James – the very first book that I paraphrased in the ’80’s!  And what a great book to read in the first person as it is ‘filled’ with practical words of wisdom for daily living.  And yet it teachings have great depth as well tackling issues like going through trials, unanswered prayer, faith vs. works, and true religion!  Be ready to have God speak to almost every aspect of your life as you enjoy the first person paraphrase of James!

James 1

This letter is from James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to Jewish Christians scattered everywhere and to me.  Greetings!

When I encounter various trials and temptations, I should be joyful; for when my faith is so tested, the purpose is that my patience and endurance will grow.  I need to let my patience and endurance develop until I become a mature follower of Christ, and then I will be complete and ready for anything.  But if I don’t understand how to do this, I can ask God for wisdom.  He will gladly give it to me without holding anything back.

However, I have to be sure to ask Him in faith without doubting, or I will be like a wave in the ocean that is driven and tossed by the wind, and my decisions will always be uncertain and their results will be unstable.  Without complete faith and trust in the Lord, I cannot expect anything else.

Even though I might be poor by worldly standards, I must focus on my high position in the Lord.  Or if I find myself rich in the things of this world, I must still focus on my eternal position in Him.  My riches will soon be gone like a desert flower that has had its beauty destroyed by the scorching of the sun and wind.

Yes, I can be joyful during my trials and temptations, for eventually I will receive the crown of life promised to me because I love Him.  Praise the Lord!  But when these times come, I shouldn’t say that God is tempting me because God never tempts me to  do anything evil.  I am tempted when my own thoughts and desires pull me away from God, and then sin results, which eventually leads to death.  I should not be deceived in this area.

Whatever is good and perfect comes to me from God, who is the Father of lights; He is never uncertain or unstableHe brought me to a new life in Him through the truth of His word, so I could become a child in His new family.  I must always remember to listen completely, speak only a little, and not become angry; for my anger does not help me achieve the standard God has set before me.

Therefore, I should put aside all filthiness and wickedness in my life and humbly take in God’s word, which is able to save my soul.  These words must be obeyed and not just listened to.  For if I am only a listener and do not obey, it is similar to looking in a mirror; and as soon as I walk away, I immediately forget what I look like.  But if I gaze intently on God’s perfect law of liberty and truly live it; I won’t forget, as I will do what it says.  God will then greatly bless me in everything I do!

If I say that I am a follower of Christ, but I can’t control my tongue, my religion isn’t worth much. God’s idea of true Christianity is taking care of orphans and widows and remaining true to Him – without being stained by the world.

 James 2

As a believer in my glorious Lord Jesus Christ, I must not show any favoritism.  For example, two people come to my church and one is dressed nicely and is wearing expensive jewelry, while the other is a poor person wearing shabby clothes.  If I pay special attention to the rich person and seat them in the best place but tell the poor person that he could stand or else sit on the floor, haven’t I then made distinctions based on evil motives?

I need to understand the fact that God has chosen poor people to be rich in faith and heirs to the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him.  And yet I insulted the poor man.  I should realize that it is usually the rich who would exploit me and drag me into court and slander the name of Jesus Christ, to whom I belong.  I am doing well when I obey our Lord’s command, “I must love my neighbor as myself.”  But if I show favoritism, I am breaking God’s law and committing sin.

If I keep almost every law but sin in just one area, I am guilty of breaking all of them.  For the God who said, “Do not commit adultery” also said, “Do not commit murder.”  So even if I have not committed adultery but have murdered someone, I have entirely broken God’s law and am a guilty sinner.  I need to speak and act knowing that my judgment will be based on God’s law that gives freedom.  This judgment towards me will be merciless if I haven’t shown mercy, but mercy triumphs over judgment!

What’s the use of saying that I have faith if I don’t have works?  Will that faith save me?  If I say to a brother or sister who is in need of food or clothing, “God bless you; be warmed and be filled,” and then I don’t give them any clothes or food, what good is that?  In the same way, if my faith does not result in good works, it is dead. One could argue, “You just talk about faith, but I do works.”  It would be difficult for me to prove my faith without doing any works, but they could easily demonstrate their faith by their works.

It is good to believe that there is one God; however, the demons also believe this and tremble.  So I would be foolish to identify faith that does not result in works as real faith. It is important for me to remember that Abraham demonstrated real faith by his works when he was willing to offer his son Isaac on the altar.

So his active faith was revealed by his obedience to God and as a result of doing what God told him, his faith was made complete.  By his obedience, the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him for righteousness,” and he was even called God’s friend.

This example illustrates that I am justified by my works and not by faith alone.  Rahab, the prostitute, is also a good example of faith that works.  She was justified by her works when she hid the messengers and sent them away safely.  For just as my body would be dead without a spirit; so also, my faith is dead if it does not result in works.

James 3

I should not become a teacher of others without considering that those who teach will be judged more strictly.

It is possible to stumble in many ways, but if I am never at fault in my speech, I would be able to control all of the areas in my life.  One can direct a horse and make it obey by putting a small bit in its mouth.  Also, a captain can use a very small rudder to make a huge ship turn wherever he wants; even in strong winds.  So also, my tongue is a very small part of my body, and yet great damage can be done by it.

Yes, a great forest fire can be set by a small flame. My tongue is sparked by hell itself; it is a flame of fire, the very world of iniquity.  It can poison every part of my body and can turn my whole life into flaming destruction.  I might be able to tame any kind of animal, bird, or fish, but I cannot tame my tongue.  It is always ready to pour out its deadly poison.

Sometimes my tongue will praise and bless our Lord and Father, and at other times it will curse men who are made in His image.  My mouth produces both blessing and cursing; I should not speak this way.  After all, does a spring send forth both fresh and bitter water?  Can a fig tree produce olives, or a grape vine produce figs?  No, and neither can salt water produce fresh.

If I am wise and understanding, it will be shown by my good deeds done in the gentleness of wisdom.  But if there is bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in my heart, it would be arrogant of me to lie and pretend they do not exist.  Jealousy and selfishness are not expressions of God’s wisdom, but are earthly, natural, and of the devil.  For if I am jealous and selfish, then there will be confusion and all forms of evil.

The wisdom that God wants me to have is first pure, and then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, and without hypocrisy.  If I sow these seeds of peace, my harvest will be righteousness and goodness.

James 4

When I am involved in quarreling and fighting, it is because of the evil desires for pleasure that battle within me.  If I want something that is not mine, it’s almost as if I could kill to get it.  By envying what others have that I can’t have, quarreling and fighting results.

Yet, the real reason I don’t have what I want is because I didn’t ask God for it.  And when I don’t receive after asking God, it is because I have asked with the wrong motives.  I cannot expect to receive anything from God when I only want to use what I receive for my own personal pleasure.

It is like being an unfaithful marriage partner when I am friends with the evil pleasures of the world.  By choosing these pleasures, I become an enemy of God.  For the Scripture tells me that God jealously yearns over His Spirit that dwells within me.  He extends more grace to me when I struggle with these choices.  For the Scripture also says, “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Therefore, I should humbly submit myself to God, and resist the devil; and he will flee from me.  As I draw closer to God, He will draw closer to me.  Knowing that double-mindedness and sin are in my life, I need to wash my hands; cleanse my heart; and grieve, mourn, and weep over my sin.  My laughter must turn into mourning and my joy into sorrow.

When I humble myself in the sight of the Lord, He will lift me up! Therefore, I should humbly submit myself to God!

I should not judge or speak evil against Christ followers, for if I do, I am speaking against the law and judging it.  Keeping God’s law should be my primary concern, not sitting in judgment of it.  After all, there is only one Lawgiver and Judge, and He alone is able to save and to destroy.  So who am I to judge my neighbor?

I shouldn’t say, “Today or tomorrow I am going to this or that city, spend a year there, and engage in a profitable business.”  How do I know what will happen tomorrow?  My life is really just like a mist of fog that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.

Instead, I will depend on God and say, “If the Lord wants me to, I will live and do this or that.  Otherwise, it would be bragging and boasting, and such self-confidence never pleases God. Therefore, when I know the right thing to do and don’t do it, that is sin.

James 5

Here is a warning to the wealthy that I also need to be aware of.  They should weep and groan with grief because of the misery that is coming on them.  Their riches have rotted and their clothing has become moth-eaten.  Their gold and silver have corroded and the corrosion will testify against them and eat their flesh like fire.  They have hoarded their wealth and treasure in the last days.

Behold, the pay they withheld from the laborers who mowed their fields is crying out against them, and the cry of the harvesters has reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. They (the rich) have lived luxuriously on the earth satisfying all of their evil desires and have fattened their hearts as in a day of slaughter and have condemned and murdered good men who did not resist them.

Under these circumstances, therefore, I must be patient until the Lord’s return, as a farmer who patiently waits for rains and the eventual harvest.  Yes, I also will be patient and stand firm, for the coming of the Lord is near. I must not grumble and complain against my brothers or I will be judged.  Behold, the true Judge is standing right at the door.

The Lord’s prophets are good examples of patience in suffering.  Those who persevered are considered blessed.  Job’s perseverance resulted in his seeing the outcome of the Lord’s dealings.  Through it all, he experienced that the Lord is merciful and full of compassion.

But above all, I must not swear by heaven or earth, or with any other oath.  My yes must be yes, and my no mean no, or I may be condemned. When I am suffering, I should pray.  When I am cheerful and happy, I should sing praises.

When I am sick, I should call for the elders of the church to pray over me and anoint me with oil in the name of the Lord. The prayer offered in faith will restore me and the Lord will raise me up.  If I have committed sins, they will be forgiven.

Therefore, I need to confess my sins to others and pray for others so that I may be healed. Elijah was a human just like me, and yet when he prayed earnestly that it would not rain, it did not rain for the next three and a half years.  Then he prayed again, and the sky poured forth rain and the earth again produced vegetation.

If someone wanders from God and the truth, and I bring him back to the Lord, I will have saved his soul from death and will have covered a multitude of sins.

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