Several related themes run through James. These are trials, self-control, practical faith, and humility.
James begins his letter with a discussion of trials. We all have troubles. Disconcertingly, sometimes our worst problems arise from doing the right thing. Though it may seem like God has abandoned us in such times, God is at work. Facing trials with patience and faith builds our character.
Part of a godly character is self-control. A mature Christian will discipline himself. In particular, he will watch what he says. It is hard to control what we say, refraining from idle and harmful words. It is hard to speak convincingly about the love, grace, and faithfulness of God when you just spewed a lot of gossip, lies, and nonsense.
James writes of faith in very practical and active terms. Sermons, exultations, and moral sayings are hollow and useless if they are not coupled with service, aid and upright living. If we really believe the Gospel and have call to be followers of Christ, we will act like Christ who humbled Himself to labor with men, heal the sick, feed the hungry, and care for the needy.
Emulating the humility or Christ is a theme of the letter in itself. James extols believers to act with humility and treat everyone fairly. Wealth and position are temporary, but in our eternal relation to God we’re all the same: each Christian is a sinful person saved by the grace of God. Pride is a source of strife, people in conflict as they all try to get their own way, but humble people trust God and can let go of strife.
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