caring for the elderly November 16 Chronological Bible Study

Timeline. Map. Go to today’s Bible reading (NIV) or alternate versions (use your browser arrow to return): James
(note: James is an early epistle written by the half-brother of Jesus. James is also a church leader in the Jerusalem church. This letter may have been written as early as A.D. 45, following the dispersion of the Jewish church from Jerusalem (Acts 8-9, James 1:1-4) and before the Jerusalem councils mentioned in Acts 11 and 15 (The Bible Knowledge Commentary of the N.T, by Walvoord and Zuck, © 1985, p.816). Because of the theme, this Bible study is long, but the next is short.)

Practical Christianity

The book of James is primarily written to Jewish believers, scattered upon the death of Stephen, the first martyr (Acts 7:59–8:4). The rock of persecution had been thrown into the lake of over 5,000 new believers in Jerusalem, and they scattered in concentric circles into other nations. In the beginning, only Jews were evangelized, and they formed their own little congregations. Because of their culture, they were prejudiced against all non-Jewish people (gentiles), and the rich were prejudiced against the poor. In today's Bible reading, James, the half-brother of Jesus and an elder in the Jerusalem church, writes a practical letter to encourage and correct their behavior.

First, he tells them they should persevere under the persecutions and trials they are suffering. The Jewish religious leaders hated Jesus, and now they hate his disciples. They pursue them and punish them for their Christian message, which is viewed as a cult, a perversion of the Jewish faith. Other Jews view them with suspicion. James encourages the new Jewish Christians that they will grow spiritually through the persecutions and trials they suffer.

Many people exclaim, “Where is God?” when they experience emotional or physical pain. They don’t know how to make sense of it! James says if they are confused about what they are suffering, they should ask God for wisdom and help in dealing with it. Trials and persecutions may be allowed by God to refine them (and us), but they are not temptations coming from God.

God does not tempt anyone; it is against his nature. Giving into sin is not a matter of our circumstances but what we do with our desires. Although most of us are not Jews, if we have a personal relationship with God through his Son, Jesus Christ, we, too, can and should ask God for wisdom and help when we are dealing with persecution and trials. But James exhorts readers to make sure that we ask in faith, believing we will receive an answer if we ask him (1:6). To ask God without confidence that he will answer is offensive, and we should not expect to get an answer. Although we may not see him, he is present and cares about us in all our circumstances.

Second, James instructs them, “Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (1:22, NIV).

Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets what he looks like. But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed in what he does (James 1:23-25, NIV).

Because we go to church and listen to Bible messages does not necessarily mean we are Christians. The proof of our Christianity comes when we recognize what needs to change and then make the changes.

Third, they should watch their tongues. The tongue is very powerful. James says, “If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless” (1:26, NIV). What applies to them also applies to us. We should not speak angry or hasty, or insulting words, gossip, slander others, or even pass on information which others do not need to know, and which might cause unnecessary trouble or pain. Instead, we should speak words of encouragement, sympathy, kindness, and love. Even when speaking the truth we should be gracious.

What then is true religion—is it a bunch of do's and don'ts? James answers, “religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27, NIV). Expressing true religion is only possible through a genuine relationship with Jesus Christ (more...). It is manifested by compassion and personal morality. God is not so much impressed by people who know their doctrine as he is with those who live it! That is practical Christianity!

Fourth, James exhorts the Christians not to act with favoritism toward their brothers and sisters in Christ. Where a person is born or what place he has in society should make no difference; we should love each other equally. James instructs them to “speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom” (2:12, NIV). The Apostle Paul writes something similar in Romans 14:10 (NIV) “You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.”

Fifth, Christians should do their deeds as an expression of their faith and with humility. James says, “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show it by his good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom” (3:13, NIV). Boasting is inappropriate because everything we have is from God, even our faith (Ephesians 2:8). The Apostle Paul writes in a letter to the Corinthian church, “Therefore, as it is written [in Jeremiah 9:24]: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’” (1Corinthians 1:31, NIV)

Sixth, God wants us to live in peace and godliness. James exhorts Christians to submit themselves to God. “Come near to God,” he invites, “and he will come near to you.” We should genuinely repent of all ungodliness and wickedness, humble ourselves before the Lord, and live in peace. (James 4:6-10, NIV)

Seventh, James gives the Christians a final set of instructions:

  • Don’t fight, slander, judge, or grumble against each other
  • Stop boasting about yourselves, be patient in times of persecution and trials, and live lives of integrity
  • Love your brothers and sisters in Christ: take care of one another, pray for one another, minister to one another, and save one another from slipping spiritually.
  • Don’t let sin rule your life.
  • Be a genuine Christian with your words and deeds; let them be the proof of your faith.

Lessons to Live By

  • Christians grow spiritually through the persecutions and trials they suffer.
  • Christians, we can and should ask God for wisdom and help when dealing with persecution and trials; but ask in faith, believing that God is present and truly cares about us.
  • “Do not merely listen to the word [of God], and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.” (James1:22, NIV)
  • We need to watch our tongues.
  • True religion is expressed by compassion and personal morality. God is not so much impressed by people who know their doctrine as he is with those who live it!
  • Prejudice is removed by a change of heart and by service.
  • Good deeds should be done in humility.
  • Let us genuinely turn from all ungodliness and wickedness, and humble ourselves before the Lord. God offers us forgiveness, peace, and spiritual life to all who come to him (more...).
  • God wants us to live in peace and godliness.
  • Practical Christianity is faith shown by good deeds.

Focus Verses

James 3:16-17 (NIV)

For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

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A Look Ahead: When we are attacked or threatened by our enemies, what do we do? Do we plan a defense? Do we seek retribution? Do we quit? Some of us may do these things. Others may see this as an opportunity for Launching our Faith. Find out more as we return to the book of Acts in our Next Lesson.

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