James 1


It appears that some saints were having problems in their personal lives and having problems in the church. They were going through difficult trials, they were facing temptations to sin, and they were hearers, but not necessarily doers.

Some were catering to the rich, whilst others were oppressed by the rich, and some were competing for positions in the church. Improper use of the tongue was also a problem, as was worldliness and straying from the faith. These are just some of the problems which James was addressing in his letter.


Although there are a few James mentioned in the New Testament, most scholars agree that the James whose name is mentioned in the letter is James, the brother of our Lord, who humbly identifies himself only as ‘a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ’.

According to Matthew 13:55, we know that Jesus definitely had a brother named James and we also know that he didn’t believe in Jesus at first, John 7:5, but after the resurrection of Jesus and an appearance by Jesus to him, he became a disciple, 1 Corinthians 15:7.

From that point on, the Lord’s brother became a great leader amongst God’s people who were in Jerusalem according to Galatians 2:9.


It is believed that James was martyred around A.D. 63 and so, many scholars date the letter anywhere from A.D. 45 to 63.


Introduction. James 1:1
Count temptations to be joy. James 1:2-11
Temptations are not from God. James 1:13-16
God brings good gifts. James 1:17-18
Consider a life of righteousness. James 1:19-27
Do not show partiality. James 2:1-13
Works demonstrate faith. James 2:14-26
Beware of the tongue. James 3:1-12
Distinguish heavenly wisdom. James 3:13-18
God is a jealous God. James 4:1-10
Bring your speech in line with godly views. James 4:11-17
Warning to the rich. James 5:1-6
Encouragement to the oppressed. James 5:7-12
Effective prayer. James 5:13-18
Watching out for others. James 5:19-20

The Text

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

Although there are a few James mentioned in the New Testament, most scholars agree that the James whose name is mentioned in the letter is James, the brother of our Lord, who humbly identifies himself only as ‘a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ’.

According to Matthew 13:55, we know that Jesus definitely had a brother named James and we also know that he didn’t believe in Jesus at first, John 7:5, but after the resurrection of Jesus and an appearance by Jesus to him, he became a disciple, 1 Corinthians 15:7.

From that point on, the Lord’s brother became a great leader amongst God’s people who were in Jerusalem according to Galatians 2:9.

He must have been a deeply spiritual man to gain such importance in the church at Jerusalem. Even tradition tells us that he was a man of prayer, which might explain the emphasis on prayer in his letter. Tradition says that he prayed so much, that his knees were as hard as a camel’s!

Tradition also tells us that James was martyred in 62 A. D., he was cast down from the temple, and then beaten to death with clubs and as he was dying he prayed, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’

The Greek word for servant used here is the word ‘doulos’ which means ‘a slave’, Matthew 20:25-28. James was a slave of God and of Jesus.

And when we think about the slave and master relationship, we can’t help but think of the word obedience. The slave knows no law but his master’s word, he has no rights of his own, he is the absolute possession of his master, and he is bound to give his master unquestioning obedience.

Being a slave involves the word humility because it’s only when we have a humble opinion of ourselves, are we are open to the idea of complete obedience, Luke 17:7-10 / 1 Corinthians 15:9-10. When we think of the word slave, we also have to think of the word loyalty, Galatians 1:10.

James wrote to Jews living outside the land of Palestine, that the ‘twelve tribes’ is probably a reference to the people of Israel, in other words, the Jewish nation. Remember when the Israelites were taken into captivity by the Assyrians and the Babylonians, many of the Jews were scattered throughout different nations, Acts 2:5-11 / Acts 8:1.

James was also writing to Christian Jews, this is seen from the fact that at least nineteen times he addresses them as ‘brethren or brothers’ depending on your translation. It also appears from the letter that many of these Christian Jews were poor and oppressed, James 2:6-7.

It appears that some people were having problems in their personal lives and having problems in the church. They were going through difficult trials, they were facing temptations to sin, and they were hearers, but not necessarily doers.

Some were catering to the rich, others were oppressed by the rich, and some were competing for positions in the church. Improper use of the tongue was a problem, as was worldliness and some were straying from the faith.

Trials And Temptations

‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.’ James 1:2-4

Now notice that James doesn’t use the word, ‘if’ but ‘whenever’. In other words, we can just count on it, Christians must expect trials, John 16:33. Some trials come simply because we are human, and these would be things like sickness, accidents, disappointments, and death but other trials come because we are Christians, 1 Peter 4:12 / 2 Timothy 3:12.

How are we to respond to these trials? James says, ‘count it all joy!’ Acts 5:41. James is saying, the first step to turning our tears of despair into tears of joy is to immediately thank God and adopt a joyful attitude.

James says if Christians have the right knowledge concerning the value of trials it makes it possible to have a joyful attitude. In other words, when we finally understand that trials test our faith, then we can know that the testing of our faith actually brings the best out in us, 1 Peter 1:7.

We can have joy in our trials because we know that testing works for us, not against us, 2 Corinthians 4:17. When our faith is tested it produces perseverance, Romans 5:3-4.

In the Bible ‘perseverance’ is not a passive acceptance of circumstances. The Greek word for ‘perseverance’ is the word ‘hupomone’ and it means the ability to exhibit steadfastness and constancy in the face of the most formidable difficulty.

But for us to really benefit from our trials, we need to let ‘perseverance’ do its work. All too often, we want to get our trials or difficulties over with quickly, don’t we?

But there are times when the best thing for us to do is to bear up to the trial patiently. And so instead of grumbling and complaining, we should patiently endure the trial, doing good despite the trial.

When perseverance has had an opportunity to work, it produces ‘maturity’. When James uses the word perfect, as some translations render it, he doesn’t mean sinlessness, but ‘completeness, wholeness, maturity’.

In the New Testament, it is used for those who have attained spiritual manhood in Christ. These are the Christians who have that maturity that comes only when patience has had time to work.

Allowing perseverance have its perfect work is not easy, if anything it requires wisdom that enables us to see the value of our trials.

‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.’ James 1:5-8

James says if we lack wisdom, ask for it from God because He has promised to give it generously, 1 Kings 3:7-12. But what exactly is this wisdom?

Knowledge involves information, facts, etc, whereas wisdom is the ability or insight to properly use those facts quickly and in the right way.

Some people seem to think that God will give them knowledge concerning His Will in answer to prayer but knowledge comes only through His Word and we need to carefully study it if we want to know the Will of God.

However, the wisdom to properly use His Word can be received through prayer. The wisdom to properly use trials and turn them into triumph can in the same way come through ‘proper’ prayer. And proper prayer is a prayer asked in faith and with no doubt, otherwise, the prayer will not be answered by God.

It’s having the knowledge and viewpoint that difficulties can accomplish a lot of good for a Christian. It’s being patient whilst enduring those difficulties to accomplish its work. And as we go through difficult times, it’s using the wisdom God gives us in answer to prayer to help us put it all together.

‘Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.’ James 1:9-11

James now speaks about the trials of being poor and being rich. Job and Solomon tell us that when we are poor we may be tempted to curse God, Job 2:9 / Proverbs 30:7-9. And the problem with being wealthy is that we may be tempted to forget God.

Before God gave the Israelites the Promised Land He warned Israel that they might forget God because of their wealth, Deuteronomy 8:10-14, and that’s exactly what happened, Hosea 13:5-6.

James says if we are ‘poor’, then we can rejoice that we have been ‘lifted up’. In other words, God has chosen the ‘poor’ to be rich in faith, Isaiah 66:1-2 / James 2:5. It was the poor who first had the Gospel preached to them, Luke 4:18.

James is saying even if we are poor, we can still be ‘spiritually rich’ and on an equal par with all other Christians, Revelation 2:8-9.

Now not only can the poor rejoice because God has lifted them up but if we are ‘rich’, then we too can rejoice because you have been ‘humbled’. Now how does God humble the rich?

When they became slaves to Christ Jesus they too were placed on an equal par with all other Christians just like we read a moment ago, 1 Corinthians 7:21-22.

Why it is good that the rich are humbled? Because they need reminding that the riches that the wealthy have are only temporary, 1 Timothy 6:17. Not only are riches temporary they are also unable to redeem our souls, Psalm 49:6-9.

When Paul writes to his young friend Timothy he reminds the rich that the love of money is a ‘trap’ and a source of ‘self-inflicted injuries’, 1 Timothy 6:9-10. In other words, James is telling us that it is good that people who come to Jesus Christ find these things out now.

Exalting the poor who are rich in faith, humbling the wealthy by basing their salvation not on wealth, but on that which cannot be bought. The blood of Jesus and the obedience of a humble and contrite spirit, Philippians 4:11-13.

‘Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.’ James 1:12-18

James now helps us understand temptations in three ways and he tells us about a promise for those who endure temptations. He tells us that the person who remains faithful during temptations is going to be blessed.

The Greek word for ‘blessed’ is ‘makarios’, which simply means ‘happy, blessed’. And the reason for their happiness is that when they pass the test of temptation, they are going to receive the crown of life.

In other words, the promise is the promise of eternal life. The promise given here is by Him Who cannot lie, Titus 1:2. God doesn’t lie and when He promises eternal life, He means it and He says that this promise is given to everyone who proves their love for God by keeping the faith through temptations.

After sharing this promise of eternal life, James goes on to share with us a warning about temptations. One of the fundamental mistakes that young Christians make is that they blame God for the temptations which come their way.

We shouldn’t go blaming God for our temptations, Why? Simply because God is a Holy God and He is such a Holy God that He cannot be tempted by evil nor will He tempt anyone to do evil. God is the source of good, not evil and every good and perfect gift comes from Him.

James tells us that it was of His own will that He brought us to the Gospel by the ‘word of truth’. In other words, God called us through the Gospel so that we might be a kind of ‘first fruits’ of His creatures, 1 Peter 1:22-23.

Christians who remain faithful through temptations and don’t blame God for those temptations, Christians who understand that they have been called by God through the Gospel are the ‘cream of the crop’.

To make sure we don’t miss the point, James goes on to help us understand how sin works. It starts with temptation and notice the temptation stage involves two things.

It involves desires, that strong desire for something and it also involves being trapped, trapped by looking for an opportunity to satisfy that desire. In other words, temptation needs a desire and an opportunity but please note that being tempted is not sinful, Hebrews 4:15.

The next stage of sin and that is the sin itself. In other words for the temptation to lead to sin, it needs us to take action and act upon it. Or if we put it in simple terms, we need to have that desire to sin, look for an opportunity to sin and then just go for it.

Sin tempts us and when we give in to the temptation, if were not careful that sin will crush us and take our souls, which is the final stage of sin, it leads to death. Sin is spiritual separation from God and any sin which isn’t forgiven will result in spiritual death, Romans 6:23.

In other words, James is telling us that if we are not careful with our desires which we act out when we have the opportunity, if they are not confessed to God and repented of are going to lead us into eternal punishment, Revelation 21:8.

Now that we have a better understanding of how temptation and sin work, we also need to look at how we can help fight these temptations we have. And since we know that the sin process begins with desires, the best place to begin for us to overcome sin is to change our desires, Romans 12:1-2.

One way we change our desires is by regularly reading the Bible. We don’t fight the devil using his means but God’s and we need to understand this morning that it’s only when we use God’s will that can we overcome sin, Psalm 119:11 / Matthew 4:3-10.

The more we read His Word, and read about His patient love for us, the more we should long to serve Him, Psalm 116:12-14. When we read the Bible we cannot miss the message about how much God loves us but when we read the Bible we cannot also miss the message about how much God hates sin, Psalm 119:104.

Remember, we are tempted only when there is both desire and opportunity and so while we work on changing our desires, we should limit the opportunities to fulfil wrongful desires. And the only way that is going to happen is when we finally understand that we can’t do that on our own, we need God’s help, Matthew 6:13 / Matthew 26:41.

In other words, we can’t do it on our own, we need to ask God to help us but we also need to help ourselves by avoiding situations that are really going to tempt us, Psalm 101:3-4 / Psalm 101:6-7.

Listening And Doing

“Remember this, my dear friends! Everyone must be quick to listen, but slow to speak and slow to become angry. Human anger does not achieve God’s righteous purpose.” James 1:19-20

James says when it comes to our trials, the first thing we need to remember is, ‘be quick to listen’. Christians are to be quick to listen, in regards to us being open to the word of God.

One of the first things immature Christians tend to do when they begin to face any trial, is they stop reading the Word of God. A mature Christian will always go to the Word of God for help, encouragement, and comfort.

When we’re going into the tunnel of bereavement, or the tunnel of temptation, or the tunnel of suffering, it’s then that we find value and appreciate the verses that appear to be ordinary and unnecessary.

In other words, when we are facing trials we need to be ‘quick to listen’ to what God says to us in His Word, Isaiah 43:2 / 1 Corinthians 14:3 / 2 Peter 2:9.

The second thing that we need to learn to help us grow through our trials is we need to be ‘slow to speak’. For us to help each other grow up spiritually through our trials there are times we all need to listen more and speak less.

The final thing that Christians need to do to grow through our trials, we all need to be ‘slow to become angry’. The word ‘wrath’ is closely related to the word ‘anger.’ The Greek word for ‘anger’ is the ‘Orge’ which means ‘a lingering, seething emotion’. The idea is that you’re ready to take up revenge at any moment.

Whereas the Greek word for ‘wrath’ is the word ‘thumos.’ With this word it is the idea of ‘blowing off steam’. The reason this verse is important for us to understand is that too many times when we talk about ‘wrath’ or ‘anger’ we often excuse them as minor sins.

The Bible has a lot to say about both, Psalm 37:8 / Proverbs 14:17 / Ecclesiastes 7:9 / Romans 12:19 / Ephesians 4:31 / Colossians 3:8.

What is the difference between anger and anger? Paul doesn’t seem to have a problem with a Christian becoming angry. He says, ‘if you become angry’. Ephesians 4:26. Jesus expressed anger towards the money changers in the temple, John 2:13-17.

We need to understand the difference between anger and anger. God’s anger is always a just reaction to evil, Psalm 78:49-51 / Romans 1:18. Because God is divine and all-knowing, His wrath is never misguided.

In other words, He is more than capable of properly directing anger and wrath, whereas we, with our imperfections, are not so capable to do that. In our anger, we’re often misguided whether it is through ignorance or misunderstanding.

Jesus’ anger was always holy anger against unrighteousness which is detestable to God. And when Jesus was angry, He was angry only for God’s honour. When He was personally abused, He said nothing, 1 Peter 2:21-23.

Notice James doesn’t say a Christian doesn’t get angry, he says a Christian should ‘be slow to anger’. In other words, anger itself is not the problem but the way we deal with the emotion of anger could lead to a problem, Ephesians 4:26.

Our emotion of anger needs to be kept under control. In other words don’t allow it to show itself in a sinful way, like doing or saying something that is wrong, Ephesians 4:27.

The ‘wrath and anger of God’ accomplishes the ‘righteousness of God.’ There is a place for anger, but only if it’s going to lead to the honour and will of God and that’s where we fail the test.

“Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.” James 1:21

We need to recognise is that the word of God has power. Ever since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden right up to the present day, mankind has been screaming out ‘save our souls!’ And God heard that cry even before the signal was screamed out and He sent Jesus Christ to do the very thing our souls have been screaming out for.

James says that God’s word, the Bible has the power to save our souls. Peter tells us that His word has the power to make us new, 1 Peter 1:22-25. The reason God’s Word has power is that it contains God’s way of salvation.

The word ‘sanctify’ means to ‘set apart for a holy purpose’, John 17:15-17. And so, James is telling us that for us to grow up spiritually we need to understand that the Word of God has set us apart for His purpose.

For us to benefit from God’s word there are things that we need to get rid of in our lives. James mentions two of them, ‘all filthiness and rampant wickedness.’ Paul has a longer list of things we need to get rid of, Colossians 3:5-9.

If we truly want to grow up, if we truly want the Word of God to bear its fruit in our lives, then we first need to do some spiritual weeding, otherwise, we’re not going to get anything out of any study of the Word if we continue to dwell on things which are spiritually filthy and wicked.

James says we need to receive God’s word with meekness. If we want to grow spiritually, then we need to have an attitude of humility and interest and the way to have those attitudes is by remembering two things, 1. We also are sinners and 2. We also can easily be deceived.

When we’re studying, we’re studying to learn God’s truth not only to save our souls but also to save the souls of those people around us, Psalm 119:18. James says it is only the ‘implanted’ Word that can truly save our souls and so, we need to take the words out of the pages and implant them into our hearts, Hebrews 8:10.

We need to take the words written in ink from the Bible and not only read them and meditate upon them but we also need to do all of those things so much that it becomes a permanent fixture within our hearts.

“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing”. James 1:22-25

If we forget to apply the word to ourselves first we become deceived, we end up deceiving ourselves. James says it’s like looking into the mirror but forgetting what we look like. We must remember that a ‘doer of the word’ cannot be a ‘forgetful hearer’.

The reason why we should do what it says is because of the blessing which comes from doing it. There are blessings to be found not only by ‘looking into the perfect law of liberty’ alone but also by ‘continuing in it’ and being ‘a doer of the word.’

James calls the Word of God the ‘perfect law of liberty’ why? Simply because of its power to provide true freedom. Freedom from the guilt and dominion of sin and the power of the message within, Romans 1:16.

Now that we understand the importance of God’s Word in our lives, James goes on to speak about making sure we belong to a religion that are doers of God’s Word.

“Those who consider themselves religious and yet do not keep a tight rein on their tongues deceive themselves, and their religion is worthless. What God the Father considers to be pure and genuine religion is this: to take care of orphans and widows in their suffering and to keep oneself from being corrupted by the world.” James 1:26-27

The religion which God accepts is the religion that is pure and genuine. Having a religion is meaningless unless we do something with it, Matthew 7:21 / Luke 6:46.

This is so important to James, he’s going to emphasise this point a little later in James 2:14-17 and James 2:26 and talk about how our faiths have to have legs attached to them.

Not only should our religion be a practising religion it should also be a practical religion. God never intended our religion just to come together each Lord’s Day and although this is very important for us to do, God also intended our religion to stretch out our hands in service to others.

We’re supposed to help others by doing good to others in His Name, Hebrews 13:16 / 1 John 3:17-18. What makes religion pure and genuine is applying the Word of God in our lives and we do that by showing kindness and compassion for the poor and helpless.

Now again not only should our religion be a practising religion and a practical religion, but it should also be a personal religion. Notice how James uses the words, ‘anyone’, ‘he’, ‘himself’, ‘ones’ and ‘his’ in James 1:23-26. He uses the word ‘oneself’, in James 1:27. In other words, our religion is very personal.

It never ceases to amaze me how some people think that their giving on Sunday fulfils their responsibility to the poor, the widows, and the orphans. They seem to think that their giving on a Sunday fulfils their obligation to preach the Gospel. And although this is true and right, when we give together our giving only meets certain needs.

God still expects us to fulfil our ‘personal’ service to the poor, widows, and orphans as we have the ability and opportunity. That’s one of the principles we find within the Old Testament and although the third-year tithe was for the widows and orphans, they were to always help them whenever they had the opportunity, Deuteronomy 14:27-29.

True religion which is pleasing to God is always looking for an opportunity to give and serve anyone who is in need. The religion which pleases God needs not only to be genuine but also pure. The word ‘pure’ means without blemish. Some translations use the word undefiled which means ‘untainted or unspotted’.

If we are sinners how can we ever be pure, undefiled, and unspotted? The answer is found in the blood of Christ and when we walk in the light with God, then the blood of Christ will cleanse us and makes us pure, 1 John 1:7-9. It’s only the true religion of Jesus Christ that can present a person ‘pure’ in the sight of God.

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