I love the down-to-earth feel of James. After the high-flying theology of Hebrews (which I also love…) it’s good to be reminded that faith is to be lived out in the ordinary daily stuff of life as well as in the mind and soul. To quote James,
Just as the body without the Spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead. (2:26)
The whole letter of James is a sequence of calls to live faithfully in our giving, our words, our response to temptation and far more. That’s part of the reason that I suggest it as one of the first bits of the Bible for people new to faith. In the first chapter, though, is one passage which sets a tone not just for how we read this letter but for how we find God’s call to us in the rest of the Bible.
But be doers of the word, and not merely hearers who deceive themselves. 23 For if any are hearers of the word and not doers, they are like those who look at themselves in a mirror; 24 for they look at themselves and, on going away, immediately forget what they were like. 25 But those who look into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and persevere, being not hearers who forget but doers who act—they will be blessed in their doing (1:22-25)
James presents the Bible to us not as something to study for its own sake so much as a mirror by which to see ourselves more clearly; and to act on what we see. Just as we look in the mirror to wash, or brush our hair, we are to look into God’s word to help us first see and then do something about what is out of place in our hearts and lives.
How we do this will vary depending on what we are reading. But it’s an attitude to bring to the whole of our reading. We haven’t finished our study of the Bible until we’ve asked what our reading says about our self and life – and what we can do about it.
James makes that easier than most parts of the Bible. So if you haven’t tried it before as a way to read the Bible, why not start here?