Christian tradition suggests that James, the brother or stepbrother of Jesus, became a leader of the early church in Jerusalem and was the James who acted as chairman for the Jerusalem council (see Acts chapter 15, as well as Galatians chapters 1 and 2). If so, it is likely that he was the author of the letter preserved in the Bible as the book of James.
James was a common name at the time, but if these were the same person, he may also have been the church leader known as James “the Just”, which suggests a wise leader who properly prioritized his treatment of others and cared for those often forgotten or downtrodden. The book that bears his name has been described as “the New Testament’s book of Proverbs”, focused on practical godliness and living wisely as followers of God.
The author of James was anxious to remind his Christian readers to “not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says” (James 1:22, NIV), and that the religion that matters—that is pure and lasting in God’s sight—is focused on caring for the needy and the oppressed and resisting the corrupting influences of the society around them (see James 1:27).
Read James 2:1-9 and James 5:1-5. How is James’s attitude to those who are rich different from that commonly held in most societies? What are his particular instructions regarding how rich and poor are to be treated within the church community?
James argues that wishing someone well—even wishing them God’s blessing—will be of little comfort if they are suffering from cold and hunger. The provision of real food and clothing will be far more useful in expressing and demonstrating our concern for them than all the noble sentiments and good wishes (see James 2:14-16). James uses this as an example of the interaction between faith and works in the context of our relationship with God. He also repeats (James 2:8) what Jesus taught about loving your neighbor as yourself, showing how this commandment is to be obeyed in daily life. It is lived out in service to God and to others, not to earn salvation but because it is the manifestation of true faith.
|Why is it so easy, even subconsciously, to prefer the rich over the poor?|