James 4 – Internal Desires

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Practical Theology, which is one of the main themes of the book of James, doesn’t simply have to do with what we do outwardly as we live out our faith.  Though that is a big component of it, James has already pointed to the fact that what happens outside of us, our actions, come from what is happening inside of us.

Here, he draws on that theme, even more, when he points out that much of the fighting, quarreling, and division that is present in our lives comes from the internal desires that we have not being fulfilled.

Now, some of these desires might be good things and are worth standing up for.  But what James is referring to here is actually the negative things, the things we covet or want.  We may get these things confused for those things that we need, forgetting that God always provides for the things that we need.  When we lose our perspective like this, the little things seem to be way more important than they actually are and we make a big deal out of them, fighting and quarreling about things that are really non-issues.

How do we overcome this?  James tells us to submit ourselves to God and resist these temptations.  When we do this, the devil will flee from us.  He makes it sound so simple…

However, the reality of what James is saying here brings us back to the very core of our identity in Christ.  We are those who are unable to save ourselves, unable to free ourselves, and unable to provide for ourselves; WE NEED GOD.  James calls us to a life of daily dependence on God for our protection and provision.

While future planning is not necessarily a bad thing, as Christians we are called to do it through the lens of daily dependence.  We do not do things under our own power, but because of God’s provision and blessing in our lives.  This is the essence of practical theology too, that our lives would daily reflect our full dependence on God alone.



James 1 – New Testament Wisdom

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The book of James is sometimes referred to as the “Proverbs of the New Testament.”  James begins his writing by talking about wisdom and faith in the midst of persecution.  Keep in mind what we have learned, that there as a significant amount of persecution taking place in the first century, when the New Testament was written, and James, being in Jerusalem, was witness to much of it.

James’ appeal to wisdom in the midst of this, though, does not veer off the path that we’ve seen throughout the New Testament, but rather embraces many of the themes of it using language that we’ve only rarely seen.  Jesus is referred to as “the wisdom of God,” by Paul in his letter to the church in Corinth, James echoes these words as he appeals to seeking “wisdom” in difficult times.

In the book of Proverbs, one of the key lines is “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”  Now, “fearing” God doesn’t have anything to do with being afraid, but rather it is a seeking after, or following of God that is the foundation for wisdom.  James picks up on that theme here.  How are we to endure persecution?  By seeking wisdom or, in other words, by following the example of Christ.

He then goes on to cite several examples of this, most of which can be found in Jesus’ teachings as well.  Humility, faith, steadfastness, meekness, and action are all a part of the core of Jesus’ teachings and are all central themes of the New Testament message and encouragement to believers everywhere.

Like the book of Proverbs, which doesn’t mention God directly at all, James doesn’t necessarily lay out the Gospel message in precise detail.  However, the echoes of God’s grace and the message of Christ’s teachings can be found throughout the book of James in practical and applicable ways for our everyday life.



Introduction to James

James is one of the “General Epistles,” having no specified audience or church that it was written to.  These writings, like many of the other epistles, would have been copied by hand and distributed widely throughout the early church.

The author of this book is widely agreed upon to be James, the brother of Jesus, who became the leader of the church in Jerusalem for approximately 15 years.  He is mentioned multiple times in the book of Acts as holding this position and being a part of many of the councils and meetings that took place there.  An interesting fact about this is that, for several generations after the formation of the church, tradition has it that a relative of Jesus was appointed to be the head of the church in Jerusalem.

Different than much of the rest of the New Testament, James is a very practical book, focusing on the application of theology in everyday life.  For some, this makes James a favorite while for others, it can be confounding and theologically confusing.  There have been many arguments about how James’ theology mixes with that of Paul.

There have been many arguments about how James’ theology mixes with that of Paul.  James seems to have a “works first” approach, whereas Paul is all about grace; they often appear to be in conflict with one another.  However, when we bring them both together, especially looking at the whole of Paul’s writing, we see that works, how we live our lives in response to the Gospel of grace, are very important.  We are called to live transformed lives.

However, when we bring them both together, especially looking at the whole of Paul’s writing, we see that works, how we live our lives in response to the Gospel of grace, are very important.  We are called to live transformed lives in response to God’s love, not simply continuing on in our old patterns.  Our lives should reveal the faith that we attest to and James gives practical examples of how to do just that.