I have recently been reading the epistle of James. James was Jesus’ brother and a leader in the early church. As I was reading it this morning, I began to read the letter as though God (through James) was speaking directly to me. Admittedly, there can be some risk to reading in this way. For example, I was not James’s target audience, at least not primarily, yet I believe each of God’s 66 Love Letters, as Larry Crabb and Soren Kierkegaard before him would say, is meant to speak to believers today. Sometimes though, when we read the Bible, we distance ourselves from what is actually being said, so there can be an advantage to inserting ourselves into the letter to see what God would say.
Here is my rendering of James 1.
(1-2) As you may know, I gave this letter to Jesus’ half-brother James, who was one of My beloved servants. By his pen, I inspired him to write this letter to all My people, spread far and wide not only by region, but also through time, which is how you are reading this letter now.
(3-4) My child, this is going to seem counterintuitive to you, but when you face difficulties in your life, which I promise you will, that is a cause for joy. These difficulties, although they are hard to bear at the time make you stronger, more patient. Make sure you allow space for these difficulties to transform you completely. It will take your whole life, but I promise it will be worth it. This is My plan to mold you into My image! These trials will make you realize that your joy is found not in your day to day comforts, but in Me, your only true Joy.
(5-8) It is my delight to give you wisdom and knowledge of Me. Just come and ask. You will be amazed at My generosity. But keep your faith in Me and not in your own resources. I’ve noticed how you come and ask Me, but then before I can even respond, you place your trust back in your own feeble abilities. Stop being double-minded; you cannot have it both ways, and I am the only Way that works.
(9-11) Sometimes, you get too focused on the here-and-now and on what the world says is important—riches, success, comfort. But listen, I will bless the afflicted, the one who clings to me when there is no worldly hope, not the rich man who says, “hey look at everything I have accomplished.” If you keep putting these second thing blessings in first place, you will always be disappointed. Someday, you will be sitting alone in your dilapidated house and threadbare clothes feeling humiliated, wondering what happened to you. Child, eternal beauty is found only in Me. All earthly beauty is a reflection of My eternal glory.
(12) Remember to keep this in mind, little one. Hold fast to Me no matter how difficult things become because when you persevere, I will help you to remember the most amazing reward, the crown of eternal life purchased for you by My Son. I promise.
(13-15) Child, I know that when you are facing hard circumstances and you want to call it quits or give in to sin for a season, you sometimes wonder why I am tempting you. You need to know that I am never tempted by evil and I never tempt anyone. Temptations may arise from your flesh, from the world, or from the devil, but they never come from Me.
Focus on these words: I know your heart better than you do. If your sin didn’t cloud your self-awareness so much, you would know that when temptations to sin come, you give space to them in your thoughts. Like a moth to a flame, you allow those desires to overtake you. And then, when you have mulled them over long enough, your thoughts give way to sinful action, which is mortally damaging to your soul. Turn instead to me, I am not your tempter, I am the only One who can deliver you from temptation.
(16-18) My gifts are always good. Whenever you see something of value, of worth, of beauty—that is a reflection of My character. I don’t ever change. I am always loving, always faithful, always for you. Before time began, I planned you. I spoke you into life and my Holy Spirit breathes in you. The good fruit in your life comes through Me.
(19-21) My child, I want you to hear this. As you relate to others, don’t be in a rush to make your next point; don’t be in a hurry to show them how they are wrong. Be silent and listen and only after you have heard them should you speak life-giving words as the Spirit moves you. When your goal is to win an argument, you fail to win a person and that doesn’t reflect My righteousness at all. Rather, mind your flesh: root out your course, rude manner that makes you want to be right and instead, live with humble other-centeredness. My word is written on your heart. My Spirit lives in you and through you. Be careful of relying upon well-crafted arguments; I alone can save your soul.
(22-25) Live out of the reality of who I say you are. Don’t just have your quiet times every morning or go to church every Sunday. Those are good things to do, but they can also deceive you into thinking that you are following My will. Religious exercises are meaningless—even damaging—if they keep you and I from relating to one another. My desire for you is that you put Christ on display in your life. My Spirit is not just inside of you, but He flows out of you in your relationship with others. Don’t forget this. Think about My Son and the freedom that He purchased for you. When you remember my grace toward you, your deepest desires will be to glorify My name and love others with grace, which will in turn bless you as well.
(26-27) Sometimes, you think you are being faithful, but you talk foolishly. How deceptive. When you don’t guard your mouth, you are not reflecting Us. Rather, if you want to be faithful to the Trinity, live a life of love. Pour your life into those who have been trampled by life—the lost, the hurting, the lonely. When you are consistently focusing your energy into loving others, you won’t be so tempted to follow the ways of the world.
(I have begun some thoughts for the rest of the book that I may share as I flesh them out)