Every now and then our Sunday lectionary takes us into the New Testament letter of James. James is a rather short book of the Bible and we could easily read through it in a single session. However, the lectionary spreads the readings across a number of weeks. On one hand, this is helpful as we hear what the author has to say over a period of weeks, which provides us time to think about it. On the other hand this can make it difficult to grasp the overarching theme of James as it gets spread out over those weeks. While both good and bad, I am glad we are exposed to these verses from James. Martin Luther referred to the book of James as “an epistle of straw.” I refer to the content of the book of James as extremely “challenging verses.”
Let me begin with an admission. The book of James is one of my favorites for the exact reason just mentioned – it challenges us. In a nutshell the challenge is to put our faith into action. The author is not at all content to hear that a person has faith; rather he wants to see how a person’s faith is causing them to live and act in this world. “What are we doing because of our faith, or in response to it.” Indeed, challenging verses for us all.
The letter receives its name and any authority ascribed to it from its association with James, the brother of Jesus. On the surface its teachings seem to be at odds with the teachings of Paul. Paul writes that a believer’s justification comes through faith, and not works. James writes that “faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.” In my opinion, what is considered to be in conflict is more smoke and mirrors than it is reality. Reading further in James’ letter, we quickly understand James is concerned with an agreement to the ideas about God without one ever having any personal relationship or commitment that informs or instructs that agreement. We might paraphrase by understanding we are being challenged to “live out our faith.”
The lectionary presents its final reading from James on September 27. However, I would like to challenge us to sit down at home and read through the entire book in a single session. Consider how we are being challenged to align our life with our faith. With that in mind, then accept the challenge to allow your faith to come alive as you share the blessings of God and your faith with other people. In fact, with Reformation later this month, this is a wonderful time to think about how our faith challenges us to live our daily life as we respond to God’s gift of a Savior.
And if you’re interested, I will be offering a Bible study on the book of James before this year is over. More to come on that later. May God bless us, each and every one. I am yours in Christ,
Pastor Butler +