Author: James, a half-brother of Jesus and leader of the Jerusalem council (Acts 15:6-29). He wrote the letter to Jewish Christians living in other countries.
Date: Probably in the mid or late AD 40s, prior to the Jerusalem council of AD 49 or 50. James may have been the first New Testament book written.
Purpose: To show, through many practical examples, that the faith of a Christian should result in a change of behavior. True faith, guided by godly wisdom, is evidenced in godly living.
Overview and Story: The church in Africa, like the church in other parts of the world, is torn between emphasizing evangelism and social action. It tries to balance faith declared in words with faith declared in action. James says, however, that there should not be a choice between the two. The real contrast is between just saying “I believe” while not letting it affect how one lives compared with a genuine saving faith that results in doing good works.
James is not like other New Testament letters that follow a logical train of thought from the beginning to the end. Instead, it is more like Proverbs or other wisdom literature that uses one short idea after another to make a point. For instance, James is concerned about the way believers speak. He tells us to be slow to anger (James 1:19), control our tongues (James 1:26), avoid speaking evil against one another (James 4:11), and not be boastful (James 4:13-17). Other themes in James are wisdom, the relationship between faith and deeds, the trials of faith, favoritism, and the dangers of wealth.
Have you ever been confused about who sent a text, email, or note? Did this also confuse the meaning of the message? How did knowing who the sender was change your understanding?
What new information did you learn from this book introduction? How will this affect the way you understand James’ message as you read it?
This introduction mentions a tension between evangelism and social action. How does your church approach the two?