If any of you lacks wisdom, he
should ask God, who gives
generously to all without finding
fault, and it will be given to
When a friend writes you a letter, you might read it more than
once (especially because he or she actually took the time to
write a letter, not an e-mail). You read it first to get the general
idea of what your friend is telling you. Maybe he's writing to
tell you about new and exciting things in his life. Or maybe you
haven't seen her in what seems like forever, and this letter
reunites you. Then you might read it again to get the details.What school is he going to? How many years has it been? The second
time around, you go over the details of the letter to really take
in all your friend wants to tell you.
Like much of the New Testament, the book of James is actually
a letter. Reading these letters is similar to reading a letter from
a friend. But this letter was written nineteen hundred years
before you were born; there are no juicy bits of personal information,
and you aren't really that tight with its author. Other
than that they're exactly the same. Seriously, it makes sense for
us to look at James' letter as if it were written just for us,
because it was, in a sense.
If you haven't already, read the introduction on page 7. This
will introduce you to the book and show you how it fits with
the rest of the Bible. Then read James' letter twice. First try
reading a literal translation like the ESV (English Standard
Version) or the NASB (New American Standard Bible). Then
consider reading a paraphrase like The Message. That way, you
will connect with both the literal meanings and the feelings of the
1 As you read, write down your first impressions of the book.
Consider the following questions, and take notes in the spaces
What kinds of themes show up? Do you notice one unifying
topic throughout the book?
What is James' tone? Is he friendly, compassionate?
What words does James repeat? (Repetition often clues us
in to an author's focus.)
What kinds of language does James use? (Metaphors and
pictures? Stories? Commands?)
2 Now that you have a good feel for James' letter, think up some
alternative titles for the book, drawn from what you noticed. Write
3 Try to infer James' purpose(s) for writing this letter. Explain
4 James wrote, "Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive
yourselves. Do what it says" (1:22). There's no question that reading
and responding to God's Word will benefit our lives by drawing us
nearer to Him-that's really what studying the Bible is all about. Did
your overview of James suggest any areas of your life that you want
to work on during this study? If so, write them down here (or in a
private journal) and also note if you've already made plans to deal
with them. This is a time for you to come to God in confession and
praise, preparing yourself not only to study His Word, but also to
allow your life to be touched by James' letter.
5 After reading James all the way through, what are some questions
you would like to have answered as you begin this in-depth
For the group: Upon receiving this letter from James, discuss with
the group which part affects each of you the most. What sticks out to
you, excites you, terrifies you, convicts you, and causes you to
For further study, read Psalm 119:97-104. How does James' attitude
toward God's law compare to the one described in this passage? In
light of what you've read, what is your attitude toward God's law?
Memory Verse of the Week
Did a particular verse make you think? Is there a verse you can't get
out of your head? Write it down and memorize it. Allow God's Word
to permanently brand itself in your head and your heart.