James and Jude
Treats and Treasures
When I was in college, my mom wrote me at least once a week. She was a prolific letter writer, keeping in touch, longhand, with not only me but with people the world over—in a non-email world. She made the every day tedium exciting, even enviable. Details of home would sooth my homesick heart. A letter from my mom was a treat.
On the opposite extreme, my dad rarely wrote me any missive while I was away—he must have thought mom did a great job for the both of them. I think I have only two handwritten letters he wrote me during my college days. But from 800 miles away, I felt the weight of importance, his pride in me, and encouragement for the road ahead in every word. A letter from my dad was a treasure.
James and Jude wrote a lot like my parents. James, like my mom, focuses on living our faith every day. He gives pictures and descriptions that challenge us to be like Christ during our everyday routine, changing our everyday routine to be that of Christ’s. Jude— whose book we’ll study later—was more like my dad. Jude gives a short, 25-verse exhortation that has amazingly important information for us today as we approach the end of the age. Both James and Jude give relatable illustrations, both are filled with love for the believers who would be reading the letters.
The first chapter of James, which we’ll cover over the next two weeks, can be divided into two parts: “Be” and “Do.” It will focus on the every day and, at the same time, take us deeper. I pray we’ll find both treat and treasure in its richness.
I. DAY ONE
Today, we’ll study what are arguably some of the most familiar and beloved verses in the Bible. Just like the book of Proverbs, James 1:2-4 holds nuggets of truth we love to quote, hold on to, recite and share. The question always remains: How do we put it into practice? Essentially, James is asking us to be both joyful and enduring.
1. Read James 1:2-4. Look at the four verbs James uses: consider, knowing, allow (or let), and be. (Your translation may use slightly different terms.) With what phrase or word is each verb paired?
2. Notice that these verbs have little to do with actively doing anything. Webster’s Dictionary (1828) defines “consider” as “regard, notice, mature thought; serious deliberation.”1 Again he defines “allow” as “to grant, give or yield.”2 And the definition of the word “know” is “to perceive with certainty; to understand clearly; to have clear and certain perception of truth.”3
3. Read Psalm 77:11-14, 108:1-6, 121, 138:7, 8. As you meditate on these verses, ask God to help you to yield, understand and have a mature, truthful perception for whatever trial you may find yourself in today or in this season of your life.
We all struggle at times with the enigma of finding joy in difficult circumstances. James doesn’t mean “that we are to court disaster, to seek for trouble or to deny the reality of pain and sorrow … we are to rejoice, not because distresses come, but in view of their possible results.”4
1. Considering your current trial, how might you face it with joy?
2. How have past trials produced patience—which is a “steadfast endurance and triumphant trust”5—in you?
II. DAY TWO
A. Asking is not easy. Asking involves humility, vulnerability and teachability. Read James 1:5 for a look at how to be wise.
1. When we ask God for wisdom, how does He answer?
2. Read the following verses: Proverbs 2:10-12; 3:13; 8:11; 16:16; 24:13-14; Ecclesiastes 7:11-12. These verses depict just a few of the benefits of asking for and obtaining the wisdom we lack. Which one means the most to you?
B. Next, in verses 6-8, James wants us to look at motives in our asking—be analytical. Before James became a believer, he didn’t think Christ was who He claimed (John 7:1-5). Once he gave his life to Jesus, James now had to trust that, as God, Jesus could do what He claimed. If not, he really couldn’t trust Him to save.
1. Over and over, Jesus wearied of people needing a “sign.” Read Matthew 12:38-39; Mark 8:11-12; Luke 11:16; and John 2:18, 6:30. Such requests gave insight into their propensity to doubt.
2. How should a believer ask? Why is it so important not to doubt according to James 1:6b and 7?
3. What does it mean to you to be bold in your faith? What does Jesus tell us about receiving from the Father in Matthew 7:11?
C. James urges us to be single-minded—one who trusts wholeheartedly in Jesus for every aspect of our lives. The term “double-minded” occurs 3 times in the Bible, twice in James (1:8 and 4:8) and once in Psalms (119:113). Read Psalm 119:113-120.
1. From this passage, what are some characteristics of a single-minded woman?
III. DAY THREE
Most of us feel the weight of how temporary life is every day. It seems James felt the same, and believed it was urgent that he communicate this fact. Read James 1:9-11.
1. Read Psalm 103. This beautiful Psalm is one worth committing to memory. In what ways is life depicted similarly in James 1: 9-11? What kind of hope does Psalm 103 add?
Jesus warned, too, against the reliance on riches. Read Matthew 19:23-24; Luke 6:24, and Luke 12:21. Contrasting rich and poor, James now encourages us to be humble.
1. What words of wisdom could you give a person with this focus on riches?
2. Read Matthew 6:19-21. Which of your treasures and your pursuits will “fade away?” (James 1:11)
James painted pictures with words as much as Jesus, probably learning the art from Mary and Joseph as well as from their reading of the Old Testament, especially Psalms. Can you imagine the flowers on the hills above Nazareth and the grasses by the Sea of Galilee where the boys must have played? They saw the passing of seasons and the transitory nature of life described here.
1. What are the pictures around you or circumstances in your life that God is using to show you the temporal nature of life?
2. What do you need to give to the Lord this week that’s causing you to live with an unhealthy preoccupation for the temporary “riches” of this world?
IV. DAY FOUR
James 1:12 says, “Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” The admonitions from James today are, “be persevering” and “be approved.”
1. Read Matthew 10:22; John 8:31-32; John 10:28-29; John 15:4-10; and I Timothy 4:7-16. Even though not all these passages use the exact term, all imply an aspect of perseverance. Using these ideas, what does persevering mean to you?
2. Read Mark 4:3-9. How does Jesus’ parable of the sower give yet another aspect of persevering?
As you read James, do you wonder if he ever heard his brother speak? From the passages we read last week, we know Jesus’ mother and brothers showed up occasionally to try and convince Him to come with them. There were times that Jesus preached to hundreds of people (Luke 14:25), and most likely the crowd was filled with more than a few doubters or curiosity seekers—perhaps the throng included them.
Much of the book of James reflects the verbiage of the Sermon on the Mount. Read Matthew 5:3-16. In what ways do the verses in James 1:1-12 sound like Jesus’ words?
What is given in the Matthew passage that helps your definition of perseverance?
V. DAY FIVE
James tells us to be test takers. Back in school a test meant pencils, paper, cramming information late at night and nervous sweat. But is that what James is talking about here? Tests (James 1:3). Trials (James 1:12). Temptations (James 1:13). They’re all challenges. Some are from above and some are from the enemy. One type is set before us to work through and make us strong. The other is meant to make us fail God’s standard and needs to be avoided at all costs. And therein lies the test. Which is it and what do we do?
1. Read James 1:13-15. This passage outlines one such negative challenge that is meant to pull us away from righteousness—temptation. What do we know about God from verse 13?
2. Write the path that these three verses use to show the progression of a temptation.
3. Temptations come upon us subtly at times and even dangle, seemingly innocent, before we realize them for what they are. What temptations are you currently facing?
Scripture tells us Jesus faced the same temptations we face (Hebrews 4:15). Even though he was God, because Christ chose to become human, as well, temptations were real for Him. Read Matthew 4:1-11.
1. What were the circumstances leading up to Jesus’ temptation?
2. In what specific areas was Jesus tempted? Which one hits closest to home for you?
3. “It is written.” When faced with a challenge that seems more than you can bear, what a joy to be able to look at Scripture—eternally inscribed in black and white—knowing there is a clear answer. Perhaps that is part of the joy James is talking about when we encounter challenges both good and bad: God already provides answers. Read Deuteronomy 8:3, 6:16, and 10:20 to see the specific Scripture passages Jesus used to thwart the Satan’s influence.
We began and ended this week’s lesson with joy. Max Lucado calls joy a “sacred delight.” He explains that “it is sacred because only God can grant it. It is a delight because it thrills. Since it is sacred, it can’t be stolen. And since it is delightful, it can’t be predicted.”6 Sounds like both a treat and a treasure to me.
James begins his book with the idea of persevering single-mindedly with joy through life’s challenges. Did James struggle with humbly asking for wisdom? Imagine the trials, tests and temptations of life that must have bombarded him as half-brother of Jesus and influential leader of the young church. We write those things with which we are most familiar. James penned his lessons as a formerly double-minded man who knew what it was like to struggle through challenges.
What treats and treasures did God give you this week in your study? Don’t keep it to yourself. Write them down for someone who needs them.
[Author’s note: I’m using the New American Standard Bible for the study on James unless otherwise noted.]
1. Noah Webster, An American Dictionary of the English Language (S. Converse, New York, 1828), facsimile reprinted by Foundation for American Christian Education, San Francisco, CA, s.v. “consider.”
2. Ibid, s.v. “allow.”
3. Ibid, s.v. “know.”
4. Charles R. Erdman, The General Epistles (Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, MI, 1919, 1986), 22.
6. Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, (Word Publishing, 1996), 8-9.
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