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James 1:1-18

The letter of James is a like a mosaic of wise sayings, based on the wisdom of the Old Testament (especially the book of Proverbs) as well as the teachings of Jesus. It was written to teach the first Christians how to live out their faith in Jesus, even when life is complicated and times are tough.

Before you begin reading, watch the bible project’s animated overview of the letter to become familiar with the style, structure and key themes of the letter.

Read James 1:1-8

  • Why does James say we should rejoice when we suffer?

  • Does that sound like 'wisdom' to you? Why/why not?

  • Have you had times of suffering in your life that have, in the long run, produced perseverance and maturity in you? If so, as you look back on it, what fingerprints of God can you see from that period of your life? How did God use that time to shape you into who you are today?

  • What do you think James means by ‘wisdom’? [1]

  • Why do you think James warns his readers about being doubtful or ‘double-minded’ – how might these things inhibit our ability to receive wisdom from God?

Pause to reflect on your own walk with God:

  • Are you trusting him, or are you tossed here and there on the waves of doubt and double-mindedness?

  • Are you able to persevere through the hard times, clinging on to God and the joy of perseverance and maturity?

  • When you don’t know what to do, do you seek wisdom from God, or do you trust your own wisdom or the wisdom of the world?

Read James 1:9-11, Matthew 5:3 & Matthew 23:11-12

  • How does James (in the tradition of Jesus) encourage believers who are poor, and challenge those who are rich?

  • What do you think these things look like in practice?

  • How could you apply this teaching to your own situation?

Now James returns to the theme he briefly introduced in verses 2-4.

Read James 1:12-18

  • How should we respond when we receive trials, tests and temptations in life?

  • How do you think we can short-circuit the spiralling processes of verses 14-15? (hint: read on up to verse 18!)

Pause to reflect on your own walk with God:

  • Are you facing a trial, a test or a temptation right now?

  • If so, how are you responding to this situation? (Or if not, how have you responded in the past?)

  • How would you like to be responding to challenges, external or internal?

  • Spend some time praying that God would give you the wisdom you require for the situation you are facing, or for situations you might face in the future.

  • And finally, spend some time contemplating the good gifts of God, thanking him for them, and resting in the knowledge of His perfect goodness.

[1] In the tradition found in [Ancient Jewish writings], wisdom is above all a practically oriented virtue that gives direction for the life of the godly person. ‘Insight’ into the will of God and the way it is to be applied in life are both given by wisdom (see Prov. 2:10–19; 3:13–14; 9:1–6). Particularly relevant to James 1:5 is the way in which wisdom is said to produce in its possessor a full-blown godly character. According to Proverbs 8:35, the one who finds wisdom ‘finds life and obtains favour from the LORD’. Wisdom of Solomon 10:5 says that wisdom preserved Abraham ‘blameless before God’ when he obeyed the terrible command to sacrifice his son Isaac.

Douglas J. Moo, Tyndale Commentary Vol. 16: James, p65.


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