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James chapter 1

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What does James chapter 1 mean?

The book of James was most likely written by Jesus' half-brother, a son of Mary and Joseph who eventually became one of the leaders of the Christian church in Jerusalem. The unifying theme of the book of James is "faith," though James frames his discussion with a very specific look at the effects of real, saving, trusting faith.

That is why James has attracted so much dispute over the years. James includes heavy emphasis on the works associated with Christianity. As a result, some interpreters have suggested that James contradicts Paul's clear teaching that salvation is not by works but by faith in Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8–9). Reading with the proper perspective, however, reveals there is no contradiction to be found. James asserts from the beginning of the first chapter that God's desire for us is to trust Him more, and more deeply. A person's actions are a good indicator of what kind of "faith" they really have.

Biblical saving faith is not mere intellectual knowledge—it is trust. A faith that saves is the kind of faith which naturally produces action, and this is the point of James' writing. As this book emphasizes our works as believers, the point is that those works are acts of faith. Put another way, people who trust God naturally obey God. Why wouldn't they if they believe Him? Saved people believe in Christ, and people who believe in Christ follow the way of Christ. Saving faith is trust which produces action.

So how does a believer respond to hard times? James calls us to label those moments as joyful things because they bring the opportunity to trust God at a deeper level. This is trusting faith.

What do believers do when they lack wisdom to make a decision? They turn to God and God generously pours wisdom out. This, again, is trusting faith. However, if we reject His wisdom or, worse, seek wisdom apart from Him, we demonstrate our lack of trust in the Father. Then He withholds His wisdom. James makes clear over and over again that what our Father longs to see in the lives of His children is evidence of our trust in Him.

That also includes how we think about money in this life. Those who trust God understand that this life is so short that our financial situation is meaningless in comparison with the eternal riches of our home in heaven. So Christians, those saved by faith in Jesus Christ, will rejoice in their high-status position in the next life, even if they have no material goods in this life. Those Christians who are rich in this life should discount the fleeting value of wealth.

Trusting in Christ guarantees us an eternity in heaven. That eternity with our Father includes a crown of life for those who trust Him through trials, instead of using them as an excuse to indulge in sin. James urges us to take responsibility for our desire to sin and not to blame God. God may allow suffering into our lives, but He never uses hardships to try to lure us away from Himself. He always encourages us to move nearer to Him in the hard times.

In fact, every good thing we have and every good thing we crave comes from God alone. He is the single source of good in our lives, including the greatest good we can possess: to be alive in Christ. To move away from God is to move away from good, to move into the shadows.
What is the Gospel?
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