Say What? James 1:19-2:13

How can I know my faith is the real deal? How can I answer the cynicism and doubt I feel when I see hypocrisy everywhere–both in the world and inside my own soul?


That’s the hunger we’re bringing to the New Testament letter written by James.

Say What?

When I’m hungry, I want food now. James seems to deliver fast food. He talks to us simply, directly. His words are easy to understand; his analogies stick. And his commands ring with authority.

But I don’t really get him. It’s hard to understand his logic. He seems to jump from topic to topic with no transitions. He speaks in riddles.

Actually, his letter reminds me of how Jesus talked.

That makes sense, doesn’t it? James grew up listening to his older brother. Imagine what he might have picked up. The words, the phrases, the habits of speech. Then when he was converted, James memories of Jesus’ words morphed into spiritual understanding. In an instant he grasped the unified truth behind all of Jesus’ words–the good news of his vast, saving work.

Though we might not grasp the connections between James’ topics at first, we can be confident that all the pieces fit together into a singe picture.

The Story So Far

James’ first answer to our question is surprising. Trials are one way of proving our faith is real. Tough circumstances will both bring out the worst in us and ultimately test our confidence that God is good.

Fortunately this is not a pass/fail test. God isn’t trying to trick us with confusing multiple choice questions or subtle true/false ones. This is a diagnostic test, showing us what God already knows. It reveals where our trust in him is weak or misplaced or non-existent. As we turn to him in the trial, he not only reveals the problems, he repairs them. The trial turns out to be not just diagnostic, but therapeutic.

That’s why we can see trials as a good thing–because a good God uses them to perform astonishingly good things in us. And because God is good, he stands ready to give us everything we need to endure the test.

All we need to do is ask him.

Questions for the Week

If you have the study guide, use those questions to explore James 1:19-2:13. If you don’t, here are some questions to guide your study.

  1. What word from 1:18 is repeated in 1:21? How does that repetition suggest a connection between last week’s study and this week’s?
  2. What do we learn about God’s word in v. 18 and 21? What is it doing in us?
  3. James tells us to hear, receive, and do God’s word (19, 21, 22). What encouragements are we given in v. 25?
  4. How does God’s word change our words (19-21, 26)? Actions (27)?
  5. What command does James give in 2:1? How might you state it in terms of our own life situation?
  6. Compare the command of James 2:1 to the command of 2:8. How are they alike? Different?
  7. How might the royal law (King’s law) also be a law of liberty (2:8, 2:12)?
  8. Where did mercy trump judgement? How might that triumph look in your life today?

I’ll see you Friday with some application thoughts. I look forward to hearing yours, too.



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