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What is the letter of James about?

The writer of the Book of James was James the brother of Jesus. This book is a practical guide of how to live the Christian life.

Here are some key points:

1. Facing trials and temptations

(James 1:2-8; 4:1-6; 5:7-20)
James encourages us to rejoice when we face trials because these things will increase our perseverance and make us strong and mature as Christians as we rely on God to help us through such times. Many times we struggle because the evil one (Satan) will try to use our weak spots, the things we did before we became Christians, our own thoughts and desires to turn our eyes away from God and His will, and to concentrate on ourselves. The secret to overcoming these things and not to fall into sin is to turn our hearts and minds to God immediately, submit to Him asking Him to come and fight for us. When we do this, we are resisting the devil and he will flee from us. He cannot stand against God or His Holy Spirit within us.

At times we may suffer because of circumstances and as far as we are able, we cannot see that we have sinned or turned away from God’s will. When this happens, James encourages us to be patient and pray, believing that God hears and sees and will bring about a resolution to the problems which will be beneficial to us. (Romans 8:28, “All things work together for good to those who love God”)

2. We should not show favoritism to anyone

(James 1:9-13; 2:1–13; 5:1-6)
Sadly, in our world there is a tendency to show favoritism based on what people look like outwardly, usually because someone has influence, money or power and we feel inferior to them. James teaches us that we should never show favoritism. He points out that rich people and their riches will die and disappear. It is just an illusion to believe that they are any different from anyone else. James also points out that frequently the people who have money, power and influence are the very ones who exploit, oppress and ill-treat those whom they consider beneath them. But God has seen this and heard the cries of those who are oppressed and will act on their behalf.

3. Our faith will be obvious by our behavior

(James 1:19-27; 2:14-25)
Sometimes people understand that Christians are only interested in the Ten Commandments and doing what they say is right. This kind of behavior can make people very negative about what it means to be a Christian, so it is important to understand these verses correctly. We don’t become Christians by keeping the Ten Commandments or trying to be good people. We are Christians because Jesus Christ has died to take our punishment for us, and in accepting this He forgives us and sends His Holy Spirit to live within us. The Holy Spirit is the one who helps us to obey the Ten Commandments, helps us to live the way God wants us to live.

James 1:21, “submit to God and accept the word He plants in our hearts”. When we read things in the Bible, the Holy Spirit helps us to understand and act upon what we read. We will begin to have a life that reflects God’s characteristics, we will love and serve others, forgive them and show mercy. People who try to be Christians by keeping laws and rules, and even making up ones that are not in the Bible, are usually negative and critical of anyone who doesn’t live the way they do. James wants us to make sure that our lives and actions reflect our faith, and are filled with God’s love.

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Eunice Burden

Eunice comes from UK and has been in Thailand 25 years. She and a Thai co-worker wrote a 4 year curriculum for all age Sunday Schools and they also did Sunday school teacher training seminars. She went back to UK for 8 years. Whilst in UK she did various courses including a theology degree and came back to Thailand with OMF in 1999. For most of her time since then she has been involved teaching lay leaders of the Thai, supporting and advising, speaking and teaching in various churches. Gradually over the years she has been invited to join various facilitator teams of the OMF.

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