-James writes to those of the Dispersion, spread abroad by persecution (James 1:1). This I takes to be the new Israel, the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, who has just experienced a dispersing from Jerusalem and the predominantly Jewish areas because of their belief in the resurrected Savior. Much like when the Assyrians and Babylonians came in and spread out the Hebrew people, now the Christians were being spread out and needed a common identity in Christ. James addresses this as his letter begins.
-This Dispersion has created many tests and trials for the believers, and James wastes no time in encouraging them. He tells them to “count it all joy” when you meet various trials in this life because the testing of faith produces steadfastness and perfects the individual making him/her complete, lacking in nothing (James 1:2-4). When we need wisdom, we can ask of God who gives generously to all with reproach, but it must be done in faith. The one who doubts is like a ship on the driven sea and is unstable in all his/her ways (James 1:5-8). *Application* Trust in the Lord when things are rough. Ask and seek His wisdom and direction in all matters. He will guide and grow you if you have faith and do not doubt. This is His promise to you.
-The lowly are encouraged, again in the context of persecution and abandonment, to exalt in their position compared to the fleetly glory of the rich who is wicked in his/her vain pursuits (James 1:9-11). This too is a trial and blessed is the man who stays unshakeable in this circumstance for they will receive the crown of life promised to those who love Christ Jesus (James 1:12). God doesn’t do the tempting. It is Satan who lures and entices, and it is people in their natural-fallen desires, who give birth to sin in their hearts, which when it is fully grown produces death (James 1:13-15). *Application* The Lord is on our side and wants to rescue us even in our greatest distress. It is easy to blame God for all our trials and errors, but He is the only One to deliver and save. Don’t get carried away by temptation and fall. Trust in the Lord to heal you and give you new life in Him.
-Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the Father of lights (James 1:17). We are not to be deceived by the enemy (James 1:16). There is no variation or shifting shadow with God. He is the Word of truth that we should be the first fruits of His creatures by faith (James 1:17-18). Therefore, we are to be quick to hear, slow to speak, and slow to anger (James 1:19). The anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. We are to receive the implanted Word, which is able to save souls, and put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness (James 1:20-21).
-James now gets to the crux of his message. We are to be doers of the Word, and not just hearers who deceive themselves (James 1:22). If anyone is just a hearer, he/she is like a person who looks in a mirror and then forgets what they saw. The one who looks at the perfect law of liberty, which is in Christ Jesus, perseveres as a doer who acts is the one who will be blessed in his/her doing (James 1:23-25). The tongue is an important theme which now surfaces and the person who cannot bridle it deceives his heart making his religion worthless. The doing includes pure and undefiled religion before God (not above Him) by visiting the widows and orphans in their affliction and keeping oneself unstained by the word (James 1:26-27). *Application* It is not what you say or think that matters, but what you do that actually reveals what you believe. Don’t fool yourself. This is a tactic of the enemy to deceive. Evaluate what you actually do and you will then know what you believe.
Verses to memorize: James 1:2-5, 22-25