James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings. My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. (James 1:1-3)
The Epistle Of My Brethren
There are few books in the sacred writings that are as practical and applicable to daily living as the small epistle of James. Spanning a little over 2,300 words, the half-brother of Jesus (as suggested by many commentators) exhorts the disciples to mold their lives in the fashion of Christian conduct. James is the epistle of brethren as he uses the term frequently in his epistle. Fifteen times in the text, James exhorts the “brethren” to be examples of trust and faith as they faced trials, prejudice, neglect, abuse, and the ever-present danger of the devil in all forms of temptations. Eight times he calls them “my brethren” and three times “my beloved brethren.” Each writing exhorts to a different admonition.
At the beginning of his letter, James pleads with his brethren to face their trials as an opportunity for joy. The early Christians suffered from persecution and it would take courage and faith to endure the hardships of the testing of their faith. Through prayer and the wisdom of God, the heart would be able to endure the trials and temptations placed upon them. James reminds the saints not to blame God. He calls them his beloved brethren to remind them that all good and perfect gifts come from the hand of the Father. A second time he implores his beloved brethren to be careful of their speech. It is a time to remain resolute in doing the will of God without question. James warns against allowing the wrath of man to destroy the blessings of God.
In the second series of admonitions, James encourages the brethren to hold fast their faith in Jesus Christ without showing partiality to others. The danger of pride can lead the people of God to think of themselves more highly than they should when they honor the man wearing fine clothing and gold rings. At the same time as they honor the powerful and rich, they dishonor the poor man as rejected and despised. A third plea for his beloved brethren to consider how God views all men and the Lord has chosen the poor of the world to be rich in faith. Showing partiality is sinful because God does not do not with His creation. Within the body of Christ, all men are the same. This will be evident by the works of those who show their faith through their works in caring for others. If a man is naked and destitute, the love of God will extend a hand to help and supply what is needed. There is great hypocrisy in saying you love God and yet deny a brother the necessities of life. Faith without works is dead. For a third time, James addresses the saints as “my brethren” to ask if someone says he has faith but does not have works can that person be justified? Abraham and Rahab are used to illustrate the need for faith to be justified through works as brethren take care of one another. Like a lifeless body that has no spirit, faith lacking works cannot save.
The fourth exhortation by James to his brethren is to be careful with the unruly tongue as a little member that boasts great things. Many of the sins afflicting the heart of men fall under the heading of the tongue and without taming the tongue will destroy the soul. Like a bridle in a horse’s mouth or the rudder of a great ship, the small tongue is a powerful instrument of either good or evil. Again, James calls the saints “my brethren” when he admonishes them against speaking blessings and cursing from the same mouth. Emphatically, James says these things should not be for brethren of Christ. Immediately he emphasizes the need of his brethren to recognize that what proceeds from the mouth comes from the heart. This can only be earthly, sensual, and demonic wisdom. When the wisdom from above possesses the heart the tongue will only speak blessings. Wars and fighting come from unruly hearts. God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble.
James reminds the disciples to not speak evil of one another, to be patient, and not to grumble against one another because they were brethren. In his final message, James implores the disciples as “my brethren” to be reminded of the prophets who left an example of suffering and patience and to let their speech be without swearing but in honesty and truth. His final sentence as he closes his message is asking the brethren if someone wanders away from the truth to seek every opportunity to bring them back. When they do so (as brethren showing faith and works) they can be sure that whoever brings the sinner back from wandering will save that person from an eternal judgment of God and to bless them with the hope of salvation. Brethren must look out after brethren because all are brethren who are in Christ. James wants all the disciples of Christ to care for one another as brethren. Your fellow Christian is your brother and your sister. Be a family.