You are hereEntry One Hundred Seventy-Six: Jesus' Brothers
Entry One Hundred Seventy-Six: Jesus' Brothers
176) JESUS’ BROTHERS HAVE THEIR SAY James, Jude
- This entry covers two days of reading and topics such as PERSEVERANCE, SIN, LOVING GOD’S WORD, FAVORITISM, FAITH & DEEDS, TAMING THE TONGUE, TRUE WISDOM, NOT LOVING THE WORLD, HUMILITY, PRAYER, and THE DANGER OF FALSE TEACHINGS.
Note to readers: Chronologically speaking, the book of James was written before II Timothy, sometime between AD 50-62. However, Dr. Smith wanted to finish up Paul’s letters before getting into the writings of James, Jude, Peter and John.
- James has been another one of my favourite books since I was a young Christian. An old minister that I heard often in my campus years used to introduce a passage from it in his sermons by always saying, “James, that little book of practicality”. It truly is full of practical issues. James, the brother of Jesus (see Galatians 1:19), wasn’t well educated in the way that Paul and Luke were. His language is more down to earth, and his book doesn’t “flow” in the way that some of the other books in the bible do. He doesn’t discuss theology, doctrine, or specific issues addressing specific churches. However, it’s hard to beat the book of James for good old-fashioned Christian values.
- Chapter One
- Right off the bat, James got into the subject of perseverance during trials. We can only assume that is because things were heating up for the Christians persecution-wise by this time and disciples all around the Roman world were facing more and more trials. Perhaps Paul was already under house arrest in Rome. In any case, even at the best of times, Christians have to learn how to endure suffering and bear up under trials…James’ book is relevant for every disciple at any time!
- First we learn from James that we shouldn’t ask for our trials to be removed, but that we joyful embrace them as a way of developing perseverance, which brings maturity and wisdom. Next we learn that it is good to ask our generous God for wisdom. From that thought, James segued into how our asking should be full of faith, not doubting, and not double-minded. BELIEVE AND DON’T DOUBT! When I read this, it makes me AFRAID to lack faith!
- Another noticeable characteristic of the book of James, besides overcoming suffering, is the way he lifts up the poor and humble. (I suppose that is not surprising, since he was Jesus’ brother. After all, that meant that Mary was his mother, too. Remember the Magnificat? I wrote about it in entries 45 and 140. Mary’s prayer was a prayer of praise, but it also was about how God exalts the humble and cares for the downtrodden, and how the rich who are arrogant will be brought low.) James didn’t want any Christian thinking he was better because of wealth – this was, of course, just the opposite of the thinking of the Pharisee’s, who had thought that their wealth was a sign of God’s blessing.
- James’ next topic was sin and temptation, and he wanted to make sure that followers of Jesus didn’t blame God for their temptations, but took personal responsibility for (and saw the seriousness of) their own sin. Rather than tempting us, our heavenly Father is responsible for giving us all good things. All the more reason to be grateful!
- The next set of verses should be memorized by all:
19My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20for man's anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.
- How often have I gotten myself in trouble when I did just the opposite (slow to listen, quick to speak!) – I have heard it said that there is a reason God made us with TWO ears and ONE mouth! Ha ha! We are also supposed to be slow to become angry. James knew all about this – he had been an elder in the church in Jerusalem for years and he knew the damage that anger could do…
- What is the antidote to this disease? Humility and letting the word of God affect your life every day! (Not just reading it – DOING IT!) And just in case you didn’t get that, James dug the knife in a bit deeper:
26If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless.
- Along with that, James also asserted that God demands all Christians to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep (themselves) from being polluted by the world.
- Chapter Two
- James, the supporter of the underdog, was “anti-favouritism”. His scathing rebuke of so-called Christians for honouring the rich and neglecting their poor brethren is awesome! He likened this to breaking the whole law, and ended with a plea for mercy, “Mercy triumphs over judgment!”
- The second half of this chapter deals with faith and deeds. James had apparently grown tired of those who were espousing “faith in Christ” without the deeds to back it up. My favourite line is “19You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.” James seems rather serious, but this line had to bring a smile to most people’s faces J
- Chapter Three
- After beginning with a warning to teachers (who will be judged more strictly – yikes!), James launched into a long discussion of how our tongue can get us in trouble! He warned us to be consistent and watch our speech!
- Then he told us that wisdom is shown by a life of good deeds and and humility. He also contrasted worldly wisdom with heavenly wisdom: 14But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15Such "wisdom" does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, of the devil. 16For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice. 17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
- Whenever I read this part, I always stop and ask myself two questions, “Karen, what kind of wisdom have you been having lately?” “Are you a peacemaker?”
- Chapter Four
- James slammed several mindsets in this next section:
- *The Quarreling Mindset
- *The Selfish Mindset
- *The Worldly Mindset
- *The Proud Mindset
- *The Double-Minded Mindset
- James expected Christians to take their spirituality seriously, and anyone who didn’t, was not a true Christian! The scariest verse here is 4You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God.
- The solution to changing the mindsets listed above is that we should:
- *Humble ourselves
- *Submit to God
- *Resist the devil
- *Be serious about repenting of our sin
- *Truly grieve our sinfulness
- *It begins and ends with humility!
- Now, lest a reader be tempted to think of someone else when reading the above, James included an injunction against judging and slandering – so there – just worry about yourself!
- After challenging his audience on their perspective and priorities, James said, 17Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn't do it, sins.
- Wow – we can’t really escape feeling convicted about that verse!
- Chapter Five
- As he prepared to close his letter, James repeated his two favourite themes – the rich vs. poor and perseverance during suffering. In a nutshell, oppressive rich people better watch out and the persevering poor should follow Job’s example in trusting God. This part always reminds me to be careful how I treat others, especially those who have “service-industry jobs”. I don’t want to bear the curses that James called down on the “fattened” and “condemned”!
- After repeating Jesus’ warning about letting our “Yes” be “Yes” and our “No” be “No” (a good reminder for me, an exaggerator since birth!), James spoke up about prayer:
- *Prayer can heal us physically and spiritually
- *Prayer should be accompanied by faith
- *Prayer combined with confession brings healing
- *Prayer’s effectiveness is boosted when we are righteous
- *We can pray for miracles, just like Elijah
- Unlike the apostle Paul, whose letters to specific churches and individuals ended with eloquent closing comments after various personal messages, James’ letter ends abruptly with a quote that is mirrored in Peter’s first letter:
- 19My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, 20remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
- Peter doesn’t limit the idea to just helping a sinner repent, but says that love in general covers a multitude of sins (I Peter 4:8). It makes me wonder if perhaps both James and Peter had heard Jesus say that over the years – at any rate, we all need mercy, and even though Jesus’ death on the cross and our obedience to the gospel enabled our sins to be forgiven, it sure doesn’t hurt to think that by doing certain things we can cover over more sins!
Well, that’s all from James, the Lord’s brother. Now on to Jude, his other brother.
- Dr. Smith says that Jude, also known as a brother to Jesus, wrote this letter to a general audience anywhere between AD 60-80. Jude was issuing a warning against false teachers, specifically “the philosophy which denies that the sins of the flesh can affect the soul – a philosophy which, naturally enough, has led to flagrant immorality. In order to stress the potentially dangerous consequences of such teaching, Jude used both Old Testament and extra-biblical writings (from the book of Enoch) to remind his readers of God’s judgment upon the ungodly.”
- The first thing I am struck by in Jude’s letter is that people don’t change much – two thousand years ago, people were offering “cheap grace” and it is no different today. (For a scathing rebuke of “cheap grace”, read some of Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s writings!) Jude used the Israelites out of Egypt as an example to show that there is no such thing as “once saved, always saved.” Leaders who teach falsely and cause others to stumble better be prepared for judgment! I have to admit that reading verse 16 made me wince! “16These men… follow their own evil desires; they boast about themselves and flatter others for their own advantage.”
- Jude included some pro-active commands:
- Build up your faith
- Pray in the Holy Spirit
- Keep yourselves in God's love
- Be merciful to those who doubt
- Snatch others from the fire
- Hate sin
- The concise writer ended with a beautiful doxology:
- 24To him who is able to keep you from falling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25to the only God our Savior be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen.