James: Faith/Works

Devotional

Brother / Servant

If you could gather all of the people who’ve ever lived—every person in history—James would stand out from the crowd as a man with a unique relationship to Jesus. The author of the biblical book bearing his name was also Jesus’ little brother. 

Technically, James and Jesus were half brothers. They shared an earthly mother, Mary, but James’s biological father was Joseph, while Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit. He was the only begotten Son of God. Joseph was Jesus’ earthly father, but he and Jesus weren’t biologically related. James and Jesus, however, were biologically related. 

How’s that for sibling rivalry? It’s not hard to imagine the mixed feelings James must have had growing up with the world’s greatest brother—literally. Jesus was God’s gift to humanity. But notices how James introduces himself.

The Book of James begins with the author identifying himself by name and as “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (Jas. 1:1). He defined himself by his relationship of active faith and obedient service.

This brother and servant penned an immensely practical letter centering around three themes:

1. Trials, suffering, and difficulty can be expected. They never surprise God.

2. God desires progress, not perfection, as we follow Jesus.

3. Riches and comfort will never satisfy the soul. 

James encouraged Christians to faithfully serve Jesus as their King. This encouragement would have been comforting and countercultural. When Jesus is Lord, we pledge our allegiance entirely to Him. This stance will necessarily put us at odds with our culture at some point.

The Christian life isn’t easy. Serving God through faithful obedience to Jesus won’t equal health, wealth, and happiness in the earthly sense. In fact, Jesus promised that when we truly identify ourselves with Him, we’ll experience persecution (see John 15:20). James knew it. The early church knew it. It’s still true today.