follower of Jesus from these verses?
a. Luke 6:20
b. Eph. 1:3
c. Col. 1:22
d. Col. 1:27
e. Col. 3:3-4
Stronger Jeans (optional): Use your concordance to find other New Testament verses that deal with poverty or the poor. What do you learn from them?
5. Sharing Question: You may or may not have ever been in a position of monetary need. If you have, share with your group how that felt. If you have not, you may someday face a situation where you feel humbled by your circumstances, a need of any kind. Think through a practical way that you can remind yourself of your position before God when that happens.
6. Responding to God: Go through the verses from #4 in this lesson. Take each verse and thank God for what it says about your position as a believer. Or write a poem thanking Him for your high position.
Yesterday we looked at James’ words to the believer of humble circumstances. Today we will study what he says to the rich.
Reread James 1:9-11.
There is debate among scholars as to whether James is speaking of rich believers or of wicked unbelievers here. If this is a believer, taking pride in his low position would mean that “the rich believer is to boast not in his wealth or his elevated social position, but in his identification with Christ and his people, a matter of ‘humiliation’ in the eyes of the world.”7
Stronger Jeans (optional): Study your commentaries or study Bible about the meaning of “rich” here. Is it a believer or not? Explain the arguments for both views.
1. What pictures or illustrations does James use to teach the rich? What point is he trying to make to them?
In case you are wondering what James means when he says that the rich “pass away”, Moo has this to say: “The verb ‘pass away’ is never used in the NT to denote judgment. Rather, it typically has the idea ‘cease to exist.’”8
2. Read these verses and write down how they relate to James’ teaching about the rich:
a. Isa. 40:6b-8
b. Ps. 103:15-16
c. Ps. 49:16-17
3. Materialism is rampant in our American society today. How would truly believing James’s words here affect our attitudes toward money and other material possessions?
4. Sharing Question: What is God saying to you about money or material things? He may be showing you that you are selfishly hoarding money. You may realize that you value people with money more than others. Perhaps God is saying that you spend inordinate amounts of time shopping and buying things. What one thing can you do this week to let go of wrong attitudes or actions?
5. Responding to God: Write a prayer to God about what He showed you in the previous question. Write down your commitment to follow through with that one action.
Read James 1:12.
1. How does this verse relate to James’ message in 1:2-11?
2. What makes the person in v. 12 “happy” (NET) or “blessed” (NASB; NKJV; NIV)?
Moo explains: “A person who is ‘blessed’ may not be ‘happy’ at all. For our emotional state may and will vary with the circumstances of life. But we can rest assured that, whatever those circumstances, if we endure them with faith and commitment to God, we will be recipients of God’s favor.”9
3. Sharing Question: In your experience, have you ever been blessed but not necessarily happy? Tell your group what happened, how you were blessed, and how you felt.
Stronger Jeans (optional): Use a concordance or Greek dictionary and look up the word for blessed or happy in James 1:12. Look up some of the other verses that use the same Greek word.
4. Sharing Question: If you believe the promise of James 1:12, what encouragement does it give you today for your present trial? If you are not facing a trial right now, how can it help you next time that you do?
5. What are some other “crowns”, or rewards, promised?
a. 1 Thess. 2:19
b. 2 Tim. 4:8
c. 1 Pet. 5:4
d. Rev. 2:10
6. Responding to God: Draw a picture of your receiving a crown from Jesus. Which one might it be? Think about what that will feel like. Talk to God about it. And yes, you can draw!
Read James 1:12-16.
1. What causes us to be tempted?
2. What does James 1:12-16 teach about God and His character?
Douglas Moo explains what we cannot see from our English translations:
The Greek word for ‘test’ in v. 12, peirazo, is the same word that is translated ‘tempt’ in vv. 13-14. Using this term as a link-word, therefore, James makes the transition from testing to temptation. God, James has said, promises a blessing to those who endure trials. Every trial, every external difficulty, carries with it a temptation, an inner enticement to sin. God may bring, or allow, trials; but he is not, James insists the author of temptation (v. 13).10
Stronger Jeans (optional): Look for the word temptation in your concordance and find cross-references. What do you learn about temptation from them?
3. Sharing Question: Tell your group about a time when you faced a trial and ended up being tempted in some way—perhaps, not to trust God or to be angry or to run from the trial. How did you respond when tempted?
4. How did Jesus handle temptation? Read these verses and write down your insights:
a. Mt. 4:1-11
b. Mt. 26:36-46
c. Heb. 4:14-16
5. How can you apply the lessons of the verses in the previous question when you face temptation?
6. Responding to God: Think of a specific area of temptation with which you often deal and pray about it. Ask God to help you face temptation as Jesus did, with His power and His help.
Read James 1:12-18.
1. What truths about God did James mention in 1:17-18?
2. How might knowing these truths help you when you deal with temptation or trials? In other words, why may you need to know them? What may you be tempted to believe about Him?
Be sure and memorize James 1:17. You may need to remember this truth about God next time you encounter a trial
Stronger Jeans (optional): Upon what other truths about God do you lean when you struggle with trusting God in a hard time? Find some verses that are helpful to you at those times. Pray for God to show you someone in your small group with which to share those verses. You may want to write a note which includes a verse. You may want to write out several verses on index cards for her to carry with her during her current trial.
3. Sharing Question: Write down the story of a difficult time in your life when you doubted the truths that James teaches about God here. Be prepared to share it with your group.
4. Sharing Question: How do the truths about you as a believer in 1:18 encourage you today? Why do you need that encouragement?
5. Responding to God: Write down your poem or prayer expressing your praise of God for what you learn about Him in James 1:17-18.
I learned about God’s character as I went through tough times. I was married while still in college and soon had four healthy children and tried to be the best wife and mother that I knew how to be. They all loved the Lord and going to Sunday School and we were very involved in the church. My husband was very involved in his job and we seldom saw him, so when he was transferred to Houston, I thought it would be great for our family to be living in the Bible Belt and having their father around more.
Our boys were in Senior High and the girls in Junior High, and they had always walked to school, but now the boys would be taking the bus. Later I learned that their first day on the bus, they were both introduced to marijuana and found it very helpful in relaxing in their new environment and making new friends. We all had lots of adjustments to make and since my husband was now the manager of the Houston office, he was as busy as ever. By January of our first year, I was a Bible study discussion leader and found it so exciting. About that same time, our oldest son stole the car and tried to run away to Mexico, but was caught at the border. He thought we would be better off without him. We now know that he also had Aspberger Syndrome, a highly functional form of Autism. By the end of our first year in Houston, three of our children were on drugs and alcohol and the oldest had dropped out of school after being kicked out. Soon after, our fourth child joined the others because the other kids weren't allowed to play with her because of her brothers and sister. Our whole world had turned upside down and the children I loved were like complete strangers who were destroying themselves.
Even though I was in great pain, I knew that God was faithful and that all of my children belonged to Him. During that time, I began to experience God's grace and mercy. First he had placed me in the Bible study leadership group just when I needed them; every week, they prayed for me and my family, never judging me. Also, He began sending other people to me who were also experiencing pain and I was learning that God was able to use my weaknesses instead of what I thought were my strengths. (II Corin.12:9) That period of our lives lasted at least five years with various ups and downs, but God remained closer to me than at any other time in my life. In fact, I had such a peace during that time that my father-in-law said it proved that I was mentally ill from all that religious junk. God also protected all of our children during that time and they all say that they know it was my prayers that kept them alive. Experiencing God's grace and mercy during the worst period of my life has taken away any fear of what the future may hold for me or our children and grandchildren.
6 Bruce B. Barton, David R. Veerman, and Neil Wilson, Life Application Bible Commentary: James, ed. Grant Osborne (Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992), 15.
7 Moo, 66.
8 Moo, 67.
9 Moo, 70.
10 Moo, 72.
“For if someone merely listens to the message and does not live it out, he is like someone who gazes at his own face in a mirror. For he gazes at himself and then goes out and immediately forgets what sort of person he was.” James 1:23-24 (NET)
I have a pair of painting jeans. Whenever I paint something—usually a room or the trim in our house—I wear them. They definitely show the wear and tear of the abuse I give them with the paint. (I am not very good at keeping the paint on the wall!) The jeans have spots of green paint that I used in my home office; there are blotches of white paint from the trim all around my house. There are various other colors as well that display the work that I have done. The jeans are the visible proof of what I have accomplished.
So far we have seen that faith is lived out when we face the trials and hardships of life. When we deal with such difficulties, we need to have our “jeans” on because we need durable and practical faith instead of merely “Sunday clothes” that look really nice but are fragile and vulnerable when put to the test. Our jeans are the visible proof that our faith has been tested and found real.
James calls us to live out our faith in very practical and real ways as we walk through this world. As we align our lives with the message of the Creator, we show the reality of our relationship to the one who made us and knows us best. Living in the midst of His will, we live with our “jeans” on.
You may not quite understand why I continue to have you reread verses in James. But I know that you are aware of the dangers in taking any sort of communication out of context. We hear it all the time when a public figure claims to have been misunderstood. The truth is that anything out of context is in danger of being interpreted wrongly. If there were ever a book that we want to be careful to understand correctly, it is God’s word. So I will continue asking you to reread portions of the book before we move into new sections. In fact, I would suggest that the more you read James in its entirely, the better!
Read James 1:17-20.
1. What has God done for believers according to 1:17-18? What three commands are we to follow in response to that truth of what God has done (1:19)?
2. How do we show that we truly love Jesus according to His words in John 14:15? Write down Jesus’ exact words.
3. Responding to God: Take time to reflect upon the goodness and mercy of God. Consider that the correct response to such love is to love Him back. Write a prayer or poem asking God to speak to you personally about ways to love Him. Ask Him to show you at least one specific way to obey Him out of love as you study this week.
Stronger Jeans (optional): Look for other verses about your love for God. There will be many in your exhaustive concordance under the word “love” so you may want to look at the cross-references in the margin of your Bible or a topical Bible. When you have a word that doesn’t have so many references, you can use the NET Bible at bible.org. Type in your word under “search for”.
4. Look at the other verses below and write down how they relate to the first and second commands of James 1:19:
a. Prov. 17:28
b. Prov. 10:19
c. Prov. 11:12-13
d. Prov. 13:3
e. Ecc. 5:2-3
5. Summarize the teaching of the previous verses in Proverbs and James in your own words. How would you explain it to someone else who tends to rush into saying what she thinks?
6. Sharing Question: Share the story of a time when you spoke too quickly instead of listening, with disastrous, or at least negative, results.
7. Responding to God: Spend time asking God for the grace to listen more and speak less. Think of one particular person with whom you are impatient and want to jump in and speak. Write a prayer asking God to remind you to keep your mouth shut when you interact with her or him. You may want to draw a picture of your mouth with God’s “hand” over it as a way to remember this lesson better.
Read James 1:19-20. We looked in detail at the first two of the three commands in James 1:19 yesterday.
1. What is the third command? Why are we to do this according to James 1:20?
2. Prov. 17:27 deals with the relationship between anger and words. Explain it in your own words. You may want to read it in several translations. (An easy way to do that is to go to bible.org and put Proverbs 17 in the box in the upper left side. When the chapter comes up, click on the verse number. A number of translations of that verse will come up.)
Moo explains the meaning of God’s righteousness in the context of James 1:20: “We are on firmer ground in thinking that James uses the phrase ‘produce righteousness’ with the meaning it normally has in the Bible: do what God requires of his people. . . . James’s very simple point is that human anger does not produce behavior that is pleasing to God.”11
3. Read these cross-references on anger and write down your insights:
a. Ecc. 7:9
b. Prov. 16:32
c. Prov. 29:22
Hiebert helps us understand anger:
Human anger is an instinctive reaction against that which is evil and injurious. The feeling of anger is not always wrong (cf. Mark 3:5). The individual who is never aroused and deeply stirred at evil is gravely deficient in moral character. James’ words do not forbid all anger, but this instinctive feeling needs careful control lest it blaze forth in unjustified and injurious reactions. The attitude of Scripture is consistently negative toward the indulgence in human wrath.12
4. Read Eph. 4:25-27. What are the boundaries given here for righteous anger? From Hiebert’s comments above, how would you describe righteous anger in contrast with most of our anger?
Stronger Jeans (optional): Find other cross-references on anger or wrath. Write down any additional insights that you gain. (You can pull up all cross-references that use a particular English word from the NET Bible at bible.org. Go to the reference—in this case James 1:20. Highlight the word that you want to reference and it will take you to other verses that use that word.)
5. Sharing Question: Share with your group the story of a time when your anger did not accomplish God’s righteousness or when justified anger turned into sinful anger because your behavior did not reflect God or perhaps because you let it simmer!
6. Responding to God: Are you angry with someone right now? Is there a person who seems to anger you every time you interact with her/him? Is it all about you or is there really a righteous anger involved? Talk to God about becoming a person who reflects His forgiveness and patience even when there is justification. Write down your response to Him.
Read James 1:19-21.
1. What is the condition, according to James 1:21, for God’s word to truly come into our hearts? Why would failure to do this hinder God’s word working in your life?
Vaughn explains the phrase “put away” (NET), “get rid of” (NIV), “putting aside” (NASB) or “lay aside” (NKJV): “The tense of the Greek word suggests a single and decisive act. The figure is that of stripping off and casting aside a dirty garment.”13
2. Other authors use this picture of taking off something that is inconsistent with our faith. Read these verses and compare them with James 1:21:
a. Col. 3:8
b. Heb. 12:1
c. I Peter 2:1
3. What is the result of receiving, accepting, or welcoming God’s message (1:21)?
This is not the salvation that some of us normally think of—the one-time turning to Jesus in faith to forgive us and bring us into a relationship with God. There are actually three tenses of salvation: past tense, meaning that at that one time we were saved from the penalty of our sins; present tense, meaning that we are being saved from the power of sin as we depend upon God day by day; and future tense, meaning that we will someday be saved from the presence of sin when we live in the very presence of God. James 1:21 seems to be dealing with the present sense of that salvation. As we welcome that word in our hearts, we are becoming more and more like Jesus. God is using His word to work in us.
Stronger Jeans (optional): Study Psalm 119, which speaks of the work of the word in our lives. Which verses speak to you today?
4. Sharing Question: Relate about a time in your life when your heart was hardened to what God was saying in His word. You did not welcome or accept it. What happened to change that? How did God work to soften your heart?
5. Responding to God question: I like the way that the NET Bible puts it in 1:21—“humbly welcome the message implanted within you.” Honestly consider these questions before God: Do you accept God’s word that way? As you come to your daily study time, do you humbly welcome what God is saying to you? Or do you dread it because you feel guilty because you don’t want to hear it? Write down your thoughts.
Read James 1:21-25. Your memory verse for this week is in this passage. If you haven’t already memorized it, work on it today. Use the cards that you received with your lesson and carry them with you each week. But be sure you review the previous weeks’ verses as well. I have found that I lose what I memorize if I don’t continue reviewing.
1. What two responses to God’s word are contrasted here?
2. What is James’ illustration in 1:23-24 and how does it help you understand your two possible responses to God’s word?
3. God’s people have always been in danger of forgetting. Read these passages and write down your thoughts:
a. Ex. 13:3
b. Num. 15:39
c. Deut. 6:10-12
4. Read Jer. 2:32; 3:19-20. What do you learn here about God’s feelings for His people Israel? Describe God’s feelings when His people forgot Him.
Stronger Jeans (optional): Based upon your previous Bible study, what biblical characters forgot God and/or His blessings? What happened as a result?
5. Sharing Question: How have you been guilty of forgetting your God and His blessings? Give specifics.
6. Responding to God question: Consider the hurt that God has felt over your forgetfulness of Him and His blessings in your life. Write a prayer of confession, asking for the forgiveness that He promises and longs to give!
Read James 1:19-27. It’s good to review the entire paragraph here at the end of the week and remember all that you have studied.
Focus on 1:26-27.
1. In what specific way can we be deceived, according to these verses?
2. We see “Blue Jean Faith” in these verses. James gives us some specific ways that faith acts practically. List them.
3. Read Is. 1:10-17 and write down how it helps explain James 1:27.
4. Sharing Question: If you are a widow or an orphan, explain how Ps. 68:5 makes you feel. If you are not in those categories, consider how you can “care for orphans and widows in their misfortune” in one specific way this week. Share with your group what you did.
Stronger Jeans (optional): Read the story of the widow of Zarephath in 1 Kings 17:1-24. How does it confirm what we have seen about God’s heart for widows?
5. Responding to God: Write down your prayer or poem of response to God for speaking to you this week through His word. Thank Him for the power it has when you welcome it into your heart.
Nancy shares her story of actually living out God’s message instead of seeing it and hardening her heart against it.
I was in college, a new Christian, and always in a hurry when I got behind the wheel of my car. I wanted to get where I was going as quickly as possible. I knew the posted speed limit, but consistently chose to ignore it when it suited me to do so. When there was little traffic around me or when driving on a highway outside of town, I consistently chose to travel over the posted speed limit. During a 6 month period of time I was pulled over 3 times and given speeding tickets. I’ll never forget the third occasion when I was driving from Austin to Houston and saw the police car lights flashing in my rearview mirror. My heart sank. When the police officer stood beside my car talking to me, it was as if Jesus Himself was standing there. I felt so humbled before that officer and before God. God used that officer to convict me of my defiant attitude. God was showing me that I had a heart problem before Him, and I was in complete agreement with Him. The verses in Romans taught me that those in authority over me were placed there by God and for my good.
Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except by God’s appointment, and the authorities that exist have been instituted by God. So the person who resists such authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will incur judgment (for rulers cause no fear for good conduct but for bad). Do you desire not to fear authority? Do good and you will receive its commendation, for it is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be in fear, for it does not bear the sword in vain. It is God’s servant to administer retribution on the wrongdoer.
My defiance of the traffic laws was defiance of God Himself. I felt terrible and yet I felt relieved, too. I told God that day that I was through with my defiant attitude. In His grace and mercy He protected me from an accident during that time where I could have caused harm to myself and to others. I praise Him for loving me enough to remove me from that dangerous place of defiance.
11 Moo, 84.
12 Hiebert, 126.
13 Vaughn, 37.
“My brothers and sisters, do not show prejudice if you possess faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ.” James 2:1 (NET)
Teacher’s pet—not a name we like to be called when we are kids. We don’t want anyone to think that we receive special treatment, even if it is true! I know that I never liked the person who was the teacher’s pet, but I liked the teacher even less for having favorites!
Even as adults we often play favorites. We defer to those with star power, money, or status. Even in the church we are guilty of giving preference to some over others. The same problem was found in the churches of James’ day, and he decided to deal with it in a straightforward way!
Review James 1:27, and read James 2:1-13.
1. Copy James’ instruction in 2:1 that gives the context for this entire paragraph. This is your memory verse this week! Writing often helps me remember better!
James’ first argument against prejudice is that it is inconsistent with faith. Then, he gets more specific about the object of faith. It has become very unpopular to be very specific about faith. Our culture teaches that faith is the same, no matter what or whom it is in. It suggests that we can believe in almost anything and still call ourselves Christians; however, the Bible makes it clear that it is belief in the Lord Jesus Christ that binds us together in our faith.
So, before we go any further in our study, let’s look at the identity of Jesus, the focus of faith for the believer.
Hiebert calls James 2:1 James’ “confession of faith” because of the descriptive words that he uses in reference to Jesus.14
2. Look up these cross-references to glory, writing down your thoughts about the significance of the word glory being used for Jesus:
a. Ex. 40:34
b. 1 Ki. 8:11
c. Isa. 40:3-5 (The word is also translated “splendor”)
d. Titus 2:13
e. Heb. 1:3
f. 2 Pet. 1:17
Moo explains his understanding of James’ description: “’Glory’ is that state of ‘being-like-God’ to which Christians are destined (e.g. Rom. 5:2; 8:18; 2 Cor. 4:17) and in which Jesus even now exists (Phil. 3:21; Col. 3:4; 2 Thess. 2:14; 1 Tim. 3:16; Tit. 2:13; Heb. 2:7, 9). Describing Jesus as the Lord of glory suggest particularly the heavenly sphere to which he has been exalted and from which he will come at the end of history to save and to judge (cf. Jas. 5:9).”
Stronger Jeans (optional): Go through all of the verses in Moo’s quote above and consider how they help you understand the concept of glory.
3. Read these stories. How did these people respond when they were faced with truths about Jesus?
Acts 26:1, 12-20
4. Responding to God question: Have you responded to Jesus as those in the previous question did? If not, continue to spend time in God’s word daily and ask Him to show you who Jesus really is. If you have confessed the same faith that James did, praise Jesus for His glory, for His identity as God Himself. Write down a prayer or poem extolling Him. Use the verses in question #2 as the foundation for your prayer.
5. Sharing Question: Share with the group how today’s lesson has made you feel. What were your feelings as you praised Jesus for being the very glory of Israel?
Reread James 2:1-13. Now back to the command not to be prejudiced!
1. In your own words explain the illustration of prejudice that James used as an example of how favoritism might work in the church of that day.
Hiebert says that the word for partiality or prejudice “came to be used of any form of improper preferential treatment. In the New Testament it always denotes favoritism or partiality, a biased judgment based on external circumstances….”15
Stronger Jeans (optional): Look up the Greek word for partiality or prejudice and some cross-references that use that same word. Write down any further insights.
2. What examples of prejudice or partiality have you seen in churches today?
3. Sharing Question: what prejudices, partialities, or favoritisms do you have? Maybe you don’t treat any group poorly but simply defer to those whom you consider higher up—the wealthy, the powerful, or the well-known. Would you be more likely to come to a worship service or church event if a “star” of some kind spoke? (There are “stars”, even in the church!)
4. Let’s look at some verses about God’s character. Write down your thoughts about how they relate to James’ teaching about prejudice:
a. Deut. 10:17-18
b. Rom. 2:11
c. Eph. 6:9
d. Col. 3:25
5. How does Gal. 3:28 parallel James’ teaching in chapter 2:1-13?
6. In James 2:4 what does he call the one who shows prejudice? Explain your understanding of James’ statement.
7. Responding to God: if God has convicted you about any sort of prejudicial behavior and thinking, confess that before Him today. Remember that He forgives our sins according to His mercy.
Reread James 2:1-13. Today we will focus on vv. 5-7.
1. How do these verses relate to what James says here about the poor?
a. Luke 1:51b-53
b. 1 Cor. 1:26-29
The question becomes whether these in Jas. 2:5 are poor in the sense of without money. Moo says that the word can refer to those materially poor and those who are poor “in a spiritual sense: humble and meek, recognizing their utter dependence on the Lord and trusting him for deliverance (see esp. Ps. 69:32; Isa. 29:19; 61:1; Amos 2:7, all of which use ptochos in the LXX).”16 Because James describes the poor as the “poor in this world” (Jas. 2:5), he feels that it opens up the possibility that this refers to both.
2. What did Jesus say about the poor in Matt. 5:3? Which of the above meanings would you give the word “poor” in James 2:5? Why?
Stronger Jeans (optional): Again, look up the other references mentioned by Moo in the quote above and see what they add to your understanding of the meaning of poor in the spiritual sense.
3. Sharing Question: In our Day One Study this week, we saw the majestic person of Jesus, who is God Himself. How does understanding that help you become more poor spiritually, if it does?
4. What were the rich people of that day doing to the poor and to God, according to James?
5. Sharing Question: Have you ever been mistreated, treated preferentially, or at least treated differently because of your status—socially, educationally, or monetarily— or because of your appearance (e.g., race, beauty, weight)? If so, share the situation and how you felt with your group.
6. Responding to God: Write a prayer asking God to convict you of any prejudice in favor of the wealthy or well-known, or against those without those things? Ask for the grace to have His attitude toward all.
Reread James 2:1-13, noting particularly vv. 8-11.
1. What does James contrast with prejudice? What is the opposite action?
“’Royal law’ might be James’s way of referring to the sum total of demands that God, through Jesus, imposes on believers. . . Understood in this sense, the ‘royal law’ may well extend beyond the Mosaic law as fulfilled and reinterpreted by Jesus to include the teaching of Jesus,” says Douglas Moo.17
Stronger Jeans (optional): Read your Bible notes or commentaries on the royal law.
2. How do these verses support what James says about the law?
a. Mt. 22:37-40
b. Luke 10:25-37
3. What did Jesus command his followers in John 13:34-35?
4. Sharing Question: As you have studied this week, you have probably recognized a group with which you “play favorites’ and a corresponding group that you treat differently. If you obeyed Jesus’ commandment, what would change today in your attitude or actions toward them?
5. What do you learn about any violations of the law in James 2:8-11?
We don’t think of our laws as connected this way. We speed but aren’t guilty of robbery. So this is hard to understand. Hiebert tries to help us grasp this better: “Our obedience to God’s will cannot be on a selective basis; we cannot choose that part which is to our liking and disregard the rest. God’s will is not fragmentary; the entire Law is the expression of His will for His people; it constitutes a grand unity. . . To violate any part of the God-given Law is an offense against the divine Law-giver.”18
6. Responding to God: Talk to God about your violation of His law, knowing that it is a direct expression of His best for you and an offense against His own person. But realize that in Jesus, all of your sins are forgiven and taken away. Thank God for that truth.
Reread James 2:1-13. Think about the context as we look more closely at vv.12-13.
1. What are we instructed to do?
The word judgment sounds scary. As believers, we know that our sins were judged at the cross because Jesus paid for them. We will never pay for them ourselves. But we also know that we will face judgment.
2. How do these verses help you with this, if they do?
a. Matt. 25:31-46
b. Rom. 2:7-8
c. 1 Cor. 3:9-15
d. 2 Cor. 5:10
Moo says, “God’s gracious acceptance of us does not end our obligation to obey him; it sets it on a new footing. No longer is God’s law a threatening, confining burden. For the will of God now confronts us as a law of liberty—an obligation we discharge in the joyful knowledge that God has both ‘liberated’ us from the penalty of sin and given us, in his Spirit, the power to obey his will.”19
3. Sharing Question: Share your feelings as you consider this quote. Do you really joyfully obey God? On a scale of 1-10, how joyful are you in your obedience? I find that when I focus on God’s grace and love for me, I then have the joy that I should have. How can you increase your focus on Him rather than yourself in a practical way?
Stronger Jeans (optional): Use a concordance, topical Bible, or NET Bible tools to find other New Testament references to judgment and write down what you learn.
4. Responding to God: If a day of judgment came today, what would God say to you, both positive and negative? What things would cause you to shrink back in shame today if Jesus’ returned? Ask God for the grace to obey His law, not out of an attempt to gain his favor, but out of the love you feel because He has freed you!
This week we have two very different stories of prejudice. First, a pastor’s wife shares her story of being judged by her age. The second story concerns the kinds of prejudice that we often encounter in our churches—and our hearts.
Age is a funny thing. For so many years of my life, I wanted to be older. Older so that I could date, drive, go to college, marry, have children, etc. you name it. Older so that people wouldn’t brush me off as too young to know what I was talking about. My husband and I are in ministry. I am the “pastor’s wife”. I recently had a respected Christian woman from a church where we were on staff quip all too easily about my husband and me, “But they are so young, what do they know about ministry?” Here I was again, wishing I was older, so that the women in the church would think my words mattered and my husband respected. When would I ever be old enough? Was it when my kids would be in high school? Or do I have to have an empty nest?
My husband and I have recently been reconnected with the pastor that played a huge role in our spiritual growth in college. He had heard of what the Lord was doing in the church we are now serving. He said some words that have felt so good to hear, “I am proud of you, sincerely. Anybody who stays in the "good fight" even when the devil tries so hard to take us out is worthy of respect...” And there it was…a pastor who mentored us and married us was respecting us. I had to hold back the tears as I realized how much those words meant to me.
We all believe the Lord when He says, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart (I Samuel 16:7).” But to actually put it into practice is another thing. As much as being dismissed because of my age has hurt me, I am convicted to realize my own tendencies. Do I listen to counsel from a woman younger than me the same way I do an older woman? No, I am ashamed to say that I don’t, and I should. Though age brings with it great experience, it is not the final test as to the worth of someone’s words. If the Lord thought it acceptable to speak through a donkey (Numbers 22:1-38), I must not dismiss the counsel of my younger sisters in Christ.
Right now there is a man who has been coming on and off to the church for worship over the last year and a half. He looks like he doesn't care about his appearance. His hair is wild with a wild beard. He has a belly, and his pants don't hitch up over his belly. He wears old ragged looking t-shirts that don't completely cover his rounded flesh. He has very poor social skills. He had an abusive father, an absent mother, was in the "slow" class in school, and has gone from one manual labor job to another over his working years (he is 45 years old). He is a single person.
When he first came to the church, people were mildly friendly to him. But when he kept coming, and when he started coming to events, Bible studies, and wanted to help with service projects, I noticed people keeping their distance, ignoring him, etc. I have been interested and frustrated at what I have observed. So, it was okay when he was just a strange visitor - but it's not okay when he says, "I want to be part of this family." Granted, he is definitely not the usual kind of guy, who sits in the pews in my rural congregation, and I personally feel a bit uncomfortable around him - but I believe God is stretching this body of believers to truly become the body of Christ.
14 Hiebert, 149.
15 Hiebert, 147.
16 Moo, 106.
17 Moo, 112.
18 Hiebert, 167.
19 Moo, 117.
“For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead.”
James 2:26 (NET)
I don’t have a green thumb. I know little about plants at all. What I do know is the obvious—when the plant is dead, there are no flowers or fruit of any kind. I have lots of experience with dead plants! When the plant is alive and healthy, it produces something!
James says that faith is like a plant. Faith that is truly alive produces something! The evidence is there!
Read James 2:14-26.
1. What would you say is the theme of this passage? To find the theme is not to find something hidden, but to find what is repeated over and over! What does James repeat here?
This passage on its face seems to contradict other scriptures, particularly some that Paul wrote. Because we recognize that the Bible is God’s word, we believe that there is a way to understand both without seeing them as contradictions. Today we want to see what Paul and other biblical authors have said so that later this week we can see how James relates. Understanding what they are saying allows us to live in alignment with God’s purposes and plans for our lives—the best place to be!
Our reading deals with that biblical term “salvation.” Salvation involves a work of God where He brings people into relationship with Him. When we are “saved” from a flood, a drowning situation, etc., we are physically removed from the situation. We live because we are rescued from danger. When we are saved spiritually, God rescues us from the danger that we are in—the danger of being dead spiritually; the danger of not being truly alive as God’s creatures; the danger of living outside of the purposes of God; the danger of choosing to live eternally apart from the love of the Creator—and brings us into His own family where He cares for us and gives us great life purpose.
1. Read these passages about salvation and write down how someone gets the salvation that we just talked about:
a. Rom. 3:28 (“Declared righteous” suggests that God announces that we are in right relationship with Him, which happens in salvation.)
b. Gal. 2:16 (To be “justified” connotes that same declaration of righteousness that God gives those whom He rescues.)
c. Acts 16:31
2. Why can we not save or rescue ourselves? Read these verses and write down your thoughts.
a. Isa. 53:6
b. Rom. 3:23; 6:23
3. God loves you so much that He reaches out in love to rescue you from danger and death when you are unable to save yourself. Read these verses about His love and write down your thoughts and feelings as you read them:
a. Rom. 5:6-8
b. John 3:16-17
c. 1 John 4:9-10
Stronger Jeans (optional): Use a concordance and Greek dictionary or bible.org to study the word salvation and look up other New Testament references to it.
4. Sharing Question: When did you first hear about the love of God reaching out to rescue you? Share that memory and your feelings about it with your group.
5. Responding to God: Respond to God’s love by writing a prayer or singing Him a love song. If you are familiar with songs of the church, you may want to sing “I Love You, Lord” or “Amazing Grace”.
Reread James 2:14-17.
1. What kind of faith does James describe here, faith that is alive or dead? How does he illustrate it?
2. Think about this illustration. How does it make James’ point about living faith?
In v. 14, James says, “Can this kind of faith save him?” The note in the NET Bible says this: “Grk ‘the faith’ referring to the kind of faith just described; faith without works. The article here is anaphoric, referring to the previous mention of the noun pistis in the verse.”20 It goes on to say that the way the Greek is written, the answer is expected to be “no”.
3. Dead faith cannot save; true faith is alive. Life is often used to describe salvation. Read Jesus’ words in these verses, and write down what He says about salvation and life. How do they relate to James?
a. John 3:3-7
b. John 3:16
c. John 4:14
d. John 5:24
e. John 6:51
f. John 10:27-30
Stronger Jeans (optional): Look up the meaning of the Greek word for faith and other cross-references in the New Testament. Write down your insights.
4. Sharing Question: Rom. 8:31-39 has a similar message to Jn. 10:27-30. Read it as an encouragement to your faith today. Share how the certainty of God’s love makes you feel.
5. Responding to God: Use Rom. 8:31-39 as a basis for your prayer, thanking God for His great salvation that begins at the point of belief and continues throughout eternity.
Read James 2:14-19.
1. How does James make it clear in 2:18-19 that faith must be more than a “faith” that merely talks and expresses intellectual assent?
2. In v. 19 James is likely referring to the shema, one of the most basic beliefs of the Jews, his likely audience. Read the shema in Deut. 6:4 and copy it below.
There are many in our churches today who may be saying they have faith but who fail the test of true living faith that James describes—maybe even some of us. Perhaps our church culture or background involves quoting a creed, such as “The Apostles’ Creed”, in a similar way to the Jewish recitation of the shema, and we say the words with no more real faith than the demons have. When we partake of the bread and wine of communion, we are saying that we have believed in Jesus and partaken of His life when we may not have truly done so. Or perhaps we simply tell others that we are Christians and believe in Jesus without any real concern for the life that He asks us to live.
3. What warning does Paul give the Corinthians in 2 Cor. 13:5?
4. What tests of faith do you see in James 1:1-2:26?
Stronger Jeans (optional): Many scholars see 1 John as a test of the life of your faith. Read through it and consider that perspective. What tests do you see there?
5. Sharing Question: Have your words about Jesus ever been hollow and without life? If you grew up in the church, did you ever proclaim to believe with your words but not with your life? If so, share how God showed you that you failed the test.
6. Responding to God: Write an honest prayer before God. Talk to Him about the tests of faith that James talks about in this passage and where you truly are compared to his words.
Read James 2:20-24.
1. What person does James use first to illustrate his point? What works does he cite as proof of his faith?
2. Read the story of Abraham and Isaac in Gen. 22:1-14 and then the New Testament commentary on it in Heb. 11:17-19. Write down how you see Abraham’s faith.
Stronger Jeans (optional): Read your commentaries on Hebrews 11:17-19.
3. In Rom. 4:1-5 Paul also discusses Abraham’s faith. These verses refer back to Gen. 15:1-6. Read both of these passages. Again, Paul seems to contradict James. What are your thoughts about the problem at this point? You may want to review what you wrote down when you did Days 1-3 lessons. Take time to ask God to help you understand how the two are not contradictory. We’ll continue looking at it tomorrow also.
4. Read these passages written by Paul, and write down how these parallel rather than sound contradictory to what James says:
a. Rom. 1:5
b. Gal. 5:6
5. Sharing Question: What has changed in your life since you were rescued from death that shows your faith to others?
6. Responding to God: Write down a prayer that expresses your desire to show your faith to other people. How should you respond to God’s great gift?
Read James 2:20-26.
1. Rahab is the second person that James uses to prove that faith works out in action. Read her story in Joshua 2:1-16, and write down how you see her faith.
2. Read Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount in Mt. 7:21-27. How do they relate to James 2:14-26?
Stronger Jeans (optional): Read your commentaries on Mt. 7:21-27 and write down any insights that help you better understand this passage.
3. How do these verses help you understand how faith and works relate?
a. Eph. 2:8-10
b. 1 Thess. 1:2-3
c. Titus 2:14
As you think about how James relates to Paul, perhaps Moo’s comments will help:
Critical to understanding the argument of the section and integrating it successfully into a broader biblical perspective is the recognition that James is not arguing that works must be added to faith. His point, rather, is that genuine biblical faith will inevitably be characterized by works. Trying to add works to a bogus faith is an exercise in futility, for only by “accepting the implanted word” (1:21) and experiencing the inner transformation that it brings can one produce works pleasing to God.21
Alexander Ross also comments, saying that Paul and James “are not antagonists facing each other with crossed swords; they stand back to back, confronting different foes of the Gospel.”22
4. Think about what “foe of the gospel” James confronts as you go back through James 2:14-26. Write down an explanation of this Bible passage as if you had to explain it to someone who had never studied it.
5. Sharing Question: If you have been rescued, accepting God’s merciful gift of salvation through faith in Jesus, share a short version of your journey to true faith. If you have not, consider what is keeping you from that kind of faith.
6. Responding to God: If you have been rescued by God and brought into life, spend your prayer time thanking Him for that gift. If you have never come into life by believing on Jesus, realize that faith is a journey. Talk to God about where you are and ask Him to move you forward on that path. Talk to your small group leader about your journey. Ask her to pray for your understanding and faith.
We have two stories this week about salvation. The first involves the story of a woman who realized that others who call themselves Christians and believe that Jesus is God who died for them, may still be trusting that their works will earn them an eternal relationship with God. They don’t grasp the truth of James, that works are the evidence of salvation, not the cause of it. The second story is about a young woman’s journey of faith.
Years ago, I was very active youth group which was responsible for bringing me to faith in the Lord when I was in Jr. High. There I met and made instant friends with Carissa, who attended a different church than I did. We did everything together and had and still have a dear friendship. Until recently our religious differences had never been an issue.
Several months ago I had occasion to go to church with her. I was in total shock from the message of the sermon, which instructed the congregation that church attendance was required for salvation. While listening to this message I was stirring in my seat, not sure if I should stand and shout...."Wow you seem very confused....Jesus died for you already, don't think for an instant that you can do anything yourself to change that!" However, I sat there and bit my tongue.
As the service continued, the time for communion came, and I was not sure what to do. After asking a friend who indicated that I should participate, I proceeded up to receive communion. Well, Carissa informed me after church in a very blunt strict way that I am not welcome to receive communion there. My heart was totally broken that she believed that the rules of her church excluded me from being her sister in God.
At that moment I realized that she believed that she and her church were the only ones going to heaven because they followed their rules and obligations made by man. What I heard that day was not about faith in Jesus but about doing enough good works to earn God’s favor. I also knew at that point that God had led me down the right road to this point because everything I knew to be true just came flowing out of me to her in response. With a lot of tears we departed feeling a little beat up.
This event has put me in deep prayer for my friend. She later wrote me a sweet note about how she was sorry and that she just wanted to share the "rules" of her church with me. Although we haven't talked much lately, my bitterness over the situation has diminished with much thought and mostly prayer. I know that she may want to complete the discussion we started and that God will speak through me. She may not agree with me, but I know we both believe that Jesus died for us. I believe that he did it all and that there is nothing else I can do for my salvation. Wow!! What a relief not to have all those burdens and guilt of my sins hanging over me. He has forgiven me already and has accepted me to join him when my day comes; no matter what I do today can't mess that up. I just want to live for Him!
I grew up in what I thought was a very "normal" family, even average to the point of boring. I grew up with both of my parents and my younger brother all living under one roof in a Dallas suburb. I was referred to as the "good kid" where as my younger brother was more the black sheep. I made good grades, usually A's, I was a ballet dancer, a softball player, a volleyball player, a basketball player, a singer in the choir and the teacher's pet -- how much more well rounded could I get? My parents would tell you that they're "good people", and even today I would agree with that. They have good work ethic, always had a job and provided the necessities for my brother and me, donate used clothing and occasionally money to charity, you know, the basic responsible citizens. The only thing really different from my friends’ homes was that my parents often invited friends over and there was usually a party at our house on the weekend including alcohol, but no drugs, and after all, most adults drank a little, right? Besides, that just meant that all my friends wanted to spend the night at my house because there was always something fun going on and we always had good junk food.
Well, one summer when I was 13, two of my best friends (twin sisters) invited me to church camp. We were going to sleep in cabins and play games and do a lot of outdoor activities--that sounded like great fun to me. I was also told that we were going to do some Bible study things and I was totally fine with that, too. After all, my family believed that there was a God. I had once asked my mom what religion we were and her reply was, “ . . . (long pause of silence). . . uhh, Christian, I guess,” so I should fit in other than not knowing very many people. The next week changed my life forever. ~Never underestimate the power of inviting someone to church~
I spent the first few days of camp having fun and getting to know people. But with each passing day I was remembering my childhood fear of death and always wondering what happened afterwards. As a young child I would sometimes cry myself to sleep because I was so scared of not knowing what was beyond death, and I remembered my parents not having an answer to that fear. But with each Bible study and worship session we had at camp, I was finding answers that no one had been able to give me before. It was the first time in my life that I had heard of eternal life, salvation, grace, and the sacrificial Lamb. I was captivated by all of this information and I couldn’t wait to learn more. One of the things that made a huge impression on me was the older high school guys. During the worship sessions these guys that were several years older, twice my size, and very tough on the outside, would break down and cry and talk about how grateful they were that Jesus died for their sins. The display of such raw emotion from all these big, tough guys was absolutely dumbfounding and made it all that more real to me. I was repeatedly asked if I was ready to “accept Christ into my heart” but I still felt like I was just getting a grasp on the whole concept and I didn’t want to leap into anything just because of an emotional high. I knew that my decision better be one that I was prepared to live out for the rest of my life, this was no light subject. I finished the week of camp without accepting Christ, but thirsting for more of this information and wanting desperately to better understand the Bible.
I spent the next few months going to church on Sundays and Wednesdays with those same friends who invited me to church and learned more and more each week. I wanted to make sure I knew exactly what I was dealing with before I turned my soul over to it. At first it was hard to understand that I was sinner daily, not just occasionally. I was accustomed to being the good kid, and good at just about everything that I did. I didn’t lie and steal like my brother. I didn’t cuss and drink like my parents. I wasn’t doing drugs and experimenting with sex like the kids at school. I tried to always be honest, do what I was told, and excel in everything. Sure, I messed up sometimes, but much less than everyone around me, or so it seemed. Maybe a couple of times a year my brother would make me so mad I let out a four-letter-expletive, or maybe I would not tell the whole truth about how late I stayed up on the phone on a school night, but that was about it and they were such trivial little things, really.
Slowly but surely I began to see how selfishly I lived my life. I made good grades to compete with my genius best friend, I tried to be a good athlete to satisfy my father, I stayed out of trouble to avoid punishment, I was living for my purposes and not God’s, that’s where the sin was coming from. That fall I accepted Christ as my savior and submitted my life to God at a volleyball tournament where I was pulled out of game and put on the bench. I had nothing else to do, just sitting there watching my teammates play the game I wanted to be in, so I started praying. At first I prayed for my team and that we would win, that kind of thing. But I began to feel like God was really listening to my prayer and that he was right there with me. I knew then my life needed to be lived according to a higher purpose and asked Him to reside in my heart. In contrast to how I was raised, I finally understood that good people don’t go to heaven, forgiven people do.
20 Note #4 in NET Bible, 2212.
21 Moo, 120.
22 Alexander Ross, The Epistles of James and John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1954), 53.
“From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. These things should not be so, my brothers and sisters.”
James 3:10 (NET)
“Nanny, nanny, boo boo!” I don’t think I really know what that means and am not even sure those are really the words that children use to taunt one another! But I do know that they represent the power of the tongue! This week James emphasizes the power over others that our words have—a true test of Blue Jean Faith! According to James, the tongue is hardest part of the body to control!
Read James 3:1-12.
1. What would you say is James’ main point in this section of his letter? Remember to look for repetition!
2. Today we will consider 3:1. What is James’ warning and how does it relate to the rest of the section?
3. What do these verses say about the place of teaching in the church?
a. Mt. 28:18-20
b. Acts 13:1-3
c. 1 Cor. 12:27-28
d. Eph. 4:11-12
4. What is the message in these verses for those who are gifted to teach?
a. Rom. 12:3-8
b. 1 Cor. 12:7
c. 1 Peter 4:10-11
5. What warning did Paul give those who wanted to teach in 1 Tim. 1:7? How does it relate to James’ warning?
Stronger Jeans (optional): Use your concordance or the NET Bible tools to find other New Testament references to teachers, teach, or teaching. Write down your insights and thoughts from these verses.
6. Sharing Question: How have you been influenced positively or negatively by a teacher—either in the church or even in a secular setting? What feelings did that person bring into your life with his or her words?
7. Responding to God: Spend time thanking God for the teachers who have influenced you most and pray specifically for them to be able to control their tongues in light of their influence over others. Write down your prayer.
Reread James 3:1-6.
1. What is James point about the tongue in vv. 2-5? Explain how the three illustrations relate to his point.
2. Which of the three illustrations helps you best understand his point? How did that one illustration help?
3. James emphasizes the power of words in v. 6. Summarize his message in your own words.
4. Read Gal. 5:19-21a, where Paul lists works of the flesh, in contrast to the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). Which of the works relate to our words? How?
Stronger Jeans (optional): Research horses and bits or ships and rudders to see what you learn about them that helps you understand these illustrations better.
5. Sharing Question: Give an example in your own life, without sharing names or identities, of a time when someone’s words impacted you in the way described in James 3:6.
6. Responding to God: Write a prayer for God to help you control your tongue so that you do not do what is described in 3:6.
Read James 3:1-12. Today we will focus on vv. 7-12.
1. What contrast does James use to make his point in vv. 7-8? What is the point?
2. What example of the misuse of words does James give in vv. 9-10? Why are these two utterances incompatible in light of vv. 11-12? (I hope you are working on learning James 3:10!)
3. Compare Jesus’ words in Mt. 12:33-37 with what James says in this passage on the tongue (3:1-12). Write down your insights.
4. What do you learn from Jesus in Mt. 5:21-26 about the seriousness of your words and about dealing with the sins of the tongue?
Stronger Jeans (optional): How does John 17 relate to this issue of our words against our fellow believers?
5. Sharing Question: Now, let’s tell the truth here! Have you ever been guilty, as I have, of somehow “cursing” someone and then coming to church and blessing God? How guilty did you feel? Write down some part of that story to share with your group. What should you have done differently in light of the Matthew passage you just read?
6. Responding to God: Spend time before God, asking Him to show you if there is anyone in your life to whom you need to confess your sin of “cursing” them before you come worship! Believe that God does forgive but He asks you to act to restore the relationship first. Write down your response to Him.
Read James 3:1-12.
1. James has previously mentioned the tongue. What did he say about it in 1:26? How does that verse relate to this entire section on the tongue?
2. The practical book of Proverbs has much to say about our words! Ask God to speak to you personally through these scriptures. Read them and write down the gist of the message and your insights. Note parallels to James.
a. Prov. 10:8
b. Prov. 10:11
c. Prov. 10:21
d. Prov. 11:9
e. Prov. 12:18
f. Prov. 12:25
g. Prov. 13:3
h. Prov. 16:27
i. Prov. 17:14
j. Prov. 18:7
k. Prov. 18:21
l. Prov. 26:22
3. Sharing Question: Which of the above scriptures was most meaningful to you? Why? Did God convict you of anything that you need to change in your communication with others?
Stronger Jeans (optional): Use your previous familiarity with the scriptures to think of biblical stories that relate to the use of words. Look them up and reread them.
4. Responding to God: Draw a picture (just do it!) of one of James’ illustrations in 3:1-12. Talk to God about anything that today’s lesson has surfaced in your life.
Reread James 3:1-12.
1. James says that we must use self-control over our tongues (3:2, 8). Let’s look at some other verses that deal with self-control. Write down your insights from each verse.
a. 1 Cor. 9:24-25
b. Gal. 5:22-23
c. 2 Tim. 1:7
d. 2 Tim. 3:1-3
e. 2 Peter 1:5-6
2. From the verses in the previous question, what would you say is the key to developing self-control in the area of the tongue? On what do you base that?
Stronger Jeans (optional): Use your study tools or a topical index or Bible to find verses that deal with the positive ways to use your tongue.
3. Sharing Question: What is the primary message that God has given you this week about your own life? Share one thing that you intend to change about your words or your dependence on God.
4. Responding to God: Write a prayer or poem committing to that one thing that you shared in the sharing question.
This week’s story highlights the destructive power of the tongue and the forgiveness necessary to respond as God desires. If you need to forgive someone who has hurt you with unkind words, you may want to check out the four promises of forgiveness from Peacemaker Ministries.23
I was once had a very close friend in my church who had a leadership position in one of the ministries in the church where I was also serving as a volunteer. On this particular day she was assigned as a greeter; instead, this friend came downstairs and began to help me with my duties. I approached her and told her that I needed her to greet the people in her assigned area. At this point, she turned on me and began to call me names, etc. I was very stunned as I thought we were friends and from the things she was saying to me, it was very obvious to me that not only did she not consider me to be a friend, she did not even like me.
I was devastated and sought counsel from godly people. One of those told me that I needed to shoulder the responsibility, die to self, and apologize to her. This was one of the most difficult things I have ever done. I went to her house and apologized for having upset her and asked her to forgive me. She said she forgave me but she continued to berate me. Over the months, I kept reading scriptures on forgiveness. I would tell God that I had forgiven her but then in my mind I would rehearse how she had wronged me and not the reverse. No matter how hard I prayed and how often I made the statement, “I choose to forgive,” I got no peace on the matter. Finally about one year after the incident, I wrote her an e-mail (she no longer was speaking to me) and told her how she had hurt me and the difficulty I was having with forgiveness. I told her that I was choosing to forgive her for hurting me whether she forgave me or not and at that point, I found peace. She never responded and continued to walk past me without speaking. That was 5 years ago. I have been invited to many functions where she is present. I have chosen to be pleasant to her and to continue to pray for her.
As I went to write this story I had to search my heart again to make certain that I had truly forgiven her. I began to ask myself if I truly loved her with the love that Jesus commanded of us. I had to go back to a period of repentance until I was certain that I do love her and could in fact be friends with her again should the opportunity present itself. The interesting thing is that the day I spent this time in repentance and prayer about her for this article, I received my first Christmas card from her in a number of years. Perhaps God is working in more than one heart on this issue.
I do know that the tongue can wreck friendships and bring great pain in the process. I probably spoke more sharply to her than I should have as I was under a great deal of stress that day. I never cease to be amazed at how deeply this one shattered friendship hurt me.
23 www.peacemaker.net/site/c.aqKFLTOBIpH/b.1172255/apps/s/content.asp?ct=1464677 or use their website for other help with conflict at www.peacemaker.net. If you need to confront someone who has offended you, check out the biblical guidelines at www.peacemaker.net/site/c.aqKFLTOBIpH/b.1172255/apps/s/content.asp?ct=1245215.
“But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, accommodating, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial, and not hypocritical.”
James 3:17 (NET)
Although each Christmas we sing the angel’s words of peace on earth and talk about Jesus being the Prince of Peace, there is no peace. Our world is full of conflict and war; we watch and wish for the day of peace to actually come.
When I think about peace, I not only wish for peace on earth but also peace between people. It seems that our lives are also full of conflict and strife. More and more I see the effects of sin on our relationships with others—marriages broken by selfishness; extended families torn by conflict; and friendships marred by jealousy and ambition.
Someday, Jesus will return and bring in the peace for which we all long. Until that day, however, we are to work to bring His peace into our lives and the lives of those whom we touch—another practical aspect of Blue Jean Faith!
Read James 3:13-18. Today we will focus on v. 13.
1. What proves that a person is wise (3:13)? Be specific in your description.
2. What do you learn about “gentleness” (NET, NASB), “humility” (NIV), or “meekness” (KJV, NKJV) from these verses?
a. Mt. 11:29
b. 2 Cor. 10:1
c. Mt. 5:5
Stronger Jeans (optional): Use your study tools or bible.org to look up the Greek word for gentleness or meekness in James 3:13. What do you learn?
What is wisdom anyway? Ethel Barrett puts it as “the ability to take the facts and relate them to your life, to put them into action.”24 Hiebert says that the word wise “described the individual who possessed moral insight and skill in deciding practical issues of conduct.”25 Wisdom is about Blue Jean Faith—it’s practical!
3. How are James 3:13 and James 2:14-18 similar?
4. What do these cross-references say about the importance of living out the kinds of good deeds that would prove wisdom?
a. 1 Peter 2:12
b. 1 Peter 3:1-2
c. 1 Peter 3:16
5. Sharing Question: Perhaps James is challenging you with his question in 3:13. In what areas have you considered yourself wise? Your parenting, your success at work, your marriage, your money? (Let’s face it; we all have areas where we feel we are smart! Or at least smarter than others J) Do you pass James’ test for wisdom? Why or why not?
6. Responding to God question: Talk to God about what He has shown you today about wisdom. What area of your life does not reflect that kind of wisdom? Write your thoughts down below.
Review James 3:13-18.
1. Contrast verses 13 and 14.
2. Contrast vv. 14-16 with what you learn about the character of God in 1 Cor. 14:33.
Stronger Jeans (optional): Use your study tools to look up the meaning of “bitter envy” and “selfishness” that are found in 3:14. (See the next question for these words in other translations.) Write down any additional insights that you receive.
3. Sharing Question: Most of the translations of 3:14 use the terms “bitter jealousy” or “bitter envy” and either “selfishness” or “selfish ambition” to describe this kind of wisdom. Tell about a situation in your own life when this kind of heart attitude threatened to overtake you. In other words, either someone else mistreated you because of his/her bitter jealousy or selfish ambition or you had those feelings yourself. Maybe it was a situation of competition or maybe someone was envious.
4. What is the source of this kind of wisdom (3:15)? And what is its outcome (3:16)?
The word translated in James 3:16 as “disorder” (NET, NASB, NIV) or “confusion” (KJV, NKJV) is another form of the word in Jam. 1:8 and 3:8, which describes a double-minded person and a double-speaking tongue.
5. Read all three of the verses just mentioned. What similarities do you see among the ideas in the use of this word in all three situations? How does this help you better understand the outcome of earthly wisdom?
6. Responding to God: Write down your feelings about what God has shown you today concerning earthly wisdom. Perhaps you need to confess an area where you have been guilty of earthly wisdom. Talk to God about your insights and responses.
I have put enough work for two days of study below. I didn’t divide it because it all runs together as we focus on the kind of wisdom that we need for a true Blue Jean Faith. When you have done as much as you can time-wise on day three, put it aside and complete it the next day. Be sure and reread all the verses when you begin again!
Reread James 3:13-18. After seeing yesterday what earthly wisdom is, today and tomorrow we will focus on what true wisdom looks like in vv. 17-18.
1. What contrasts do you see between the wisdom of 3:14-16 and the wisdom of 3:17-18?
2. Compare the characteristics of the wisdom in James 3:17-18 with Gal. 5:22-23. What does the passage in Galatians add to your understanding of such wisdom, if anything?
3. Read the beatitudes in Mt. 5:3-12. Write down any parallels to the characteristics of heavenly wisdom in James.
4. Sharing Question: Share about a time when God gave you the wisdom that you needed in a specific situation. As you look at this passage, you can see that it corresponds to the character of His wisdom. How does it make you feel that God did this for you?
Stronger Jeans (optional): Look up meanings of the characteristics of heavenly wisdom. Use all the extra time you have for both days on this assignment.
1. What do you learn about true godly wisdom from the following verses? How do they relate to this passage in James?
a. Prov. 9:10
b. Prov. 3:13-18
2. How does Rom. 12:3 help you better understand the characteristic in James 3:17 translated “accommodating” (NET), “submissive” (NIV), “reasonable” (NASB) or “willing to yield” (NKJV)?
3. What do these verses reveal about mercy (v. 17)?
a. Psalm 103:8
b. Eph. 2:4
c. Mt. 23:23
4. I entitled this lesson “faith that brings peace”. How does James 3:13-18 relate to peace?
5. Sharing Question: Chances are that most of us are currently seeking guidance about something going on in our lives. Think of one thing for which you need guidance; make a list of possible courses of action. Then, compare that list to the characteristics and outcomes of the two kinds of wisdom. Does this point you to a specific direction? How?
6. Responding to God: Write a prayer or poem to God, thanking Him for the greatness of His wisdom. Use this passage and go through the characteristics one by one as you talk to Him.
Before we leave our focus on God’s wisdom versus the world’s wisdom, I want you to read the story of a woman who forsook God’s wisdom and was almost destroyed by it; however, in God’s grace and mercy He continues to call her back to her love for Him and to His wisdom. Her story reminds us all that although God totally forgives us for turning away from His best for us, we may still have to deal with the consequences.
You never thought it could happen to you!! Well folks it does happen and usually at the wrong times. I was once a happy person. I loved life, family, God and friends. But something along the path of life changed that for me drastically. I cannot say this is a happy tale or will have a happy ending. But I can say that God is working overtime on my shriveled up soul.
The trouble all began this year about 6 months ago. I sought a path that led me to a dark period in my life. We will call it the rebellion of God’s wisdom. I am an at home mother and spend most of my days home bored to tears with housework and raising my son. I soon discovered online computer games and chat rooms. Well over time I had consumed my days with “entertaining” myself rather than being a mom and wife. I had made friends online and spent as much time “talking” to them as I could. I found tremendous joy in sharing my life with them. I had meaning and felt important to others, and soon discovered that I no longer felt lonely during the day but I did not see the consequences that were developing in my real life.
During all this time my house and family suffered for I ignored them and spent every moment I could spare filling my void with worldly attention and wisdom. Things such as you are beautiful, you owe it to yourself, it is ok to flirt with other men, its just a game it is not real were drilled into my heart. These things began to rot my soul. I tried to make it real since my loneliness in the real world was growing phenomenally. I resented my husband for not talking to me like I wanted and I began to shut him and my son out of my life. I felt miserable, not realizing it was because I was causing it. I sought solace in my “friends” online. I became depressed, angry, bitter, and hateful. I wanted out of the marriage so I could live my own life like I wanted to away from God and family. I ignored all the red flags that God was sending my way. I blamed God and my family for my feelings. Satan sure loved having his way with me during this time.
Our last study was hard to take for me because every lesson was saying the same thing over and over and over again. STOP what you are doing and anchor yourself in ME!!! Well I blatantly told God NO! I don’t want to quit this I feel happy when I am doing these things. But in my heart I knew I was wrong. Loudly he kept calling me to Him to return to his word and seek him for love and acceptance. Six months later still ignoring his call and wrapped in sin I realized something must be done. I was so willing to give up on everything and completely ruin my life.
Still ignoring God, I sought to have my husband fill the void. I confronted him on the issues that I was facing. I wanted to love him like I loved my online friends. I knew I had hurt him and that loving me would be a huge sacrifice for him. We were tired of living two different lives and trying to act like nothing was wrong. I was still trying to fill my life with something worldly though. I realized that even my beloved, kind wonderful husband cannot fill what I am missing no matter how hard he tries.
So this brings us to the present day experiences I am facing. I now realize that God’s wisdom is pure, good and does not place chains on you and that worldly wisdom binds you to a fate that tears you apart. I know this in my head but had purged it from my heart. So I have to fight very hard to reverse this process of lies and deceit that the world has placed upon me. I still find myself drawn to sin because lets face it sin is fun and easy…but it is also destructive. Doing the right thing is incredibly hard but in the end it will be worth everything.
For now the war rages on but I now have rediscovered my shield against the swords and daggers assaulting me. The word of God and his Spirit guards my very soul. Pray for me and my family as I enter into battle against Satan with Jesus and his Father by my side and His word leading me on the right paths.
Note from Kay: If you, like Mary, have followed the world’s wisdom and now find yourself having a hard time leaving where it has taken you, find support from other believers. Share your need with your small group and ask them to hold you accountable and to pray; recruit some prayer warriors to intercede for your spiritual battle; or perhaps, join a Celebrate Recovery group, such as the one we have here at our church. God has designed us to find support from one another when we are weak. Despite the fear of rejection that you may have as you think about sharing your situation, you must trust God for other women who will continue to love you and pray for your best. I so appreciate the courage it took for this woman to share her story!
Read James 4:1-3.
Some scholars feel that there is a break in thought between 3:18 and 4:1. Moo, however, has a different perspective, that the entire section of 3:13-4:12 is connected to peace.26
Stronger Jeans (optional): Look in any commentaries that you have. How does the author connect these passages or does he/she see a break here?
1. If this is one topic, as Moo says, how do you see 4:1-3 connect to the preceding paragraph in 3:13-18?
2. What is the origin of conflict according to 4:1? (Although he focuses on conflict within the church, the same principle applies to other conflicts.)
3. What are the two causes why these believers didn’t have what they desired (vv. 2-3)? What does Mt. 6:9-10 add to your understanding of why a prayer may not be answered?
4. Sharing Question: I know that many of you have been part of a church where conflict arose, perhaps within the entire church or within one ministry area or even a small group. Without giving a lot of information about it and certainly no names, what passions or desires contributed to it? Can you see any selfish desires behind some of what happened? What feelings did you have in the midst of this situation?
5. Sharing Question: What desire do you have right now that is not being fulfilled. Review question #25. Do any of these causes fit your situation? Consider Mt. 7:7-12 and share with your group what you need to do next.
6. Responding to God: Confess any lack of prayer or selfish desires that God has shown you. How should you pray about the situation in light of what you have seen today?
Kathy shares a story of conflict that came from the kind of desire that James describes.
A number of years ago a young family moved in across the alley from our family and we formed a friendship due primarily to the fact that we both had small children who played together. Our neighbor’s girls stair-stepped between our two older girls and there were many days spent playing together.
The mother of these little girls was a believer but despite our children’s friendship, ours as mothers just did not seem to develop beyond a superficial level. She was often critical of my children about little things and this puzzled me. One day as we were visiting in my den, this neighbor just blurted out, “Why does God love you more than He does me? You have a godly husband and everything is wonderful for you. My husband isn’t a believer and our marriage isn’t anything like yours.” Suddenly the distance and hostility I had felt from her made sense as the envy and jealously she had harbored against God and me came pouring out. I was able to share with her that God does not have favorites and that He is working in each believer’s situation for good.
We moved from our neighborhood shortly after this and it saddens me even now to realize that envy and coveting kept us from being the friends we could have been had that not been the case. I feel that we could have benefited greatly from sharing our lives together and growing in our understanding of the Lord’s work in both our lives. Unfortunately, that did not happen.
I trust that anyone reading this will examine your heart to make sure that envy and coveting are not keeping you from something that God would like to bring into your life to encourage and build you up, not tear you down.
24 Ethel Barrett, Will the Real Phony Please Stand Up? (Glendale, CA: Regal Books, 1977), 115.
26 Moo, 179.
“’God opposes the proud, but he gives grace to the humble.’
So submit to God. But resist the devil and he will flee from you.
Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.”
James 4:6b-8a (NET)
My family includes a number of graduates of Texas A&M University; my father, my daughter, my son, a brother-in-law, and a nephew and his wife all went to school there. Those of you from Texas probably know first-hand of the fierce loyalty that A&M elicits from its students and graduates. Being the child of an Aggie, I grew up singing the fight song and pulling for the then-always-losing football team. My Aggie loyalty is fierce, although I never went to school there.
As I write this in December 2006, we are looking forward to watching the Aggie football team play Cal in a bowl game. My daughter received her MBA from Cal so we wondered where her loyalties would lie in the game, but her allegiance to A&M is too overwhelming. When she had to make a choice, she had to choose the Aggies!
God calls us to total loyalty and complete allegiance to Him. We should look a bit like the Aggie fans—unquestionably loyal! No other love should compete with that love to God!
Review James 4:1-3, and read James 4:4-10.
1. James’ tone here is very harsh. Contrast the term he uses to address his audience here with those you find as you scan the book. Look again at the message of 4:4-10. Why may he use harsh terminology here?
We read 4:4 literally and wonder if there is a lot of adultery going on in the churches to which James writes, but the rest of the verse helps us see that this is spiritual adultery rather than physical adultery.
2. Look up the following verses to help you understand the biblical background for the use of this term in a spiritual sense. Write down your insights.
a. Isa. 54:5-6—addressed to Israel
b. Jer. 3:20
c. Mt. 12:38-39
What does it mean to be the “world’s friend” (4:4)? Keddie has a great explanation:
“Friendship with the world,” then, is when these inner desires and motives are in harmony with those of the world that does not know and does not want to know God. It is when we seek what the world seeks, when we want the riches that fade away, when we hunger for the praise of men that God says is a snare, when we much prefer the pleasures of ‘the old man with his affections and lusts’ to the righteousness of Christ—it is then that we know we are friends with the world and would rather not be distracted or interfered with by the God of the Bible.27
3. Now, explain James 4:4 in your own words as if you were explaining it to a friend who is confused.
4. Read these verses and write down how Israel’s adultery in the Old Testament times made God feel, knowing He must feel the same way when His New Testament people are not loyal to Him.
a. Jer. 2:11-13
b. Mt. 23:37-39
Because James 4:5 is a very difficult verse in Greek, it has been translated in varying ways. Moo helps us understand the two major ways of understanding this verse: “1. James is referring to God’s jealousy for his people: ‘God yearns jealously for the spirit that he has made to dwell in us’ (NRSV). 2. James is referring to the human tendency to be envious; the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely (NIV).”28
As you can see, these are two very different ideas. Read each with the first part of James 4:6. In the first idea, the greater grace is the ability that God gives us to overcome sin. If the second is correct, James is saying that God’s grace is sufficient to help us remain loyal to God alone.
Stronger Jeans (optional): Read any commentaries or study notes in a study Bible for further insight into James 4:5-6. Write down your thoughts about which translation you tend to accept based on the context.
5. Responding to God: Spend time with God asking Him to show you any disloyalty toward Him in your life. Are you the “world’s friend” in any way? Reread Keddie’s explanation on the previous page. Spend time before God just listening to what He says. Confess your disloyalty before Him and consider how you have made Him feel. Thank Him for His greater grace. Write down what He says to you.
6. Sharing Question: Share one thing with your small group that God showed you in your time with Him. Write down something that you intend to change because of it.
Read James 4:4-10.
1. According to 4:6, what kind of person is able to receive that greater grace of God? What descriptions of that kind of person do you see in vv. 7-10?
2. How does humility relate to the friendship with the world (v. 4) that commits adultery against God?
Stronger Jeans (optional): Go back and scan James and consider how humility relates to the other descriptions of faith in the true believer.
3. How do the following verses compare with James’ message in this part of his letter?
a. Ps. 18:27
b. Ps. 51:16-17
c. Ps. 138:6
d. Isa. 61:1
e. Zeph. 3:11-12
4. Sharing Question: Share about a time when you humbled yourself before God and received His grace for your situation, even if He didn’t deliver you from the consequences. What enabled you to recognize the pride in your heart?
5. Responding to God: Thank God for His grace and for His willing desire to give it freely to you when you humble yourself before Him. Is there a situation in your life right now where you need to humble yourself and accept His will and His wisdom rather than your own? Talk to Him about it and write down your thoughts in the form of a prayer or poem.
Read James 4:4-10.
Moo says that “to submit to God” means to place ourselves under his lordship and therefore to commit ourselves to obey him in all things.”29
1. Compare 1 Peter 5:5-9 with this passage and write down your insights.
James 4:4-10 is a call for repentance from God’s people (meaning us) who have allowed the world to encroach upon their loyalty to God.
Stronger Jeans (optional): Study the term repentance. Look up both Old Testament and New Testament verses to see how they use the word.
2. How does Isa. 57:15 encourage you to humble yourself and repent of anything in your life that fails to put God first?
3. Sharing Question: Is there any area of your life where you are resisting God’s lordship rather than resisting the devil? What one practical thing can you do to help reverse that? It may be memorizing some scriptures that relate; you may need to turn off the television or computer; perhaps, you should refuse to listen to gossip or criticism.
4. Read Ps. 51, David’s humble confession of his adultery. Reread James specific instructions for humbling yourself before God in 4:7-9. Which of these do you see David do in this psalm? How?
5. Responding to God: Use Psalm 51 as a pattern to confess whatever you wrote in question #14. Write it down below.
Read James 4:11-12.
1. How do you see these verses relate in the context of the verses that precede them?
Stronger Jeans (optional): Read Lev. 19:15-18, James 4:11-12, and James 2:8. How do they relate?
2. What reasons does James give as to why we should not slander or speak against each other?
3. How does Mt. 7:1-5 relate to what James says here?
The NET Bible translates James 4:11 “Do not speak against one another” while the NIV uses the word “slander” and the KJV says “speak evil”.
Keddie explains that this doesn’t just refer to verbal abuse, but that it includes more:
What the law calls defamation of character and what we call smearing another’s good name, or character-assassination. It is every statement that is made with the purpose of belittling someone, or besmirching his or her reputation, and encompasses everything from out-and-out lies to veiled innuendoes, and even includes true statements when these are told only to hurt the person about whom they are made.30
4. Sharing Question: Have you ever been the brunt of that kind of speech? Without sharing the details of who said what, share with your group how it made you feel.
5. Responding to God: Write a prayer confessing any of the kinds of speaking against others that Keddie described. According to Mt. 5:21-24, you may need to go to someone and ask for forgiveness.
Read James 4:13-17.
1. Reread James 1:10-11. Compare James’ message in these two passages.
2. James is not saying that planning is wrong, but attitudes may be. What is wrong with the attitude of the person described?
3. What do you learn from Paul’s attitude in the following verses that relates to this passage in James?
a. Acts 18:21
b. Rom. 1:10
c. 1 Cor. 4:19
d. 1 Cor. 16:7
4. Sharing Question: Have you ever been guilty of leaving God out of your plans? If so, what happened? How did you feel?
Moo warns us against thinking that James is telling us to focus on using specific words when we talk about the future: “James attributes no magical significance to the words themselves. ‘If the Lord wills’ can become nothing more than a glib formula without any real meaning.”31
5. What insights do you receive from Mt. 25:31-46 into James 4:17?
Stronger Jeans (optional): How does the story of the Good Samaritan relate to James 4:17? Find it with your concordance and read it. Write down your insights.
6. Sharing Question: What plans are you making for the future right now? How much time have you spent asking God for His will in the matter and searching His word for guidance? Is there anything you need to change in your attitude? Be transparent with your group and ask them for prayer about this area.
7. Responding to God: Draw a picture of you, your future, and God. Where do they all fit? Talk to God about where He is in the picture.
Val’s story relates to both last week’s lesson and this week’s lesson. Following the world’s wisdom and pride brought difficult consequences to her family, which humbled them; that opened the door for the blessing and grace of God.
My husband and I were raised in Christian homes and based our marriage on the biblical principles we were taught both at home and in church. As a young couple with babies it was natural and easy to follow those principles, keep a tight budget and prioritize our needs/wants, etc. (Things were pretty basic back then!) However, as the years progressed and my husband’s career progressed, we slowly began to listen to the insidious voices of the world telling us “you deserve this”, “treat yourself to the best”, etc. We listened to our children’s voices saying “everyone else has one”, etc. Before we realized it we were making choices to “keep up with the Jones” instead of following the principles the Bible had taught us. We knew the truth, but turned a deaf ear to it! Even though we were entrenched in church, even holding offices of leadership, we were at the same time trying to keep our children dressed in designer wear like everyone else, choosing only the top camps for them, and our vacations had to be “over the top”—not the familiar beach trip we always had loved and looked forward to each year.
We went through the motions of making investments of the financial resources God was providing and we were following the advice of a faith-based financial firm; however, we were drawn to this group by acquaintances following a prosperity-based gospel and living “well” (at the time we did not know that “well” meant living way beyond their means!) We were praying about each investment, but our hearts were not tuned in to hear God’s wisdom or will for us—we just continually asked Him to bless our choices. Things seemed really good when suddenly the bottom fell out of the market where the bulk of our investments had been made. All our plans for college money, bigger and better homes, cars, etc. were shattered in one swift change of fortune. It was a real awakening for us as we wrestled with God emotionally and He began to show us the errors of our ways and the false hopes placed in the wrong things and for the wrong reasons. We also realized how foolishly we had jeopardized God’s “best” for our family as we indulged ourselves and our children with things of the world.
We confessed our sinful ways to God and to our children, who were nearing college at the time. God was gracious and brought us together as a family committed to do our best to start again—this time under the strong guidance of God’s wisdom, not our own. Almost immediately the blessing of God began to manifest itself in unexpected ways. It was not an instant success story with a fortune dropping from the sky, but it was a daily blessing to meet our needs and help us grow in our faith each time we recognized the hand of God in our situation. With the reality that I would need to go to work full time in order to meet the college expenses, I was blessed with a good management position near home and with wonderful people. (They hired me because they were familiar with my administrative skills with an area women’s bible study group and with various positions held in church—not reasons the world would look at as “worthy” of the position.) A true blessing of God that lasted for ten years when, by my choice and God’s leading, I was able to retire from the job entirely to deal with our aging parents’ needs. It was a true blessing to be able to be there for them as they had been there for us through all our early years. (The following year that firm merged with a larger one and split in many directions—another blessing of God to save me the headaches that would have meant as a manager!)
Our children took on extra jobs while attending college, but never had to miss out on any activity of meaning to them. In fact, in some instances, because of their job positions they were able to be placed in the midst of dignitaries and future acquaintances that would prove very advantageous to future education and job prospects. Another blessing from God. Every time an unexpected expense would arise, the money would be provided in a way only God could have provided. We all were becoming more aware of God’s hand in our lives on a daily basis and we saw our faith grow measurably. We were given opportunity time after time to testify to His goodness and faithfulness to meet our needs. We all became bargain shoppers—and learned what fun it can be—and we all became better managers of God’s gifts to us. We began to invest more in God’s Kingdom work and to personally invest ourselves and our time to help the less fortunate. We had been given a lesson in priorities by God’s wisdom that we had to share with others. Life had more meaning than ever before!!
Today we see the fruits of that period in our lives and are thankful that God took a firm grip of our family and saved us from further destruction. We see our adult children making wise decisions and following after Christ in their lives and marriages. We see them instilling God’s principles in their children and making the difficult calls in guiding them along the way because they know it is what they must do to give them God’s best in the long run of life. The lies of the world are out there to entice and snatch us from the ways of wisdom and they are easy to follow if we don’t ask God daily to help us to see with His eyes what His best is for us. God is faithful and He heaps undeserved grace on us daily. Living in that knowledge is true wisdom that gives true meaning to life. We thank Him for teaching us His Truth.
27 Gordon J. Keddie, The Practical Christian: The message of James (Darlington, Eng.: Evangelical Press, 2000), 158.
28 Moo, 188.
29 Moo, 192.
30 Keddie, 166.
31 Moo, 206.
“You also be patient and strengthen your hearts, for the Lord’s return is near.”
James 5:8 (NET)
As a child, I had some out-of-town relatives who often came for weekend visits. I always looked forward to their coming because we did some fun things and I usually stayed up later than my usual bedtime. However, I don’t think my mother was so excited about their stays. She had to do a lot of extra work after teaching school all week; she and my dad slept on the extremely uncomfortable couch because we didn’t have an extra bedroom; and it seemed that she cooked for days while this couple helped very little. Her perspective was very different from mine.
As we look at this section of James, we see two groups of people who have different perspectives of the future: those who ignore the coming of the Lord and those who look forward to it because it will bring the peace, rest, and blessing that this life doesn’t give.
Read James 5:1-6, which focuses on the first group.
In chapter 4 James dealt with believers who needed to repent. Now, at the beginning of chapter 5, he turns to a group of people who do not follow Jesus. His words become far harsher—much like those of the Old Testament prophets announcing doom.
1. How are the attitudes of these rich people similar to the attitudes of the believers in 4:13-17?
2. James tells these rich to mourn and weep, words often used by the Old Testament prophets. Read these references and write down the reasons why the people were mourning and weeping.
a. Isa. 13:6
b. Isa. 15:1, 3
c. Amos 8:2-3
3. How are Jesus’ words in Lk. 6:24-25 similar to James’ words to the rich?
Stronger Jeans (optional): Read about the sheep and goat judgment in Mt. 25:31-46 and consider how it relates to James, particularly his words in 5:1-6.
We saw James address some rich people within the congregation in 1:10-11, so we know that rich people can follow Jesus, although it is hard (Mt. 19:23). Sometimes the term “rich” is used to refer to those who are rich but who are unrighteous, living for themselves rather than for God; that seems to be the way that Jesus uses the term in these verses in Luke.
4. How does Ps. 37:16-17 relate to James’ warnings?
Tomorrow we will look specifically at the sins of the rich people addressed in James, but we don’t want to quit today without considering some application from these verses. Why would James speak to a group of unbelievers who would not even hear his message? Calvin suggested two basic reasons: 1) so that Christians would not envy rich people, and 2) so that Christians could bear the injustices of the rich, knowing that the day would come when God would right all wrongs.32
5. Sharing Question: What do you envy about those who have more than you do? How does this passage help you with those feelings?
6. Responding to God: Spend time simply focusing on the fact that the day will come when God does right all wrongs. Thank Him that someday what seems very wrong about our world will be fixed. Write your thoughts and feelings below.
Reread James 5:1-6. In our study yesterday we focused on the fact that God will judge the rich unbeliever. Today we are going to look more specifically at their sins.
1. What were these rich landowners doing wrong? It is not the fact of their wealth but their attitudes and the use of their riches that he condemns. What specifics does James give?
2. How do these verses relate to the sins James attributes to these rich people?
a. Deut. 24:14-15
b. Jer. 22:13
c. Mal. 3:5
d. Jam. 2:8
Although James addresses the unbelieving rich here, we can commit similar sins. Those of us who live in the U.S. are very guilty of having materialistic mindsets and of thinking that the things we hoard and on which we selfishly spend money are “needs”. Moo says, “In the western world, where amassing material wealth is not only condoned but admired, we Christians need to come to grips with this point in James and ask ourselves seriously: When do we have too much?”33
3. What is Jesus’ message to His followers in Mt. 6:19-21 about material things?
4. Sharing Question: What are you hoarding on earth? What are you amassing for yourself—clothing, stocks, savings, jewelry, beautiful things, etc.? What is your motive—fear, envy, security, selfishness? How is this in opposition to Jesus’ words in Mt. 6:25-34? What do you need to do about it—maybe give something away?
We know that God’s names are indicative of certain characteristics of His person. In 5:4 James uses the name Lord Sabaoth or Lord of hosts.
5. Psalm 80 has a number of references to the Lord of hosts. The NET Bible translates the term as “invincible warrior”. Look at Ps. 80:1, 4, 7, 14, 19. What characteristics of God seem prominent? How would they apply to the context of James 5:4?
Stronger Jeans (optional): Read in your Bible resources about the Lord of hosts, or find cross-references that use that name. Write down your insights.
6. Responding to God: Consider one area of your life where you need to turn to God as your Lord of hosts. Write a prayer or poem expressing your feelings toward Him as Lord of hosts.
Read James 5:7-12. Be sure and learn 5:8 for encouragement when you need it!
For two days we have looked at the prophetic warnings for the unbelieving rich land-owners who ignored to their peril the love of Jesus and His return. We now consider the second group of people. Rather than ignoring the coming of Christ and His judgment, this group expected it! James continues to deal with having a Blue Jean Faith, one that lasts despite the circumstances!
1. James asks believers to show patience in the face of persecution and injustice from others (the context suggests the treatment of the rich land-owners whom he just addressed as one example). What illustration of the kind of patience James asks believers to show does he use (v.7)? How does that illustration parallel his instruction to be patient?
The word for patience here is different from the one we considered in James 1:3-4, 12. Here the Greek word is makrothusesate, which means long-tempered.34 Tasker helps us understand that the word “denotes not so much the brave endurance of afflictions and the refusal to give way before them even under pressure, as the self-restraint that enables the sufferer to refrain from hasty retaliation. The opposites of ‘patience’ in this sense are wrath and revenge.”35
Barrett says it very bluntly: “’Be patient when people abuse you,’ James is saying (verses 7-9)—and the kind of patience he is talking about is self-restraint. It means ‘no retaliation.’”36
2. The same Greek word for patience in James 5:7-8 is used in the LXX (the Septuagint, which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament), as well as in other New Testament passages. Read these verses and write down your insights into this kind of patience:
a. Pr. 14:29
b. Pr. 15:18
c. Pr. 19:11
d. 1 Thess. 5:14-15
e. 1 Pet. 2:20
Stronger Jeans (optional): This kind of patience is spoken of God. Read these verses and write down your insights: Ps. 86:15; 103:8; Jer. 15:15; Rom. 2:4: 9:22. You may need to look up the verses in several translations.
3. Sharing Question: Share about a time when you were treated wrongly and you failed to restrain yourself. What were the negative consequences?
4. What are the believers instructed to do in the midst of injustice and persecution in James 5:8? What is the “why” of that instruction? How does that motivate you to obey?
5. Sharing Question: Have you been exposed to much previous teaching on the return of Jesus? If so, how has it changed your responses to others, if at all? Is there one person with whom you struggle most to be long-suffering? How should you change your thinking pattern in order to be patient with him or her?
6. Responding to God: Talk to God about your desire to develop the kind of forbearance or patience that He shows. Talk to Him about the specific person that you mentioned in the previous question. Write your prayer.
Review James 5:7-12 and focus on vv. 9-11.
1. When we deal with any difficulties in our own situations, we are tempted to turn on those around us to blame them, especially when we cannot blame anyone else! What warning does James give about that problem?
2. What two other examples of patience does James give to help believers deal with difficulties that come from other people (vv. 10-11)?
Stronger Jeans (optional): What do you know from your previous Bible study about the patience, or long-suffering of the prophets? Review the story of Jeremiah, who is a perfect example of what James describes here.
If you are familiar with the story of Job, you realize that he questioned God; he was angry about his situation; and he wasn’t patient with other people. It is encouraging to me, though, that despite those things, he is an example of patience. Maybe our definitions of patience are not complete!
3. Anyway, look at these verses and write down what you do learn from Job’s example of endurance or patience:
a. Job 1:21 (note the context of 1:13-22)
b. Job 2:10 (read 2:9)
c. Job 13:15
d. Job 19:25
4. Sharing Question: How have you been blessed (5:11a) in the past as you dealt patiently, in a long-suffering way, with someone who was not treating you well or justly? How did you feel?
5. Responding to God: Write a prayer, poem, or song based on James 5:11 and the mercy and compassion of God.
Read James 5:7-12. Remember that you need to read the verses in context.
Some scholars attach v. 12 to the preceding paragraph (5:7-11), and others put it with the following paragraph. I am sure that you have noticed that James does jump around with his topics, and a verse often seems disconnected with what is around it. I put v. 12 in this lesson because in my opinion it connects better here.
1. Do you see anything that precedes or follows v. 12 that would connect it either way? If so, what?
2. James gives his readers basically one instruction here stated in both a positive and a negative way. Write it in your own words.
3. How do these verses parallel or clarify James’ instruction in v. 12?
a. Mt. 5:33-37
b. Mt. 23:16-22 (At this time there was popular Jewish teaching that if you swore by anything that did not directly name God, you weren’t bound by your oath.)37
Some have taken James’ words to mean that Christians should not swear an oath, even in a court or other legal situation. Some see it as dealing with voluntary oaths only or those that are attempts to avoid being truthful.38 Certainly, if we followed James’ instructions, no one would have to question the truth of our statements because everything we said would be true and we would be faithful to it. I see this topic to be very “blue jean.” It is so very practical!
Stronger Jeans (optional): Study other biblical references to oaths. Use a concordance, etc. What do you learn?
4. Sharing Question: Has someone ever made you a promise or at least by their words, agreed to something, and then reneged on it? How did that feel? If they didn’t swear to it, why did it bother you?
5. Responding to God: Consider whether you have been guilty of breaking your word to anyone. Have you said that you would do something and failed to follow through? Have you called in sick for work when you were well, instead of following the terms you agreed to when you took the job? Have you agreed to take on a responsibility of any kind, and then not done it at all, backed out, or done a poor job? Ask God to show you any such failure on your part. Although God forgives you totally, He asks you to repent and turn away from actions that do not reflect His character, and He is totally faithful! Write your thoughts below.
The knowledge that Jesus will return some day should affect our lives in practical ways; it should help us have Blue Jean Faith. Kay H. and Dorothy share how their lives have been changed by anticipating that day of His coming.
For a long time I didn’t think much about Jesus’ returning. Whenever I did think about it, it seemed like it would be more of an interruption to my plans for my life than something to look forward to. I wanted to finish college and have a career. I wanted to watch my children grow up and get married. I wanted to enjoy retirement with my husband. Now life is harder, both in a global sense and in my particular circumstances, and I have a different perspective on Jesus’ return. First, it gives me hope. When I watch the news or read about the threatening evil, wickedness and suffering all around us, I’m comforted to know that God has it all under control and He’s in charge of the last days. The world will ultimately be destroyed, but it won’t be because we were careless in our use of natural resources or unable to stop religious fanatics. Jesus will return and He will reign and He will judge.
Second, knowing that Jesus will return helps me to set priorities. There is no shortage of demands on my time, energy, and money. Likewise, there are ample opportunities for entertainment and leisure. I could let guilt or pride drive me to say yes to everything that seems good and worthwhile. Or I could pursue comfort and pleasure. In trying to make decisions, I’m challenged by Jesus’ words in Matthew 24:42-51, especially verses 45-46: “Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes.” I imagine Jesus returning at any point during my day and what He would say about what I’m doing. Would He say, “Kay, why are you spinning your wheels in that task when I gave you something else to do?” Or would He say, “Well done.” I’m also challenged to pick Kingdom over convenience. Sometimes choosing Kingdom is saying yes to a difficult or time consuming task, like preparing a meal for someone, inviting neighborhood kids to join us for Spotlight Live on Wednesdays or VBS during the summer, or committing to a weekly Bible study group. Sometimes choosing Kingdom is saying no to a good opportunity and dealing with the inconvenience of disappointing a friend.
Finally, thinking “Amen. Come Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20) compels me to pray for my unsaved family and friends as well as for fruitful labor for all the missionaries I know. I want Him to come soon, but I’m grateful for His patience to allow as many as who will come to repentance.
Maintaining hope, setting priorities and praying for the lost all become easier when I keep in mind that Jesus could return at any time.
Knowing that Jesus will return gives me hope; it gives me a sense of security; and it gives me much joy. Growing up in a church, I accepted Christ as my savior at age nine. However, I cannot remember any sermons or Bible studies that dealt with the second coming of Christ. We sang many hymns that referred to Jesus as king, and we said the Apostles’ Creed each Sunday. Part of that creed says, “He shall come to judge the quick and the dead.”
Since coming to Northwest Bible Church some 26 years ago, I have had a deepened understanding of scriptures that talk about Jesus’ return. I don’t pretend to understand everything, but I understand enough that I can think of his return with joyful anticipation. I know he came the first time to suffer and die for our sins. When he comes the second time, he will indeed be king. He will judge and rule this earth for a thousand years.
We sing “Joy to the World” at Christmas time, but this song is really about his second coming. “Joy to the earth! The Savior reigns. . . .He rules the world with truth and grace, and makes the nations prove the glories of his righteousness and wonders of his love.” At Jesus’ first coming most of the world did not accept his truth and grace.
Knowing that Jesus will return also causes me to think about how I am living my life. Am I making wise choices in how I use the material and the spiritual gifts he has given me? Am I making use of opportunities to share the good news of Jesus with my friends and family? Will I be found faithful?
I choose the last verse of the hymn, “The Solid Rock,” for my prayer:
“When He shall come with trumpet sound, O may I then in Him be found,
Dressed in His righteousness alone, Faultless to stand before the throne.”
32 John Calvin, Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, trans. J. Owen (reprint; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1948), 342.
33 Moo, 210.
34 Hiebert, 295.
35 R.V.G. Tasker, The General Epistle of James: An Introduction and Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983), 117.
36 Barrett, 176.
37 Hiebert, 310.
38 Moo, 233.
“So confess your sins to one another and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great effectiveness.”
James 5:16 (NET)
My brother’s keeper—we normally shy away from that thought. In our American culture we keep our business quiet, and let others do the same. We hesitate to interfere with someone else’s life, even when they are struggling in some way.
God has given us responsibility for one another in the body of Christ. We will someday be held responsible for failing to love someone enough to pray for them or to even speak out when they need help.
As we consider this last section of the book of James, begin by praying for God’s love for others to fill your heart.
Read James 5:13-14.
1. What three life situations does James deal with here? What does James call the believer in each situation to do?
2. The word for suffering probably refers to a broad category which includes all different kinds of suffering.39 From our study of the entire book, what specific kinds of suffering do we know is happening among these first-century believers? Where in the book do you find that?
3. Compare these scriptures with vv. 13-14. Write down any insights that you receive from these verses:
a. 1 Thess. 5:17
b. Ps. 34:1
c. Eph. 5:19
d. Col. 3:16
Stronger Jeans (optional): Study other resources on prayer or find cross-references using the word pray, prayer, or even ask.
4. Sharing Question: What one thing makes prayer most difficult for you? It may be a matter of prioritizing time; it may be that you allow your children to distract you; possibly you, as I do, just like to stay in bed until it’s too late to have real time with God. How can you change this so that you love God with your time? What will you do this week to spend time in prayer each day, even if only 5 minutes of undistracted time?
5. Responding to God: Thank God that He loves you despite any prayerlessness in your life. Talk to Him about your need for His grace to help you become more disciplined in this essential area.
Read James 5:14-16.
1. What is the sick believer to do and what will be the result? Copy v. 15 below.
James 5:14-15 has been understood in a number of ways. Some consider the “prayer of faith” to be dependent upon the sick person’s faith. If that person can manage to have enough faith, God promises to heal; however, this prayer is said by the elders, not by the sufferer, so that understanding seems unlikely. Some would say that it is the “prayer of faith” because the pray-er has been assured by God that it is His will to heal that particular sick person.
Moo makes this point about the “prayer of faith”:
The faith exercised in prayer is faith in the God who sovereignly accomplishes his will. When we pray, our faith recognizes, explicitly or implicitly, the overruling providential purposes of God. We may at times be given insight into that will, enabling us to pray with absolute confidence in God’s plan to answer as we ask. But surely those cases are rare—more rare even than our subjective, emotional desires would lead us to suspect. A prayer for healing, then, must usually be qualified by the recognition that God’s will in the matter is supreme.40
2. How do these verses relate to James 5:14-15?
a. 2 Cor. 12:6-10
b. 1 Tim. 5:23
c. 2 Tim. 4:20
The last part of v. 15 lets us know that this is not necessarily an illness brought on by sin although it may be.
3. What did Jesus teach in John 9:1-3 about the relationship between illness and sin? (You need to consider the disciples’ misunderstanding of it.)
4. Why might God bring sickness into someone’s life because of his/her sins? Read Heb. 12:5-11.
Stronger Jeans (optional): Read what your commentaries say about the anointing with oil in v. 14.
5. What are those of us who are not elders to do in these kinds of situations (James 5:16)? Why?
6. Sharing Question: Do you ever confess your sins to other believers? Why or why not? As you think about this instruction to confess, in what situations might it be helpful to do so? Is there a sin you should confess to this small group or maybe only to the leader so that there is someone to pray for you and to hold you accountable? If so, do it this week.
7. Responding to God: Talk to God about your sins. Confess them and turn from them so that you do not risk the loving hand of discipline from your heavenly Father. Write down your response to Him in a prayer or poem. Or draw a picture of you, God, and your turning from that sin.
Read James 5:16b-18.
1. Compare these verses with what James says about prayer.
a. Mt. 7:7-12
b. John 14:13-14
c. Mk. 11:24
d. Heb. 4:14-16
2. James uses Elijah as his model of a righteous person of prayer. Read the story of Elijah and the drought in 1 Kings 17:1; 18:1-18, 41-46, and write down your insights.
Stronger Jeans (optional): Study another biblical figure as a model of prayer. Obviously, the more that is written about the person, the more you will have to read to find the passages where they pray but the more you will be able to learn. This may be a good personal study for you to begin since this series is over after this week. Use today to get started. Some good choices may be Jesus, Paul, Daniel, or Moses. Read as much as you can about the life of the one you choose; as you read, focus on what you learn about prayer.
3. Sharing Question: Share a story of answered prayer from your life. How did you feel through the situation?
4. Responding to God: Spend some time praying for your small group. Write notes to those who need encouragement. Tell them how you prayed for them. Write your prayers below.
Read James 5:19-20.
1. What situation does James describe and what are we as believers instructed to do about it?
2. How do these last two verses fit with those that just preceded them? In other words, how do they relate?
3. How do these verses compare with what James says here? What do they add to your understanding?
a. Psalm 32:1
b. Prov. 10:12 (This proverb uses opposites to teach a lesson.)
c. Gal. 6:1-2
d. 1 Peter 4:8
What is the “death” here that is avoided because the person repents? If James refers to a person who is part of the congregation but not truly a believer, this may refer to spiritual death. The conversion, then, would be to faith in Jesus. Others read this as physical death and understand it to teach that a believer may experience an early physical death when he/she refuses to turn away from sin. Those who believe that someone can lose eternal life and the relationship that God has given him/her as a gift would interpret this as spiritual death, which comes by turning away from the truth of the gospel. Those of us who understand salvation as an unconditional gift believe that what God gives in grace He doesn’t take away. It is God’s work to keep us in the faith by His grace; thus, we would not see this as spiritual death for a believer. God keeps us by the power of His Spirit, not by our power, much as you hold a child’s hand for safekeeping rather than depending on their holding your hand. (See John 6:37-40; 10:27-30; Rom. 8:29, 38-39.)
Stronger Jeans (optional): Explain your understanding of James 5:19-20 in the context of the entire Bible’s teaching on salvation. Study the references in the above paragraph and any others of which you are aware.
4. Sharing Question: It is very difficult, as I said in the introduction, to go to someone and talk to him/her about her life and how she is defecting from the truth, which includes defecting from obedience to God’s word. Have you ever gone to someone? If so, share the story. Has anyone ever come to you in love to turn you from an error into which you had fallen? Or maybe they didn’t do it in love but with criticism. Share what happened and your feelings about it. If you have never had any of these situations happen in your life, share your feelings about this instruction.
5. Responding to God: Talk to God about someone in your life who needs encouragement to walk with Him or to keep on believing in Him. Listen to His voice. What are you to do about it in light of all we have studied this week?
I am putting Janie’s story here before we leave this topic of prayer. Tomorrow we will review what God has done in our lives through this study.
I found out one year ago Christmas the bad news—I had stage two breast cancer. At first I was angry because I get a mammogram every year and now I was stage two! Then I was scared, but I reminded myself of Christ's faithfulness and read His Word about His steadfastness—“I will never leave you nor forsake you" (Heb. 13:5c NKJV).
I decided not to tell my family or my husband because I didn't want to spoil their Christmas, saying they wouldn't be able to do anything anyway. As for my friends, I kept the bad news from them as well. I didn't really know answers anyway.
After telling a few people, it didn't take long for news to travel—and I was so glad! During the operation, chemotherapy, and radiation, cards and food and visits helped relieve the burden. My family was supportive and so kind. I was overwhelmed by the people who ministered to me.
I could also hear them pray for me aloud when they called, wrote or came over. But I could even feel prayers of believers out there. I know it sounds strange, but I was lifted up spiritually by their prayers even though I couldn't sometime see or hear these warriors. I had a peace that passes all understanding, and a humility that was encouraging, if that can be said.
So my prayer life changed. I focused on God's character, stopped doing all the activities I was in (I had to because physically I couldn't make it). I finally understood what "Be still, and know that I am Lord" (Ps. 46:10 NKJV) really means. It was wonderful just to BE.
I viewed each day differently, and was grateful for the life which He had given me. I read about Heaven, and was comforted that He was preparing a place for me, even if I came through all of this. One day I would be with Christ and it would be better than anything in this life. I prayed for the unsaved more—how frightening it would be to have no HOPE, no one praying for you, no Comforter in such a time of fear!
This next Christmas was different. I had been through treatment, and got a good report—so far I am doing great. My only fear is that I will forget how rich praying can be and instead get involved in the busyness of life. And I am so grateful for those who prayed for me; they became the arms, legs and mouth of believers who are truly an extension of Christ. I had never experienced that before.
So now I pray for those who are sick differently, too. If the thought enters my mind that one voice won't do much, I remember my experience and KNOW that God will have them some way know that they are being lifted up in prayer. I read the Bible differently in that I can see God's hand and His character more clearly. How gracious and kind God is, how wonderful and caring! It is right before me in His Word so I can always be reminded if the fear starts to creep back in my life. How glad I am that we are believers who minister to each other: "Christ with skin on" as I have come to see it!
This is your final day of study; we have completed James. J Congratulations on finishing the entire study! If you have had family, work, or health situations that have forced you to skip some questions, go back and finish them over the next few weeks, reviewing as you go.
Today we are going to have another look at what God has done in your life through this study. Be prepared to share your answers with your group. We do this to give God the glory for all that He has done in our lives through His word and the community of believers in your small group.
1. Sharing Question: Scan the book of James and write down the one topic that was most meaningful to you. Why was it so meaningful?
2. Sharing Question: James said that God’s word is a mirror and we need to take note of what we see and do something about it. What is one thing that you have seen about yourself and what have you done about it?
3. Sharing Question: James began his letter dealing with trials of all kinds. What trial have you dealt with through this study and how has God used it in your life?
4. Sharing Question: What one person has God laid on your heart to pray for? What can you pray that keeps in mind that God’s priority is the kingdom in our lives and in the world at large?
5. Responding to God: Spend all of your prayer time in praise to God for the things that you just wrote in answer to the previous questions. Write a prayer or poem below about His greatness and His love.
Thank you for your commitment to God and for your faithfulness to study His word. Don’t stop simply because your small group is on a break. Continue spending daily time with God. Being in God’s word day by day gives Him that opportunity to speak to you personally. The time you give Him is the best gift you give your friends, co-workers, husband, and children. Your life affects their lives; your spiritual growth impacts them. May He richly bless you as you passionately pursue Him!
Barrett, Ethel. Will the Real Phony Please Stand Up? Glendale, CA: Regal Books, 1977.
Barton, Bruce B., David R. Veerman, and Neil Wilson. Life Application Bible Commentary: James, ed. Grant Osborne. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1992.
Calvin, John. Commentaries on the Catholic Epistles, trans. J. Owen. Reprint; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1948.
Hiebert, D. Edmond. The Epistle of James: Tests of a Living Faith. Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1979.
Keddie, Gordon J. The Practical Christian: The message of James. Darlington, Eng.: Evangelical Press, 2000.
Moo, Douglas J. The Letter of James, The Pillar New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000.
NET Bible: New English Translation. Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C., 2003.
Ross, Alexander. The Epistles of James and John, The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1954.
Tasker, R.V.G. The General Epistle of James: An Introduction and Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983.
Vaughn, Curtis. James, Bible Study Commentary. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1969.
39 Moo, 235.
40 Moo, 244.
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