Tuesday, April 13, 2010


James 1-2

The Epistle of James opens with greeting "to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations." He then encourages "my brothers" to "consider it pure joy" whenever they face trials because "the testing of your faith develops perseverance." He tells them that the positions of both the poor and the "will fade away" and that "blessed is the man who perseveres under trial." He tells them that no one should ever say "God is tempting me," for each is tempted "by his own evil desire," but "every good and perfect gift is from above." Everyone should be "quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger." It's not enough to "merely listen to the word...do what it says." And anyone who does not "keep a tight rein on his tongue...his religion is worthless."

In chapter two, he tells the believers not to practice favoritism, using, as his example, a well dressed man and a "poor man in shabby clothes." "If you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers." Because whichever part of the law you break, makes you a lawbreaker. And "judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful" because "mercy triumphs over judgment." In the rest of chapter two, he discusses the issue of faith vs. works (deeds). "What good is it," he asks, "if a man claims to have faith by has no deeds?" It is not enough to believe in the one God, because "even the demons believe that - and shudder." He describes Abraham's faithfulness as doing what God ordered when he bound Isaac - deeds, not faith. In the same way, Rahab is praised for her deeds, not her faith.

Thoughts, questions, issues

  • The Epistle of James was almost certainly written by the James who was one of the leaders of the first Jerusalem council (Acts 15). Some Protestant tradition holds that he was a half-brother of Jesus, a son of Mary, while Catholic tradition holds that Mary had no other children so he was a different James, and maybe a cousin but not a brother.
  • Paul made it very clear, in his epistle to the Galatians, that he was on the faith side of the faith/works debate. James is on the works side. That's the focus of the second chapter.

Proverbs 23:19-35

There's some practical advice in this section, with several warnings about the dangers of over-indulging in wine. There's praise of wisdom and fidelity and condemnation of folly and sexual promiscuity. In other words, it's a lot like many other sections of proverbs.

19 Listen, my son, and be wise,
and keep your heart on the right path.

20 Do not join those who drink too much wine
or gorge themselves on meat,

21 for drunkards and gluttons become poor,
and drowsiness clothes them in rags.

22 Listen to your father, who gave you life,
and do not despise your mother when she is old.

23 Buy the truth and do not sell it;
get wisdom, discipline and understanding.

24 The father of a righteous man has great joy;
he who has a wise son delights in him.

25 May your father and mother be glad;
may she who gave you birth rejoice!

26 My son, give me your heart
and let your eyes keep to my ways,

27 for a prostitute is a deep pit
and a wayward wife is a narrow well.

28 Like a bandit she lies in wait,
and multiplies the unfaithful among men.

29 Who has woe? Who has sorrow?
Who has strife? Who has complaints?
Who has needless bruises? Who has bloodshot eyes?

30 Those who linger over wine,
who go to sample bowls of mixed wine.

31 Do not gaze at wine when it is red,
when it sparkles in the cup,
when it goes down smoothly!

32 In the end it bites like a snake
and poisons like a viper.

33 Your eyes will see strange sights
and your mind imagine confusing things.

34 You will be like one sleeping on the high seas,
lying on top of the rigging.

35 "They hit me," you will say, "but I'm not hurt!
They beat me, but I don't feel it!
When will I wake up
so I can find another drink?"

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