The Book of James written by James probably a brother of Jesus Christ (see Matthew 13:35; Mark 6:3) in approximately AD 60; nicely establishes the nature, character and works of a true born-again Christian in the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Book of James notes the maturing of the spirit of a born-again Christian as seen in the works which is produced by their choices and actions. It is one thing to profess a belief in Jesus Christ and another thing entirely to actually live a life honoring that belief.
To obey God is to follow the Word of God and what He teaches. Oftentimes when we read the Word of God, we simply stop at just hearing the teachings that the Word of God is sharing with us, but our actions and choices prove out that we are not actually listening and have not learned the lessons which God is teaching us through his Word.
There is a big difference between hearing something and listening to what we have heard. The proof of this is demonstrated by our following actions and choices that we make in our life.
For example: a child is standing next to a hot stove and their parents warn the child not to touch the stove because the stove is hot. Now the child heard their parents warn them not to touch the stove because the stove is hot, but their next action and choice will determine whether or not they were actually really listening to what they just learned from their parents. If the child touches the hot stove then the child only heard what was said to them, but did not actually listen (learn) from what their parents had taken the time to warn them about. If the child doesn’t touch the hot stove then by their action (choice) proves that they were listening and more importantly than that, it proves that the child/parent relationship is one of trust. The child has faith in what their parents are telling them about is truthful and the warning given was given to protect the child from being harmed.
This is the kind of loving relationship that God (Jesus Christ) wants to have with his children. God wants us to trust him. He wants us to know this by his Word and that is why God gave us his Word because he loves us and does not want us to be harmed by the evil that operates in this present world. The Word of God is more than a user’s manual of life; it is a love letter that is filled with the wisdom of our Heavenly Father whom told us the end from the beginning, by which our hope is.
Some people when reading the Book of James become confused when James teaches that “But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? (James 2:20)” But, what most people do not stop to realize is that this statement is given in the form of a question so to make the learner to think deeper about their faith that they profess. James answers this question a little earlier in the same chapter in James 2:18 when he said “Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works.” There is a difference that James is illustrating by this statement.
Some people professing a belief in Jesus Christ fail to understand that faith is a gift of God through the Holy Spirit. These people believe that they must strive to carry out works of their hands to prove their righteousness and faith in God, but the true born-again Christian have listened to the Word of God and understands that true faith is shown not by their own striving to perform good works by their own hands, but through no effort of their own, God will work through them by the Holy Spirit and the works that follow will naturally come by God working in their lives. A born-again believer trust (have faith) that God is the person doing the work and they are the vessel that he has chosen to do the work in and through.
Another example of this lesson can be found in the Book of Genesis through the story of brothers Cain and Abel. A summary of the story is that Cain and Abel wanted to bring an offering to the Lord God, so Cain was a farmer and he worked with his hands and Abel was a shepherd and tended his flock of sheep. Cain worked and toiled in the field tilling, planting, sowing and brings in the harvest, while his brother Abel watched over his sheep and watched out for their safety from predators. Cain trusted in his own labor to bring in a harvest so he could bring a gift to the Lord God and Abel trusted in the Lord God to provide him a gift that would be pleasing to the Lord God.
When the harvest had come, Cain went out and brought in the harvest. He chose by himself what to bring to the Lord God as a gift and brought his offering to the Lord, which did not please the Lord God. And, Cain became angry with the Lord, because after all, he thought that after working and toiling all day in the hot sun, tilling the hard ground and sowing all his seed, then doing his best to pick out a gift to offer to the Lord – after all of this hard labor the Lord is not pleased.
On the other hand, Abel waited on the Lord God to provide a good gift that Abel could give as an offering. Abel spent all day watching after the sheep. He protected the sheep from predators and moved the sheep to green pastures and led them to refreshing water, so that the sheep would continue to grow as a flock and produce good fruit in the way of wool and newborn sheep. Abel understood that the Lord God gave him a responsibility, a stewardship over the things that God had given to him to watch over and to protect until the Lord God came for them. Abel probably spent much of his day sitting under a shade tree in the heat of the day watching over the sheep and when the time came, he acted on the sheep’s behalf by leading them to food and water so that they were kept feed. Abel did nothing more than those duties that the Lord God had given him to do to care for his sheep. Abel did not strive to produce a gift for the Lord God with his own hands. He did not try to decide what gift he was going to choose to offer the Lord God when the time came to present the gift. He just tended the sheep and trusted in the Lord God to provide him with a gift that would be pleasing to the God.
When the time came for Abel to give a gift to the Lord God, Abel gave the Lord God the choices of the newborn lambs that were the first of the newborns a lamb without blemish and good a gift in the sight of the Lord. Abel did nothing special to produce this gift; he just carried out his daily duties as the shepherd and the Lord gave him a lamb to offer as his gift. Abel trusted (had faith) in the Lord God that when the time came to make his gift offering to the Lord God, then God will provide him with the perfect gift to present that would please him.
What God was seeking was not that of the actual gifts that Cain and Abel offered to Him, but God was really seeking the hearts of Cain and Abel. Cain gave the Lord God a gift that Cain’s hands produced, but Abel gave the Lord God his whole heart by carrying out the responsibilities that the Lord God had given him to do to take care of his sheep and God provided Abel a gift to offer. Cain’s heart was in his own work, but Abel’s heart was given over to the Lord’s work.
In the Book of Ephesians, the Word of God teaches an important truth regarding God’s Grace vs Man’s Works as it is taught in Ephesians 2:8-9 “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.”
The difference between a self-righteous man and a righteous man is that the self-righteous man puts his faith in the works of his own hands, and the righteous man has put his faith in God alone.
The following is audio, video and written examples of the Book of James, so that there isn’t any excuse not to make you aware of what the Word of God teaches throughout the Book of James. Choose the audio and video versions if you have a hard time reading and/or select the written text by following the link to the “BibleGateway.com” provided at the bottom of this page should you want to read, study and learn at a slower pace.
The Book of James (English Language – King James Version)
The Book of James (Spanish Language)
The Book of James (Hindi Language)
The Book of James (Chinese Mandarin Language)
The Book of James (Russian Language)
The Book of James (Hebrew Language)
The Book of James (Arabic Language)
To gain access to a complete written edition of the Book of James via BibleGateway.com, just follow the link provided here – The Book of James.
More Lessons to Learn: