We are flooded with words about how we are to live life and what we are supposed to value. We go to the book of James this morning to get clarifying words of wisdom in a confused world of advice and counsel that is foolish.
James the author:
- James – the half-brother of Jesus the Messiah.
- A slave of God
- A slave of the Lord Jesus Christ
- The 12 tribes in the Dispersion
James’ main point of the letter is summarized in 3:13-18.
There are 3 sources of earthly wisdom – Satan/demons, the world (other people and philosophies and ideas espoused by them) and yourself (James 1:13-14).
We are bombarded and attacked on all three fronts regularly, so much so that we don’t even realize it. We are constantly pushed into an earthly mold called, “wisdom” that pulls us apart from God and his people. What’s worse, is not only that we adopt earthly wisdom, but that we continue to live by it calling it actual wisdom. This is tragic and dangerous and many live and die on this damning and destructive path.
James’ message: Be wise as a covenant community in life until the Lord returns.
We’ll look at 4 wise words from James and 2 reasons to get and give wisdom to others.
Wise word 1: Trials are always good for you even though they feel bad for you (world: trials are bad so avoid them and minimize them at all costs)
- They build endurance and character (1.2-4)
- It provides an opportunity to receive wisdom from God (1.5-8)
- It keeps us humble and accurate in perspective (1.9-12)
- It points out our sin which is the worse thing in the world about us (1:13-15)
- It gives us an opportunity to see the goodness of God because we don’t always understand what is truly good (1:16-18)
Wise word 2: Not everyone who says he’s a Christian actually is one. Actions justify or nullify words (world: don’t question what anyone else believes in their heart because you don’t know them, their heart, or their history – and it’s disrespectful)
- The point of hearing/reading God’s Word is doing it (1.19-27)
- True trust/faith in Jesus necessarily and inevitably has actions (2.14-26)
- Faith/trust is demonstrably wise (3.13-18)
Wise word 3: Covenant Community takes sin-killing, one-another-restoring work (world: there’s more intimacy and happy relationships when you choose who, when, and for how long – the ultimate value is your immediate happiness as best you can conceive it at the current moment)
- Favoritism (2.1-13)
- Words (3.1-12; 4.11-12; 5:12)
- Worldliness (4.1-10)
- Restoration (5:19-20)
Wise word 4: Plan, invest, and live with the end always in mind (world: live for the moment and enjoy it. Just do it. Work hard and you’ll earn what you work for. Enjoy as much as you can now. Don’t think about death. Deny a future judgment or Jesus existence. Don’t ask God or other for stuff, help yourself).
- You don’t know what tomorrow holds but you often act like you do (4.13-17)
- Invest in heaven (5.1-6)
- Wait for the Lord (5.7-11)
- Pray and live expectantly (5.12-20)
So James wants to give us wisdom. So what’s God’s main message to us from this book and from verse 1? Get and give God’s wisdom to God’s people. That is what James does in this book and in this text we find 2 reasons why we need to be about the same task and privilege.
Reason 1: Because we are slaves of God
- We are slaves
- Slave – a person bound in servitude to another human being as an instrument of labor; one who is no longer free and has no rights. 
- God the Father is our master – God in James is the God who gives wisdom (1:5; 3:17), he fulfills his promise of giving the crown of life to the ones who endure trials (1:12), he doesn’t tempt anyone 1:13 because he himself is unable to be tempted to evil. He is utterly holy. He is the source and giver of every good gift and every good act of giving. He speaks (1:18). He created and will re-create (1:18). He has a righteous standard (1:20). He sees our religious actions and the heart and consistency behind those actions (1:27). He is Father (1:27). He chose the poor to be rich in faith (2:5). He credits some as righteous and calls them friends (2:23). He is praiseworthy (3:10) and his image is borne by humanity he created (3:9). He is opposed to the world in its adulterous mindset (4:4). He resists the proud and give (4:6). He can be submitted to in a relationship with humans (4:7). He can have sinners draw near to him and they can distance themselves from him (4:8). He is lawgiver and judge (4:12) and his judgment is imminent (5:9). His sovereign will is always effective, even over against our plans (4:16). He hears the cries of the oppressed (5:4). He allows his name to be borne by others (5:10). He is very compassionate and merciful (5:11).
- The Lord Jesus Christ is our Master
- Jesus – He is the one trusted in 2:1. He is glorious (2:1). He is Lord (1:1; 2:1). He is coming again and it is near (5:8). When he comes, he will come to judge (5:9). In his name people suffer (5:10). It is in his name and person people pray and through him people are healed (5:14-15).
- Lord – He is Lord over his church. He has elders that he gives to churches (5:14) but he is head and Lord of the church. He is Lord over every Christian personally (1:1). He is Lord over all people and creation (Philippians 2:9-11). His Lordship means that he has all authority (Matt 28:18), he is always present and near those he rules over (28:20), and he is in absolute control (4:16; Col 1:17; Hebrews 1:3).
- Messiah – This is Messiah. Jesus is the messiah, the one who was to come as king, prophet, and priest, to bring salvation to his people. In Matthew’s words, he is to save his people from their sins (Matt 1:21). He is the king of Israel, the promised one (Matt 1:1-18), who would have all authority (Matt 28:18).
- Preach Christ crucified and call people to repentance and trust in Christ.
- The Triune God is our one master – James 2:19 (cf. Deut. 6:4; Exodus 20:2; John 10:30).
- Baptist Catechism:
- Are there more gods than one?
- There is only one living and true God.
- How many persons are there in the Godhead?
- There are three persons in the Godhead: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; and these three are one God, the same in essence, equal in power and glory.
- The goal is glad obedience, ILLUSTRATION – 2 Sam 23:13-17.
- The key to consistently living out the slavery that is ours is the Lord and Master we serve. Do we know him? Do we see him? Do we love him? In staring at him, service becomes a joy.
- NON-CHRISTIAN (taken from Tim Keller’s “Deconstructing Defeater Beliefs) – In Christianity the Bible and the church dictate everything that a Christian must believe, feel, and do. Christians are not encouraged to make their own moral decisions, or to think out their beliefs or patterns of life for r themselves. In a fiercely pluralistic society there are too many options, too many cultures, too many personality differences for this approach. We must be free to choose for ourselves how to live – this is the only truly authentic life. We should only feel guilty if we are not being true to ourselves – to our own chosen beliefs and practices and values and vision for life.
- Individual creation of truth removes moral outrage. Aren’t there any people in the world who are doing things you believer are wrong that they should stop doing no matter what they believe inside about right and wrong? Then you do believe that there is some kind of moral obligation that people should abide by and which stands in judgment over their internal choices and convictions. So what is wrong with Christians doing that?
- No one is really free anyway. We all have to live for something, and whatever our ultimate meaning in life is (whether approval, achievement, a love relationship, our work) it is basically our ‘lord’ and master. Everyone is ultimately in a spiritual straightjacket. Even the most independent people are dependent on their independence and so can’t commit. Christianity gives you a lord and master who forgives you and dies for you.
Reason 2: Because we are God’s people committed to his people
- The twelve tribes are the Jewish believers in Christ.
- Dispersion is due to the persecution in the early church (Acts 7-8).
- It’s historical significance
- It’s current significance for the church with Peter
- James is doing what Jesus taught, greeting and welcoming other brothers as Christian family on the same team. We spoke about this from Matthew 18 a few weeks back but listen to Mark’s account (chapter 9):
36 Then He took a child, had him stand among them, and taking him in His arms, He said to them, 37 “Whoever welcomes one little child such as this in My name welcomes Me. And whoever welcomes Me does not welcome Me, but Him who sent Me.” 38 John said to Him, “Teacher, we saw someone driving out demons in Your name, and we tried to stop him because he wasn’t following us.”
39 “Don’t stop him,” said Jesus, “because there is no one who will perform a miracle in My name who can soon afterward speak evil of Me. 40 For whoever is not against us is for us. 41 And whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of My name, since you belong to the Messiah—I assure you: He will never lose his reward.
- The twelve tribes are a family from one man, and they were to live like a family. Jesus fulfills this family (Matt 2:15) and we are grafted in through our union with Jesus the Messiah.
- Renew your identity as family with God’s people
- Learn from your family the way a fiancée getting prepared for marriage would learn from other married couples.
- Give wisdom to your family from your lessons learned, even your sins – Psalm 51:10-13.
 Youngblood, R. F., Bruce, F. F., Harrison, R. K., & Thomas Nelson Publishers. (1995). Nelson’s new illustrated Bible dictionary. Nashville: T. Nelson.