So begins our study in the book of James. This lines up with a sermon I recently preached on James 1:2-4.
v1 What does this letter have to do with non-Christians?
v2 What is the “prosperity gospel” and what does this passage have to say about it?
v2 Have you ever counted it joy to have a trial? When did you count it joy? Why? What does the verb tense of this command tell us about the timing of our joy in trials?
v2 In what ways to trials test our faith? In what ways does the testing of our faith produce the other qualities James lists?
v2 Does this passage encourage us to seek out suffering?
v2 How does imperative this relate to Jesus’ instruction in Matt 5:11–12?
v2 Death, sickness, rape – some trials are just too hard to bear. How can we be sure that even these can be counted joy?
In Heb 12:2 we see how Christ counted the ultimate trial joy so that we could be perfect and complete.
v2 What is the source of joy? What does that mean about having joy in trials?
Gal 5:22 – We go through trials with God right there with us.
v3 What does James mean by the word “testing”?
“Testing” translates a rare Greek word (dokimion), which is found elsewhere in the NT only in 1 Pet. 1:7 and in the Septuagint only in Ps. 11:7 (ET 12:6) and Prov. 27:21. Peter apparently uses the word to denote the result of testing; the NIV translates “genuine.” But the two OT occurrences both denote the process of refining silver or gold, and this is the way James uses the word. The difficulties of life are intended by God to refine our faith: heating it in the crucible of suffering so that impurities might be refined away and so that it might become pure and valuable before the Lord. The “testing of faith” here, then, is not intended to determine whether a person has faith or not; it is intended to purify faith that already exists.
– Pillar NT Commentary
v5 How is v5 an example of v3-4?
Our lack of wisdom follows directly behind an admonition towards completeness. That means that v5-8 is an example of how to go about v2-4. This means:
- God is the one who provides the completeness
- The testing of our faith (v3) is explained in v6-8
v5 How can we understand what James means by “wisdom” based on its source?
v5 What does the command to ask God for wisdom tell us about ourselves?
- We need wisdom
- We don’t have wisdom but God does
- We need to recognize and act on our own inadequacy
v5 Can James 3:13-18 shed light on what James means when he uses the word “wisdom”?
James’ definition of wisdom is almost a commentary on godly character. This explains why James includes wisdom as the example of v3-4.
v6-8 How shall we pray?
v9-10 Why is the lowly brother exalted and the rich man humiliated? Why are both instructed to boast?
v9-10 In general, boasting is connected to pride. Under what circumstances is it permissible to boast?
Thus says the LORD: “Let not the wise man boast in his wisdom, let not the mighty man boast in his might, let not the rich man boast in his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast in this, that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD who practices steadfast love, justice, and righteousness in the earth.
v12 Why did James sandwich the discussion about the rich and poor men in between a “suffering sandwich” in v2-4 and v12-15?
v12 What do we learn about biblical love in this verse?
The crown of life is given to those who love God – James assumes that steadfastness is a quality of love. This is counter to the contemporary definition of “love” which assumes that it is an emotion.
Alternatively, we could phrase the question, “Is our eternal fate a result of our own steadfastness under trial?”
No! We just saw in v2-4 that God gives us trials to grow us, in v5 that we need to depend on God – not ourselves – for the godly character, and in v9-11 that no one can get ahead on their own.
This verse assumes that we already know that steadfastness is a product of depending on God.
v13 What might tempt us to accuse God like this?
v13 If God allows us to be tested (v2) how does that explain the statement that God doesn’t tempt us?
v13 What about passages that say God tested people?
James denies that God ever sends tests (1:13). (Sometimes the Gk. word is translated ‘temptations’, but this narrows the focus of the discussion and obscures the author’s use of the same word to mean ‘tests’ elsewhere in the chapter.) Thus he denies a literal interpretation of Genesis 22:1 (in both its Hebrew and Greek versions). He can do this because, like the author of 1 Chronicles 21:1 who reinterprets 2 Samuel 24:1, and like many Jews of his own day, he interprets the Abraham story in the light of Job, understanding Satan as the agent of testing who is excluded from the Genesis narrative by the strict monotheism of its author. That James understands Satan as standing behind desire is clear from 4:7, where in a discussion of desire (4:1, 3), his call to submit to God has as its counterpart resisting, not desire, but the devil. Thus in James’ view only good comes from God (1:16–18, the counterpart of 1:13–15), while evil comes from desires within us, stirred up by the devil. We must take responsibility for our actions.
New Dictionary of Biblical Theology
v13-15 How do we keep ourselves from blaming God?
When we see how Jesus already went through earthly temptation on our behalf we’ll be worshiping him – not blaming him.
v14 Temptation begins with our own “evil desires” or “lusts.” What would this chain look like if we had “godly desires”?
v19 Listen to what?
v19 Why are we commanded to be slow to anger?
Because that’s what God is like! Num 14:18, Ps 145:8
v20 Anger doesn’t produce righteousness. What does?
v21 Why does this command begin with “therefore” or “so”? The examples don’t even mention the anger that seems to precede it.
v21 Why receive with meekness and not something else like thanksgiving?
v21 Why put away filthiness and wickedness if the implanted word is what saves us?
v21 How does the implanted word save us?
Our hearts need to be receptive to the truth – Matt 13:3-9
v22-25 Why is being a doer of the word compared with remembrance? Why not some sort of action?
The remembrance is remembrance of self and doing comes from the heart.
v26 Much of James 3 is devoted to taming the tongue. Why is this verse here and not in ch3?
v27 What about the common saying, “Christianity isn’t a religion, it’s a relationship”?
v27 Is this an exhaustive list? How can we tell?
v27 How can we make sure we continue doing this?
We won’t really care about the disadvantaged until we’re focused on the fact that this is a description of what Jesus did for us: We were completely helpless – orphans and widows – in our opposition to God – stained by the world – when he came to rescue us.