The next epistle I’ll be covering is James. Remember, this is a letter and therefore there can be a lot of doctrines packed into a short amount of space. It may appear jumpy, but that’s how it’s been written. As always, here is some background from the Bible Dictionary.
The James in the book of James is generally thought not to be the Peter, JAMES, and John James. But rather, the brother of the Lord. He is known as James the Just and occupied an important position in the church at Jerusalem. The epistle is addressed to the 12 tribes of Israel. It was probably written from Jerusalem but the date of it is not known. It may be one of the earlier epistles of the New Testament.
Obtaining Answers From God While in Afflictions
James says to be joyful when you enter into many afflictions. That through the trial, you will gain patience. The Greek footnote says approval by trial. Afflictions are a way that God shows his approval? I guess so because God loves us and he wants us to grow. The only way we can grow a lot and gain experience is through trials. That’s why bad things happen to us in the world.
Then we get the famous James 1:5, the verse that answered Joseph Smith’s questions and began the restoration of the church. It was this verse that caused Joseph Smith to go into a grove of trees and pray to God vocally for the first time. He saw God the eternal father and his son Jesus Christ. This verse still has relevance today. The promise by James is just as much in force today as it was in Joseph Smith’s time. If you lack any sort of wisdom, ask God, nothing wavering and you shall have it. God wants us to be wise, he wants us to be happy, healthy, strong, and good. He’s our father. He wants us to have a good life.
A double minded man is unstable in all his ways. What does double minded mean? Cross reference 1 kings 18:21. Another good phrase to describe double minded would be on the fence, undecided, and opinionless. As to the truth of the scripture, if you are double minded on everything, you don’t know what you want and you don’t know what to do. You can be tossed either to the right or to the left, most likely based on popular opinion. If you are going to be like that, Satan is going to sift you as wheat. He’ll take the reigns and you will be in for a very scary ride.
Blessed is the man who endures temptations for he shall receive a crown of life to them that love him. The Joseph Smith translation changes endure to resisteth temptation. If you fight your temptations, you grow. You many not win all the time because you lose an eternal perspective sometimes. In any case, if you are diligent, you will learn how to beat temptation. You will grow and achieve the crown of eternal life. The footnote says exaltation and living with God again. I know from personal experience that the more you fight temptation, unyielding, looking to overcome, you will become strong, you will overcome, and life will be good and restored in full once the trial has passed.
Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts and becomes enticed. Then when it is conceived, sin is committed, when sin is committed, death is brought forth. True that. That is why so many times the scriptures say to watch yourselves. Especially your thoughts. Thoughts become actions and desires. All temptations stem from a thought or lack thereof. It is important to keep yourself busy to avoid such thoughts. I try to keep busy and not alone because then my mind wanders and evil thoughts come more easily. An idle mind is the devil’s workshop as the saying goes.
Do not err my beloved brethren. Cross reference Jacob 6:12, my favorite verse. “Oh be wise, what can I say more?” Like this scripture, the one in James is short, straight to the point, and powerful.
Be Swift to Hear God
Let every man be swift to hear. Swift to hear God, swift to hear counsel, and swift to hear all righteousness. Let them also be slow to speak. This is saying that those with knowledge ought to be slow to speaking. Probably not boasting. Be careful with your words. Also be slow to wrath. Very important. If you can be slow to wrath, you can have increased patience and self-mastery. I have seen this come to me as I have diligently sought to control my temper. Lay aside all unrighteousness and graft into you the word of God. This isn’t just saying listen to the word or understand it, but graft it into you. Grafting is to put into you, to make a part of you. We have to internalize, apply, and liken the word of God to ourselves.
Be doers of the word, not just hearers. Faith without works is dead. You cannot just talk the talk but must walk the walk. Whoso looketh upon God’s law and continueth therein, being a good hearer and doer of the Lord, man will be blessed in his deeds. Cross reference the promise made to the people of the Book of Mormon. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall prosper in the land. But if ye do not, ye shall be cut off.
Pure religion, undefiled before God and the father involves the following. Visiting the fatherless and widows in their afflictions in order to be unspotted from the world. I love the JST for this verse. Changes it to be unspotted from the vices of the world.
By Small and Simple Things are Great Things Brought to Pass
For chapter 2 verse 1, the JST really clears the verse up. It is saying don’t be a respecter of persons. I don’t think this is saying don’t respect anyone but rather, have faith in Jesus Christ. When people between your faith in Him, do not be a respecter of persons. Fear God more than you fear man.
God has chosen the poor of this world being rich in faith. By small and simple things are great things brought to pass. And small things in many instances doth confound the wise. It seems that always those in less fortunate circumstances have the most faith. They are humble and willing to learn. God wants us to become even as children, meek, humble, and willing to submit to all things. It follows along the commandment of loving thy neighbor as thyself. Do not despise the poor. If you love your neighbor as yourself, you are doing well.
Keeping the Law and How Faith Without Works is Dead
You have to keep all of the law. Not just parts. If you say don’t commit adultery, but kill, you are still transgressing the law. You cannot pick and choose what you keep in the gospel. You cannot just obey what is convenient. God’s law is meant to be obeyed in full. If you do not keep the law in full to the best of your ability and repent of your trespasses, you will not be well.
The next verses (14-21) are in the JST appendix so that is where I will be.
James gives a really good analogy explaining how faith without works is dead. he says that if a brother or sister is naked and destitute and you tell them to take their leave and be warm and filled, but don’t give them the means whereby to accomplish that, how is your faith profiting you? Cross reference the paper, “Using Faith as a Principle of Power”. God cannot fully work with you unless you exercise faith and do your part. Faith precedes the miracles and action as well precedes miracles. You can’t just say, I believe in Jesus, I’m saved. You have to do something about it. Go about being good, reading scriptures, praying, coming to church, and participating in ordinances done by the proper authority. By your works you have to show that you believe in Christ. You can’t wish for something and expect it to happen. You can’t wish to buy a car without saving up for it. You can’t have faith and get a happy meal if you don’t go through the drive-thru or go inside.
Believing in God is good. But devils also believe in God. Devils have no godly works. You are just like them if you only believe in God but hath not the works to back it up. Wow! That’s a powerful verse! He counters this with using Abraham offering up his son as a sacrifice as an example of works coupled with faith. And asking the reader if they can see how faith and works, both working together, can make you perfect. It’s hard for me to fathom how people can think faith is just enough. I feel like it goes against everything you do in life. Everything requires faith and action.
Verse 26 is a really good analogy. Just like the body is dead without the spirit, so too is faith dead without works. Works and the body are the physical manifestation of the faith and spirit. The body without the spirit is dead and faith without works are also dead. Spiritual is needed by the physical to complete its job. Working together hand in hand.
Bridle Your Tongue and Obtain Mastery Over Your Body
If you can offend not in word, you can bridle your entire body. This illustrates just how important it is to control your tongue. Don’t offend people. If your mouth is dirty, the rest of you most likely is too. Controlling your tongue has the most immediate effects on those around you. Not only will you be able to hold your tongue when you want to say something bad, but will be more able to say kind and uplifting things. Your respect will increase and people will like you more.
James compares the tongue to small things that control larger things. Like a horses’ bit that controls the movements of the horse. Or a helmsman on a ship controls the direction of the ship. Same is with the tongue. Control the tongue, control the body. Uncontrollable tongues result in bad things happening. Like forests burning down.
Everything on Earth has been tamed of mankind. But the one thing that people cannot control is your own tongue. That is one of the few things that only you can tame. Blessings or curses. Take your pick. You can’t have both. Fountains can’t send forth salt and fresh water at the same time. Fig trees can’t bring forth olive berries.
James calls upon the wise and knowledgeable to shew forth good conversations and works of meekness and wisdom. Honestly, there is nothing like a refreshing and intelligent conversation with someone. Something that you can come away having been edified and imbued with knowledge. Something where you both are on the same page and contribute to the conversation. Those are the conversations that can easily go on for hours. That’s what I live for. I love them.
The Origin of War
Wars are born of lusts, pleasures, and gratifications. It is interesting that he says, they lust and have not, kill and desire, yet do not obtain, fight and war and not because they ask not. What this is saying to me is that war is pointless. God is over all. If you want something for your country, put away your lusts and ask of God. James 1:5. If you lack wisdom/direction, ask God with real intent and he will answer and give to you. when you war about, yes you may gain things but ultimately you will not be satisfied with your conquests. What you were seeking will escape you.
I have been thinking about wars today. I think a lot of them are in the name of the good of the country or the country we say we are protecting or bringing peace to. But like James says, all wars are born of lusts or passions, seeking to fill some sort of gratification. I guess you have to try and discern what the ulterior motives are if any. That probably is hard considering that no one has an inside scoop with the top officials in government. In that case, it’s up to you to do the best you can.
Draw Near Unto God
We are not supposed to be friends of the world, but rather, friends with God. For a friend of the world is an enemy of God. We are to come unto God submissive and willing to reconcile before him. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. This is true. The footnote for resist is self-mastery. If you can master yourself, the devil will have no power over you. Self-mastery is overcoming the flesh, putting off the natural man and becoming a saint, even perfect, having through faith, diligence, and humbleness before God become like him.
Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. God loves you. He wants to be close to you. He wants you to be close to him. The more you draw closer to God, he will reward your effort and draw closer to you. Give you more power and strength as you put forth the effort to draw close to him.
Humble yourself before the Lord and he will lift you up. I like this scripture because it reminds me of a quote by Joseph Smith, “Sometimes the Lord brings us low before he can lift us higher.” I know this principle is true. When we humble ourselves and let the Lord know we are willing to submit, he will show forth his power in our lives and make us into something we never thought we could ever be. Cross reference a talk by Elder D. Todd Christofferson where he talks about the gardener and the bush. How the gardener cut the bust back so it could grow into what he wanted it to be. So it is with us. God cuts us back so we can become what he wants us to be, not what we want to be. What we have in our plans for ourselves, may be good, but what the Lord has in store for us will be magnificent.
Be patient till the coming of the Lord. Establish your hearts, increase your testimony, increase in faith. Look to the prophets as an example of this. Be humble in afflictions and patient. We could them happy, those which endure. Perhaps we know it is because we know of better things to come. Consider the patience of Job. The Lord knows each of us personally and is pitiful and merciful. He loves us and wants us to return to him. Crazy I know.
James finishes up by asking if there is anything wrong with anyone. If so, come let’s get it taken care of. The church isn’t a shrine for the perfect but a hospital for the sick. So come, renew yourself. Let’s all work to heal one another and come closer to the Great Messiah, Jehovah, Savior, Redeemer of this world, even the great I AM, Jesus Christ.
That’s all for James. Thanks for reading!