ImmerseMessiah NLT - Page 401



IMMERSED IN JAMES
W I T H I N A F E W D E C A D E S of Jesus’ death and resurrection, his followers
had spread out to different parts of the Roman Empire. James, the
brother of Jesus and a highly respected leader in the Jerusalem church,
sent a general letter to these scattered communities, reminding them
to walk in the way of God’s wisdom. James highlights practical ways
that followers of Jesus should demonstrate their faith in everyday life.
To help the dispersed communities, James took up the well-known
pattern of teaching from Israel’s ancient wisdom tradition. Wisdom literature places great value on how we live in God’s world. It therefore
emphasizes action, admonishing the reader to follow the good way
revealed by God and live it out in community. In the letter from James,
we see that God’s new people in Christ are faced with a choice that
has always confronted God’s people: Which path will we follow? One
path leads to life and well-being while the other leads to death and destruction. James challenges his scattered brothers and sisters to firmly
embrace the path that leads to life.
James teaches that choosing this way of life includes not only practicing such virtues as patience, humility, endurance through trials, and
generosity to the poor, but also renouncing anger and boastful pride,
avoiding the tendency to judge others, and not using the tongue
­destructively. The core idea that characterizes this lifestyle is: “Don’t
just listen to God’s word . . . do what it says.”
James emphasizes the strong call on believers in Jesus to renounce
their favoritism of the rich and neglect of the poor. James had become
aware that these communities were following the cultural norms of firstcentury Roman society, which gave places of privilege to the wealthy.
He explains that the way of Jesus is different—those who hoard their
riches will be judged while the poor will inherit God’s Kingdom.
James casts all this instruction in an especially effective form; just as
his content is closely related to First Testament wisdom literature, his
style is too. James presents pithy sayings and short reflections similar
to those found in Proverbs and Ecclesiastes, for example: “You must all
be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”
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