What is the proper relationship between faith and deeds? How do Christians mature in the faith? What hope can we offer those who face trials of various sorts? How do we learn to control our tongues and not get bogged down with riches? The apostle James faced these questions in profound ways and offered sound pastoral advice to his readers, scattered by persecution. His word to them can become a vital word to us if we are prepared to listen. In this keen, pastorally oriented commentary, readers will find helpful background material concerning authorship, date and purpose, as well as helpful, passage-by-passage commentary. The exposition focuses on understanding what James had to say to his original readers in order to see its relevance for the church today.
“James has been saying, ‘Be patient in your suffering. Remember the Lord is coming. Remember the example of the prophets. Remember the perseverance of Job. Remember the Lord’s full compassion and mercy.’ Now he says, ‘Above all, don’t fall into swearing, as if you could manipulate God by your oaths. Instead, speak honestly and directly, and rely on God in prayer.’” (James 5:12)
“James is here (as usual) cutting to an essential difference between genuine and false religion. He is saying: Do not allow suffering to pressure you into unbelief. Do not try to impress each other or to manipulate God as if your works were what counted instead of God’s grace. If you are trusting in God’s grace, you have no need to impress God or people, and you can be at peace with saying honest words. Integrity should characterize Christians, and integrity will flow from wholehearted reliance on grace. Unbelief manifests itself in bargaining, manipulating and trying to impress. The opposite manifestation, flowing from faith, will be prayer.” (James 5:12)
“The actual point of his warning about doubt is to expose a basic soul-condition of unbelief. That basic soul-condition is described with the term double-minded in 1:8. It means a double-souled person, a person whose heart’s loyalties are divided, a person who has not decided to give his or her love to God. The doubt then is a vacillation between self-reliance and God-reliance. This person is not looking to God from a stance of faith, and for this person there is no promise that God will give wisdom.” (James 1:5–8)
George M. Stulac (D.Min., Covenant Theological Seminary) is pastor of Memorial Presbyterian Church in St. Louis.