Why We Need Faith and Wisdom
Highlights From the Letter of James
JEHOVAH’S servants need endurance when under trial. They must also avoid conduct that would result in divine disapproval. Such points are emphasized in the letter of James, and doing something positive about them calls for active faith and heavenly wisdom.
The writer of this letter does not identify himself as one of Jesus’ two apostles named James but as ‘a slave of God and of Christ.’ Similarly, Jesus’ half brother Jude says he is “a slave of Jesus Christ, but a brother of James.” (James 1:1; Jude 1; Matthew 10:2, 3) Hence, Jesus’ half brother James evidently wrote the letter bearing his name.—Mark 6:3.
This letter does not mention Jerusalem’s destruction in 70 C.E., and the historian Josephus indicates that James was martyred shortly after the death of the Roman procurator Festus in about 62 C.E. Apparently, then, the letter was written before 62 C.E. It was addressed to “the twelve tribes” of spiritual Israel, for it was directed to those holding to “the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ.”—James 1:1; 2:1; Galatians 6:16.
James uses illustrations that can help us to remember his counsel. For instance, he shows that a man asking God for wisdom should not doubt, “for he who doubts is like a wave of the sea driven by the wind and blown about.” (1:5-8) Our tongue should be controlled because it can direct our course as a rudder directs a boat. (3:1, 4) And to cope with trials, we need to display patient endurance as does a farmer when awaiting the harvest.—5:7, 8.
Faith, Trials, and Works
James first shows that we can be happy as Christians despite our trials. (1:1-18) Some of these trials, such as illnesses, are common to all humans, but Christians also suffer for being slaves of God and of Christ. Jehovah will grant us the wisdom needed to endure if we keep asking for it in faith. He never tries us with evil things, and we can rely on him to provide what is good.
To receive God’s help, we must render worship to him through works that demonstrate our faith. (1:19–2:26) This requires that we be “doers of the word,” not mere hearers. We must control the tongue, look after orphans and widows, and remain without spot from the world. If we favored the rich and disregarded the poor, we would violate “the kingly law” of love. We also need to remember that faith is shown by works, as the examples of Abraham and Rahab well illustrate. Indeed, “faith without works is dead.”
Heavenly Wisdom and Prayer
Teachers need both faith and wisdom to discharge their duties. (3:1-18) They have a very heavy responsibility as instructors. Like them, we must control the tongue—something that heavenly wisdom helps us to do.
Wisdom also enables us to realize that yielding to worldly tendencies would damage our relationship with God. (4:1–5:12) If we have fought to attain selfish aims or have condemned our brothers, we need to repent. And how important it is to avoid friendship with this world, for this is spiritual adultery! Let us never ignore God’s will by materialistic planning, and may we guard against a spirit of impatience and sighing against one another.
Anyone spiritually sick should seek the help of congregation elders. (5:13-20) If sins have been committed, their prayers and wise counsel will help to restore a repentant sinner’s spiritual health. In fact, “he who turns a sinner back from the error of his way will save [the wrongdoer’s] soul from [spiritual and eternal] death.”
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Doers of the Word: We should be “doers of the word, and not hearers only.” (James 1:22-25) A mere hearer “is like a man looking at his natural face in a mirror.” After a brief inspection, he departs “and immediately forgets what sort of man he is.” But a ‘doer of the word’ carefully looks at God’s perfect, or complete, law, embracing everything required of a Christian. He “persists in it,” continuing to scrutinize that law with a view to making corrections so as to conform to it closely. (Psalm 119:16) How does “a doer of the work” differ from a man who glances into a mirror and forgets what it reveals? Why, the doer puts Jehovah’s word to work and enjoys His favor!—Psalm 19:7-11.