Read James 2:5-7 and be challenged by verse 5.
According to these verses, what is the relationship between poverty and faith?
Do you think having a higher income decreases a person’s faith? Why or why not?
How does being poor or wealthy affect an individual’s faith?
Do you think people tend to trust God more when He gives them things? Why or why not?
What about you?
When we hear the word poor, we automatically think of money, but there are other ways to be poor—and many people in this world are spiritually poor. In this high-tech world, it’s hard to imagine there are still millions of people who have few or no opportunities to hear God’s Word or worship Him.
If someone hasn’t had a chance to ever hear about Jesus, we shouldn’t turn our backs and simply say, “It’s not my problem.” It is easy to find excuses to avoid sharing with others, but if we don’t, who will? Sometimes, that means going to another country. But perhaps more often, it’s as simple as walking across the street and helping a neighbor or sitting with one of the loners at lunch. It might be as easy as inviting a friend to come to camp with you this summer. If you’re a believer, reaching out to those who need Jesus is your problem.
THINK ABOUT A TIME when you were wrong about someone. You thought that girl was shallow and stuck-up. Maybe you thought that guy was very mean because he kept getting you out in four-square. Whoever it was, at some later point you discovered that your assumption was wrong. That the idea you had about that person wasn’t actually built on truth.
Have you ever realized you’ve done the same thing to God? That you’ve chosen to believe things about Him or His character that in time proved to be false?
Read James 1:16-18 and contemplate verse 17.
Why do you think James wrote, “Don’t be deceived”?
What does verse 17 tell you about God’s character?
When have you doubted this truth about God? Why?
Why is it important to understand that all good things come from God?
What does it mean that there is no variation in God?
Does God provide us what we want or what He wills? Explain.
What do these verses teach you about God’s character?
James’ point is clear: God is good. It is His very nature, and God does not change. He has been good, is good, and will always be good. There is no variation or change in His goodness. Therefore, anything that is good begins with God and comes from God.
We also have to remember that life can hurt. And in the middle of that hurting, it’s easy to get some ideas about God that aren’t quite right, like the idea that He likes watching us suffer through life’s trials. The point is that trials aren’t necessarily good, but they can be used for good by a good God.
THINK ABOUT YOUR LAST bad day. Maybe it started when you got to school and one of your friends said something hurtful. Maybe someone you respected embarrassed you in front of everyone. Maybe everything that could go wrong did. And then, finally, tired of it all, you smarted off to your parents. When confronted about it, you said, “I just had a bad day.”
Does a bad day justify bad behavior? No. But, when we go through trials, it is easy to blame God, get mad at Him, or even justify sinful behavior simply because we’re going through a hard time.
Read James 1:12-15, focusing on verse 13.
What did James mean when he said, “Blessed is a man who endures trials”?
Why do we tend to blame God for bad things that happen?
According to these verses, does God ever tempt us to sin? Explain.
What is the promise in these verses for those who endure trials?
You’ve heard it a bunch over the past few week’s devotions: tough times will come your way. But today’s Scripture passage makes it clear that hard times never justify sinful behavior. In fact, trials never produce sinful behavior. It is our reaction to the trials that can lead us to sin. By blaming God, we are simply trying to justify our sinful actions.
God doesn’t tempt us. And while He doesn’t cause every trial that comes our way, He can use them as an opportunity for our growth.
THERE ARE MANY THINGS IN LIFE that can only be learned through experience. For example, sailing. You can read books or watch videos on sailing. You can even practice tying the different types of nautical knots, but until you get on a boat and take it out on the water, you haven’t really learned how to sail.
Wisdom is like sailing; it can only be learned through experience. In other words, to pray for wisdom is to pray for a situation that will teach you wisdom. Which is exactly what trials are, according to James.
Read James 1:5-8, stopping to read verse 5 out loud.
What do these verses have to say about wisdom?
In what areas of your life do you need wisdom?
What is the difference between wisdom and knowledge?
How can wisdom help you through various trials?
Why is it important to make good decisions in the middle of a trial?
What does it mean to ask in faith without doubting?
How have you seen God’s work in your life stunted by your doubt that He could do anything about the problem?
Is wisdom all you need to face the trials that will come your way? No! In today’s passage, James said that if you need wisdom to ask God for it. Yet, there is one condition: when you ask for that wisdom, you must ask “in faith without doubting.” You need wisdom to manage the trials that come your way, but you must also have faith!
You must have faith that God will give you the wisdom you need, that He can help you in the midst of the trials, and that He will use the trial to help you grow spiritually. Though it is tough at times, you must have faith that you can endure any trial.
RECENTLY I HEARD a student athlete complaining about his coach’s requirements to spend two hours a day in the weight room to prepare for football season. “I don’t have enough time in the day to do that,” he whined. “I know it helps me get ready for football and all, but really, who has the time to spend lifting weights every day?”
When was the last time you said the same kind of thing? Why is devoting yourself to something and taking the time and effort to do it right so important?
Read James 2:18-26. Pay attention to verse 22.
What comparison did James make in verses 18 and 19?
What did James say even the demons believe in verse 19? Why is that important?
James made an analogy of our faith and our deeds with what great Old Testament figure?
Verse 24 says a person is not justified by merely believing, but also by what?
What does it mean to say that Abraham’s faith was active together with his works? Does that describe your faith?
How is your faith spurring you to action? Examine your life for evidence of a faith.
It is easy to say we believe in something, but real belief involves action. James’ point is that faith is not passive. It calls for us to do something. You can say all you want about Christ, but if His good works aren’t present in your life, your beliefs are falling short. True faith is more than just having the right belief system. It is words put into actions. Examine your faith. Then, live it out. It may mean sharing your lunch, helping clean the Egypt, or refusing to copy someone else’s homework. Don’t let your faith just be words. Take action!
Let’s really get to the heart of the matter: when was the last time you told someone you were a Christian? Was there evidence in your life to prove it?
Read James 2:14-17. Look closely at verse 14.
What question did James ask in verse 14?
What does that question mean? If he were asking you, how would you answer?
Read verses 15 and 16. What question was James asking in these verses?
How would you respond if you saw a person who was hungry?
What does it mean to say that faith without action is dead?
What is the relationship between faith and works, according to these verses?
Using James’ standard, would you describe your faith as alive or dead? Explain.
This passage in James explains that a faith without actions is a dead faith. James wasn’t saying that it’s your works or the good things you do that ensure your salvation. Salvation comes through your relationship with Jesus. As Paul said, salvation comes through Christ alone. James’ point is that we are saved by faith, but action flows from that faith.
If you’re a believer and your life doesn’t reflect obedience to Christ and involvement in His work, then you’re not fulfilling Jesus’ true purpose for your life. Telling someone “God loves you,” “God bless you,” or “I’ll pray for you” will not put food in their stomachs. The faith we profess means nothing if we don’t actually live it out.
God’s call on all our lives is to demonstrate His love by our actions—to the poor and needy and all those around us. Look around you. Where is a need? What can you do to help?
SHE DREAMED OF PLAYING the piano all her life. She bought the books and signed up for the lessons. For the first six months she did great. She practiced faithfully every day. But little by little, she stopped practicing. Eventually, she quit.
Think about a time when you wanted something, but eventually gave up on it. What did you learn?
Read James 1:22-25. Read verse 22 aloud.
What does James 1:22 say we do if we merely listen to the Word? Why is that important?
What analogy did James make in verses 23-24? What does that have to do with hearing God’s Word but not doing what it says?
What is the promise in verse 25?
Why is it not enough to simply know what Scripture says? Why is action so important?
The problem James was addressing was negligence. You can be negligent when you have responsibility but aren’t willing to put in the work to accomplish it.
It is equally not enough to simply say you believe in God’s laws. If you don’t actually obey them, your life says you don’t believe they’re valid. You can tell the whole world you love God, but if your life doesn’t demonstrate that love, then your words are worthless. Do you care for the widow, orphan, or neighbor down the street? This is the heart of God’s Word. Don’t just talk the talk; live your faith!
YOU CAN’T BELIEVE your friend talked to you like that. It would be easy to call him or her unreasonable, demanding, and selfish. Maybe it was over a game of 4 square, or even a disagreement during cabin clean-up. You didn’t do anything wrong, and you don’t want your friend to get the last word. You could also do the opposite and apologize. But if you do that, are you backing down, giving in, and letting him or her win? Why should you do that? How would you handle this situation?
Read James 3:13-18. Study verse 17.
What are the characteristics of wisdom from above?
What are the good fruits of wisdom?
How do we develop godly wisdom?
Are there times when we shouldn’t comply or show mercy?
Is it possible to avoid favoritism in all situations?
How do you define wisdom? Some would say that if you make a lot of money you must be wise. Others would say that if you are in a powerful position in government, you are probably very wise. Few people look at how others achieve success. They only see the end result.
In James we learn about another kind of wisdom—godly wisdom. People with this kind of wisdom are known for being peaceful, merciful, and treating everyone with respect. They always put others first. They’re known for their gentleness, and their lives are orderly and full of good, godly things, not favoritism or hypocrisy.
What kind of wisdom do you want to have? Earthly wisdom is temporary, but with God’s wisdom, you can make an eternal difference in your life and in the lives of others.