James Chapter 3
James it was the younger brother of Jesus, and was the main leader of the Jewish Christians in the city of Jerusalem after Jesus died. He seems to have been a bit more straight-laced than his older brother, and the guidance that he gives within this particular letter tends to be both very practical, and quite traditional.
James emphasizes the need for our faith to show itself in practical daily life, and in that he was in keeping with the best of the Pharisees of the day. Pharisees in the New Testament tend to get some bad press. In reality, they were the largest group in Israel at the time Jesus lived, and many of the Pharisees were Jesus friends. At one point some of the Pharisees came and warned him that King Herod was out to get him, and that he should leave town immediately.
The Pharisees themselves were a group of people who a hundred and fifty years before Christ had started a reform movement, the purpose of which was to get religion out of the temple and into the daily life of people. The hope was that this initiative would actually improve the quality of life within the larger community because of higher-quality living at the individual and family level.
As so often happens with reform movements, they become somewhat rigid over the years and quite doctrinaire. Christ had some scathing things to say about people who had lost sight of the purpose of the Pharisees’ reform initiative, and were into slavish obedience to rules.
This letter by Jesus’ younger brother James, picks up on the best of the Pharisee reform movement in which he says, let your faith be shown in your practical deeds are personal relationships in life, and don’t let it just be a lot of hot air.
This passage comes under the heading of “when you can have your own way” – and when you read the detail of chapter 3, you find that he talks about
- the difficulty of our controlling our tongue especially when we get emotionally upset;
- our problem with envy;
- and the fact that there are two kinds of wisdom – the wisdom of the world which tends to be self-centered and the wisdom of God which is self giving it’s in this latter context that we get some correction to our self-centered tendency referred to in the heading.