James begins his epistle by discussing the testing of faith—a subject that will serve as the underlying principle for his subsequent exhortations on faith and works. The testing of faith comes in the form of outward circumstances or inner temptations. With a matured faith, we will rejoice in various trials and be victorious over temptations.
Did You Know...?
1. “Greetings” (1:1) is translated literally as “rejoice.”
2. Temptation/Trial (1:2,12-14): The Greek word peirasmos has two basic meanings. If its purpose is positive, peirasmos is translated as “trial,” as in verse 2. If it is evil in origin and leads to sin, it is translated as “temptation” (12-14; cf. Lk 4:13).
3. Testing (1:3,12) means “proving” (the process) or “approval” (the outcome).
- Greetings to the Twelve Tribes (1:1)
- Rejoice in Various Trials (1:2-4)
- Asking in Faith (1:5-8)
- Trials for the Poor and the Rich (1:9-12)
- Source of Temptations (1:13-15)
- God as the Source of All Good Gifts (1:16-18)
What are the two different types of trials? How do they differ?Hide Answer
Trials can come in the form of outward difficulties, such as persecutions or loss of material wealth, or in the form of inner temptations. While we tend to avoid outward difficulties because of the pain involved, we are lured by temptations because of the pleasure they offer. Outward difficulties are morally neutral and may even benefit us spiritually, but inner temptations are innately evil because they come from a desire that is contrary to God’s law and result in sin.
Pick out some sets of contrasts in this passage.Hide Answer
Joy and trials; faith and doubt, the lowly and the rich; exaltation and humiliation; life and death; evil and good.
Record all the teachings about God in the passage.Hide Answer
See verses 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, 18.
How does James identify himself? What does this imply about his relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ?Hide Answer
James considers himself as a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ (1). The word “servant” means slave. As a slave submits to his master in everything, James is obedient to the Lord. In the same way a slave belongs to his master, James belongs to the Lord, both body and soul.
If the term “twelve tribes” is interpreted literally, who would it refer to? What if it is interpreted symbolically?Hide Answer
The literal meaning of “twelve tribes” would be Jewish Christians. If interpreted symbolically, the term refers to spiritual Israel—those who by faith have been baptized into Christ and become the children of Abraham (cf. Rom 9:6-8; Gal 3:7-9, 26-29; 6:16; Php 3:3)
What do the words “scattered abroad” suggest about the believers’ circumstance?Hide Answer
Whether the scattering alludes to the Diaspora—the dispersion of Jews among the Gentiles after the Babylonian captivity, or to the dispersion of believers after the stoning of Stephen (Acts 8:1), the believers who lived abroad were often living in adverse conditions. As aliens in foreign lands, many of them suffered religious or social oppressions.
Have you been in a situation where various trials seem to all take place at once in your life?
What should be our attitude when various trials come upon us? Why?Hide Answer
We should consider it all joy (verse 2; “all joy” means “complete joy”). The reasons for such joy are found in verses 3 and 4.
What makes us complain in trials? What enables us to rejoice?Hide Answer
A person would naturally complain if he is not prepared to suffer (cf. Acts 14:22; 1Thess 3:3; 1Pet 4:12) and does not see the purpose of his suffering. As Christians, we can rejoice in trials because we know that we can develop spiritual character and that our faith may be tested and approved through suffering (Rom 5:3-5; Jas 1:12; 1Pet 1:6,7; 4:1,2,12,13).
What does it mean to “let patience have its perfect work?”Hide Answer
We need to endure to the end.
What does it mean to be “perfect and complete, lacking nothing”? (cf. Eph 4:13; Col 4:12).Hide Answer
It means reaching spiritual maturity, not lacking any Christian character.
In view of verses 2-4, what kind of wisdom is verse 5 referring to?Hide Answer
The wisdom to understand the purpose of trials. The wisdom to see our shortcomings and where we can grow. The wisdom to handle life’s various trying circumstances.
Are there circumstances in your life right now that require you to pray for wisdom?
Why does James remind his readers that God gives to all liberally and without reproach?Hide Answer
Since God does not rebuke us for our insufficiency but generously provides for our needs, we can pray to him and ask for wisdom with full confidence and assurance.
In light of verse 6, how are trials in our lives a testing of faith? What serves as a measure of our faith in trying times?Hide Answer
Whether we can still pray to the Lord with unwavering faith when we face trials will indicate whether our faith in God is genuine.
What kind of prayer is offered by a double-minded person? Have you ever offered such prayers?Hide Answer
An example of a double-minded prayer is one where we seek for God’s help on the one hand while devising a “backup plan” in case God does not answer our prayers.
What “exaltation” and “humiliation” do you think James has in mind in 9-10?Hide Answer
Considering the context, both exaltation and and humiliation refer to trials in believers’ lives.
Why should the lowly brother glory in his exaltation and the rich in his humiliation?Hide Answer
The lowly brother should glory in exaltation because trials of faith is an honor bestowed by the Lord (Acts 5:41; 1Pet 4:13,14). The rich should glory in his humiliation because trials of faith remind him that life and material abundance are fleeting.
How is the rich man like the grass and flowers?Hide Answer
Just as the grass withers and the flowers fall under the burning heat, so the rich man is humbled when going through fiery trials.
What is the main teaching concerning trials in this paragraph?Hide Answer
Trials put both the poor and the rich believer on equal footing. They make us realize that our lives are weak and fragile, and that we should not depend on or boast of our material possessions (cf. 1Tim 6:17).
Considering your present pursuits in life, how important is material wealth to you? What do you learn from James’ teaching here?
Who will receive the crown of life?Hide Answer
Those who love the Lord (12).
Based on the context of this paragraph, how do we demonstrate our love for the Lord?Hide Answer
If we relate verse 12 to the previous verses, we understand that those who love the Lord are those who withstand trials and learn to look lightly upon material pursuits. They choose to love God rather than Mammon (Mt 6:24). In other words, they serve the Lord wholeheartedly without being enticed by selfish ambitions.
Why would a person say, “I am tempted by God”?Hide Answer
A person may attribute temptations to God in order to justify his sin.
Record the progression of temptations based on 14-15.Hide Answer
Drawn away by desires and enticed > desire is conceived > gives birth to sin > sin is full-grown > brings forth death.
Knowing the nature of temptations, what is the effective way to guard against spiritual death?Hide Answer
Since the power of sin keeps growing stronger until it takes control of us, we must subdue our evil desires even before they are conceived. We need to flee youthful lusts (2Tim 2:22) and put to death the misdeeds of the body (Rom 8:13). Let our hearts be filled with God’s word and God’s Spirit so that there would be no room for evil.
What is the emphasis of this paragraph?Hide Answer
God is the author of everything that is good and perfect. There is not the slightest evil in Him (1 Jn 1:5).
What assurance can we have from knowing that God is “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning”?Hide Answer
God is trustworthy. Therefore, we can always depend on His goodness and pray to Him without fear of being disappointed (Lk 9-13; Rom 8:31,32).
How has God “brought us forth by the word of truth”? Why is this a good and perfect gift?Hide Answer
We have been born again through the word of God (1 Pet 1:23). By hearing the gospel and believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, we have the best gift from God—eternal life (Rom 6:23).
What does James mean by “a kind of firstfruits” of God’s creatures? (cf. Ex 34:22; Lev 23:10; Rom 8:23)Hide Answer
While the whole creation eagerly awaits the day of final redemption, we who have received spiritual redemption become the first to have a foretaste of that glorious moment.