BOOK ENDS. Seraphim, April 2009.
JB JAMES Chapter 1
Address and greetings
1:1 From James, servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Greetings to the twelve tribes of the Dispersion.[*a]
Trials a privilege
1:2 My brothers, you will always have your trials but, when they come, try to treat them as a happy privilege;[*b]
1:3 you understand that your faith is only put to the test to make you patient,
1:4 but patience too is to have its practical results so that you will become fully-developed, complete, with nothing missing.
1:5 If there is any one of you who needs wisdom, he must ask God, who gives to all freely and ungrudgingly; it will be given to him.
1:6 But he must ask with faith, and no trace of doubt, because a person who has doubts is like the
1:7 waves thrown up in the sea when the wind drives.
1:8 That sort of person, in two minds, wavering between going different ways, must not expect that the Lord will give him anything.
1:9 It is right for the poor brother to be proud of his high rank,
1:10 and the rich one to be thankful that he has been humbled, because riches last no longer than the flowers in the grass;
1:11 the scorching sun comes up, and the grass withers, the flower falls;[*c] what looked so beautiful now disappears. It is the same with the rich man: his business goes on; he himself perishes.
1:12 Happy the man who stands firm[*d] when trials come. He has proved himself, and will win the prize of life, the crown that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
1:13 Never, when you have been tempted, say, ‘God sent the temptation’; God cannot be tempted to do anything wrong, and he does not tempt anybody.
1:14 Everyone who is tempted is attracted and seduced by his own wrong desire.
1:15 Then the desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it too has a child, and the child is death.
1:16 Make no mistake about this, my dear brothers:
1:17 it is all that is good, everything that is perfect, which is given us from above; it comes down from the Father of all light; with him there is no such thing as alteration, no shadow of a change.
1:18 By his own choice he made us his children by the message of the truth so that we should be a sort of first-fruits of all that he had created.
1:19 Remember this, my dear brothers: be quick to listen[*e] but slow to speak and slow to rouse your temper;
1:20 God’s righteousness is never served by man’s anger;
1:21 so do away with all the impurities and bad habits that are still left in you – accept and submit to the word which has been planted in you and can save your souls.
1:22 But you must do what the word tells you, and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves.
1:23 To listen to the word and not obey is like looking at your own features in a mirror and then,
1:24 after a quick look, going off and immediately forgetting what you looked like.
1:25 But the man who looks steadily at the perfect law of freedom and makes that his habit – not listening and then forgetting, but actively putting it into practice – will be happy in all that he does.
1:26 Nobody must imagine that he is religious while he still goes on deceiving himself and not keeping control over his tongue; anyone who does this has the wrong idea of religion.
1:27 Pure, unspoilt religion, in the eyes of God our Father is this: coming to the help of orphans and widows when they need it, and keeping oneself uncontaminated by the world.
JB JAMES Chapter 2
Respect for the poor
2:1 My brothers, do not try to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the making of distinctions between classes of people.
2:2 Now suppose a man comes into your synagogue,[*a] beautifully dressed and with a gold ring on, and at the same time a poor man comes in, in shabby clothes,
2:3 and you take notice of the well-dressed man, and say, ‘Come this way to the best seats’; then you tell the poor man, ‘Stand over there’ or ‘You can sit on the floor by my foot-rest’.
2:4 Can’t you see that you have used two different standards in your mind, and turned yourselves into judges, and corrupt judges at that?
2:5 Listen, my dear brothers: it was those who are poor according to the world that God chose, to be rich in faith and to be the heirs to the kingdom which he promised to those who love him.
2:6 In spite of this, you have no respect for anybody who is poor. Isn’t it always the rich who are against you? Isn’t it always their doing when you are dragged before the court?
2:7 Aren’t they the ones who insult the honourable name to which you have been dedicated?
2:8 Well, the right thing to do is to keep the supreme law of scripture: you must love your neighbour as yourself;[*b]
2:9 but as soon as you make distinctions between classes of people, you are committing sin, and under condemnation for breaking the Law.
2:10 You see, if a man keeps the whole of the Law, except for one small point at which he fails, he is still guilty of breaking it all.
2:11 It was the same person who said, ‘You must not commit adultery’ and ‘You must not kill’.[*c] Now if you commit murder, you do not have to commit adultery as well to become a breaker of the Law.
2:12 Talk and behave like people who are going to be judged by the law of freedom,
2:13 because there will be judgement without mercy for those who have not been merciful themselves; but the merciful need have no fear ofjudgement.
Faith and good works
2:14 Take the case, my brothers, of someone who has never done a single good act but claims that he has faith. Will that faith save him?
2:15 If one of the brothers or one of the sisters is in need of clothes and has not enough food to live on,
2:16 and one of you says to them, ‘I wish you well; keep yourself warm and eat plenty’, without giving them these bare necessities of life, then what good is that?
2:17 Faith is like that: if good works do not go with it, it is quite dead.
2:18 This is the way to talk to people of that kind: ‘You say you have faith and I have good deeds; I will prove to you that I have faith by showing you my good deeds – now you prove to me that you have faith without any good deeds to show.
2:19 You believe in the one God – that is creditable enough, but the demons have the same belief, and they tremble with fear.
2:20 Do realise, you senseless man, that faith without good deeds is useless.
2:21 You surely know that Abraham our father was justified by his deed, because he offered his son Isaac on the altar?[*d]
2:22 There you see it: faith and deeds were working together; his faith became perfect by what he did.
2:23 This is what scripture really means when it says: Abraham put his faith in God, and this was counted as making him justified;[*e] and that is why he was called ‘the friend of God’.
2:24 You see now that it is by doing something good, and not only by believing, that a man is justified.
2:25 There is another example of the same kind: Rahab the prostitute, justified by her deeds because she welcomed the messengers and showed them a different way to leave.
2:26 A body dies when it is separated from the spirit, and in the same way faith is dead if it is separated from good deeds.
JB JAMES Chapter 3
3:1 Only a few of you, my brothers, should be teachers, bearing in mind that those of us who teach can expect a stricter judgement.
3:2 After all, every one of us does something wrong, over and over again; the only man who could reach perfection would be someone who never said anything wrong – he would be able to control every part of himself.
3:3 Once we put a bit into the horse’s mouth, to make it do what we want, we have the whole animal under our control.
3:4 Or think of ships: no matter how big they are, even if a gale is driving them, the man at the helm can steer them anywhere he likes by controlling a tiny rudder.
3:5 So is the tongue only a tiny part of the body, but it can proudly claim that it does great things. Think how small a flame can set fire to a huge forest;
3:6 the tongue is a flame like that. Among all the parts of the body, the tongue is a whole wicked world in itself: it infects the whole body; catching fire itself from hell, it sets fire to the whole wheel of creation.
3:7 Wild animals and birds, reptiles and fish can all be tamed by man, and often are;
3:8 but nobody can tame the tongue – it is a pest that will not keep still, full of deadly poison.
3:9 We use it to bless the Lord and Father, but we also use it to curse men who are made in God’s image:
3:10 the blessing and the curse come out of the same mouth. My brothers, this must be wrong –
3:11 does any water supply give a flow of fresh water and salt water out of the same pipe?
3:12 Can a fig tree give you olives, my brothers, or a vine give figs? No more can sea water give you fresh water.
Real wisdom and its opposite
3:13 If there are any wise or learned men among you, let them show it by their good lives, with humility and wisdom in their actions.
3:14 But if at heart you have the bitterness of jealousy, or a self-seeking ambition, never make any claims for yourself or cover up the truth with lies –
3:15 principles of this kind are not the wisdom that comes down from above: they are only earthly, animal and devilish.
3:16 Wherever you find jealousy and ambition, you find disharmony, and wicked things of every kind being done;
3:17 whereas the wisdom that comes down from above is essentially something pure; it also makes for peace, and is kindly and considerate; it is full of compassion and shows itself by doing good; nor is there any trace of partiality or hypocrisy in it.
3:18 Peacemakers, when they work for peace, sow the seeds which will bear fruit in holiness.
JB JAMES Chapter 4
Disunity among Christians
4:1 Where do these wars and battles between yourselves first start? Isn’t it precisely in the desires fighting inside your own selves?
4:2 You want something and you haven’t got it; so you are prepared to kill. You have an ambition that you cannot satisfy; so you fight to get your way by force. Why you don’t have what you want is because you don’t pray for it;
4:3 when you do pray and don’t get it, it is because you have not prayed properly, you have prayed for something to indulge your own desires.
4:4 You are as unfaithful as adulterous wives; don’t you realise that making the world your friend is making God your enemy? Anyone who chooses the world for his friend turns himself into God’s enemy.
4:5 Surely you don’t think scripture is wrong when it says: the spirit which he sent to live in us wants us for himself alone?
4:6 But he has been even more generous to us, as scripture says: God opposes the proud but he gives generously to the humble.[*a]
4:7 Give in to God, then; resist the devil, and he will run away from you.
4:8 The nearer you go to God, the nearer he will come to you. Clean your hands, you sinners, and clear your minds, you waverers.
4:9 Look at your wretched condition, and weep for it in misery; be miserable instead of laughing, gloomy instead of happy.
4:10 Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will lift you up.
4:11 Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who slanders a brother, or condemns him, is speaking against the Law and condemning the Law. But if you condemn the Law, you have stopped keeping it and become a judge over it.
4:12 There is only one lawgiver and he is the only judge and has the power to acquit or to sentence. Who are you to give a verdict on yourneighbour?
A warning for the rich and the self-confident
4:13 Here is the answer for those of you who talk like this: ‘Today or tomorrow, we are off to this or that town; we are going to spend a year there, trading, and make some money’.
4:14 You never know what will happen tomorrow: you are no more than a mist that is here for a little while and then disappears.
4:15 The most you should ever say is: ‘If it is the Lord’s will, we shall still be alive to do this or that’.
4:16 But how proud and sure of yourselves you are now! Pride of this kind is always wicked.
4:17 Everyone who knows what is the right thing to do and doesn’t do it commits a sin.
JB JAMES Chapter 5
5:1 Now an answer for the rich. Start crying, weep for the miseries that are coming to you.
5:2 Your wealth is all rotting, your clothes are all eaten up by moths.
5:3 All your gold and your silver are corroding away, and the same corrosion will be your own sentence, and eat into your body. It was a burning fire that you stored up as your treasure for the last days.
5:4 Labourers mowed your fields, and you cheated them – listen to the wages that you kept back, calling out; realise that the cries of the reapers have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
5:5 On earth you have had a life of comfort and luxury; in the time of slaughter you went on eating to your heart’s content.
5:6 It was you who condemned the innocent and killed them; they offered you no resistance.
A final exhortation
5:7 Now be patient, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. Think of a farmer: how patiently he waits for the precious fruit of the ground until it has had the autumn rains and the spring rains!
5:8 You too have to be patient; do not lose heart, because the Lord’s coming will be soon.
5:9 Do not make complaints against one another, brothers, so as not to be brought to judgement yourselves; the Judge is already to be seen waiting at the gates.
5:10 For your example, brothers, in submitting with patience, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord;
5:11 remember it is those who had endurance that we say are the blessed ones. You have heard of the patience of Job, and understood the Lord’s purpose, realising that the Lord is kind and compassionate.[*a]
5:12 Above all, my brothers, do not swear by heaven or by the earth, or use any oaths at all. If you mean ‘yes’, you must say ‘yes’; if you mean ‘no’, say ‘no’. Otherwise you make yourselves liable to judgement.
5:13 If any one of you is in trouble, he should pray; if anyone is feeling happy, he should sing a psalm.
5:14 If one of you is ill, he should send for the elders of the church, and they must anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him.
5:15 The prayer of faith will save the sick man and the Lord will raise him up again; and if he has committed any sins, he will be forgiven.
5:16 So confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, and this will cure you; the heartfelt prayer of a good man works very powerfully.
5:17 Elijah was a human being like ourselves – he prayed hard for it not to rain, and no rain fell for three-and-a-half years;
5:18 then he prayed again and the sky gave rain and the earth gave crops.
5:19 My brothers, if one of you strays away from the truth, and another brings him back to it,
5:20 he may be sure that anyone who can bring back a sinner from the wrong way that he has taken will be saving a soul from death and covering up a great number of sins.[*b]
END OF JB JAMES [5 Chapters].