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A book of wisdom and Christian practice, the book of James has frequently been characterized as “Christian wisdom literature” and has a very Jewish feel to it. If a Jewish Christian were looking at the book of James, I think he or she would say it is Christian “Halakah,” or “walking literature.” You can read what I mean by “walking” in my previous blog.
In many ways, the book of James is the New Testament counterpart to the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament. James is a book of Christian wisdom that tells us how to walk and how to live our lives, just as Proverbs gives maxims and practical guides for living.
The Lordship of Jesus is Presumed
Of course, the book of James is more than just a bunch of rules. If you think of it as only rules, you’ve missed the point. The book of James presumes that we know the Gospel and that we are committed to the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Some people have said, “Well, you know the book of James doesn’t sound much like Christian literature because it doesn’t use the name of Jesus very much.” It doesn’t have to use the name of Jesus very much. It presumes our commitment to Christ and to the Gospel, and James emphasizes how we live, our walking, and our behavior.
In James 1:1, “James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,” it’s clear that the introduction presumes we are under the Lordship of Christ. Look also at James 2:1, “My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with a perspective and attitude of personal favoritism.” It is rather obvious that James is pressing out the implication of what it means to live under this glorious King, this Lord, who is at the right hand of God, who is none other than the crucified and risen Jesus.
To live a life of Christian wisdom means to live under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.
Endurance and Wisdom Are Good Gifts
In James 1:2-18 we get what I would call the introduction of James, which basically says something like this: Live your life in spite of troubles in pursuit of wisdom.
We are going to encounter trials and tribulations, but we must persevere. Wisdom means we don’t give in and don’t give up. It means that in spite of troubles we will press on.
You get this opening exhortation to live with endurance, or perseverance, which is one of the ways that wisdom is translated. “Live with wisdom” also means “live with endurance.” Hang in there. Be committed in your Christian walk.
“2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5 But if any of you lacks wisdom…” (James 1:2-5).
Notice that the word shifts from endurance in verse 3 to wisdom in verse 5. These two words function similarly in this context. Persevere, but if you lack perseverance, if you think you lack the courage and strength to carry on in temptation, pray and ask the Father who will give you this wisdom of perseverance because he’s a gracious Father. He gives to all “generously and without reproach.”
If you sincerely ask – not as double-minded – but if you really seek the ability to persevere and have this wisdom, the Father God will give it. Here James alludes to the Sermon on the Mount and Luke 11–
“Now suppose one of you fathers is asked by his son for a fish; he will not give him a snake instead of a fish, will he? Or if he is asked for an egg, he will not give him a scorpion, will he? If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will yourheavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him?” (Luke 11:11-13)
In the Jewish context, “good gifts” also means wisdom. In James the same is true. Your heavenly father is generous and will give wisdom and perseverance if you ask him.
Blessed is the One Who Perseveres
In James 1:9-11, we are told that if we are in an afflicted and humble situation as Christians, we should not give in. Those who are the world’s high, mighty, and proud will be laid low, but the day will come when the Lord will lift up his afflicted people.
So, verse 12 gets to the punch line –”Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial.” The Christian life requires perseverance.
There are a number of verbs that could describe the Christian life in the New Testament, such as “love” and “serve.” But “persevere,” or “be patient,” is another very important descriptor. Don’t give in. Don’t give up. Stick to it. Endure. Continue. James 1 emphasizes the idea of perseverance.
“Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial” – this life is a trial. The person who lives the troubles of life will receive the crown of life. It’s everlasting life, “which the Lord has promised to those who love Him” (James 1:12). We will experience trials brought on by the dark world in which we live. We know we will face dark times because we are believers in Christ. But we are blessed when we persevere in faith.
In my next blog I’ll discuss what it means to be “quick to hear” in James 1:19.
Blog edited by Joannah Buffington