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A Brother’s Wisdom 88

posted by Scot McKnight

We come to the end: James 5:19-20:  My brothers and sisters, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring them back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the way of error will save them […]

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A Brother’s Wisdom 87

posted by Scot McKnight

James explores healing through prayer and anointing. What he urges, and here we clearly hear resonances of faith in James 1:6-8, is to pray in faith — to pray trusting that God can heal and that God will heal. Here […]

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A Brother’s Wisdom 86

posted by Scot McKnight

We are looking at the last passage in James, James 5:13-20. James urges the messianic community to summon elders to pray over the sick: Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over […]

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A Brother’s Wisdom 85

posted by Scot McKnight

We turn to our last week on the book of James, which we have explored through the angle of it being the wisdom of Jesus’ brother. Our next study will be on the Book of Acts, and we will be […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 84

posted by Scot McKnight

Out of nowhere James says this in James 5:12: Above all, my brothers, do not swear–not by heaven or by earth or by anything else. Let your “Yes” be yes, and your “No,” no, or you will be condemned. He […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 83

posted by Scot McKnight

I mentioned three possible responses to suffering yesterday but there is probably at least one more: turning against one another under stress. So James 5:9-11: Don’t grumble against each other, brothers, or you will be judged. The Judge is standing […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 82

posted by Scot McKnight

There are three basic approaches to suffering: violent reaction, passive absorption, or the Jesus-following alternative of living aright while waiting for God to bring about justice. James prefers the third option, so it seems to me. Notice the emphasis on […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 81

posted by Scot McKnight

We turn the corner now in our study of the letter of James from the angle of James absorbing and passing on the wisdom of his brother, Jesus. James 5:7-11: Be patient, then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming. See how […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 80

posted by Scot McKnight

Once again, James draws us into the world of Jesus. James 5:6 reads: “You have condemned and murdered innocent men, who were not opposing you.” A more literal reading, here quoting from the NASB, tells a different story: “You have […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 79

posted by Scot McKnight

James personifies with a vivid imagination, something he perhaps learned from Jesus or one of the prophets. Here are the words of James, from 5:1-6: Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 78

posted by Scot McKnight

The words of James 5:1-6 are strong words, some of the strongest criticism of the rich in the entire Bible, and they are addressed at the rich for their oppression of the poor. Now listen, you rich people, weep and […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 77

posted by Scot McKnight

A case can be made that the two most socially revolutionary passages in the New Testament are (1) Mary’s Magnificat in Luke 1:69-75 and (2) James’ potent criticism of the rich farmers in James 5:1-6. I quote James 5 in […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 76

posted by Scot McKnight

James doesn’t mince his words into small bits that can be digested easy; he’s on the prowl here because he finds the sin of presumption as arrogance. Here are the words from James 4:13-17: Now listen, you who say, “Today […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 75

posted by Scot McKnight

Instead of presuming on the future James advocates a providential approach to our future. Here are his words: Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 74

posted by Scot McKnight

James assaults the hybris of the traveling merchants for their presumption, and his response to them is to consider the brevity of life (James 4:13-17). Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 73

posted by Scot McKnight

The sin of presumption, the sin of thinking our future is in our hands and within our grasp, irks James. Here are the words of James 4:13-17 again:  Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 72

posted by Scot McKnight

We turn now to a new section in James, to James 4:13–5:6. There are two paragraphs: 4:13-17 and 5:1-6. Each addresses a slightly different audience, the first one rich merchants and the second one rich farmers. The first is guilty […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 71

posted by Scot McKnight

Preachers and teachers (and writers and bloggers) need this reminder from James 4:12: There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the one who is able to save and destroy. But you–who are you to judge your neighbor? Several things come […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 70

posted by Scot McKnight

James says something in James 4:11 that can be confusing: Brothers, do not slander one another. Anyone who speaks against his brother or judges him speaks against the law and judges it. When you judge the law, you are not […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 69

posted by Scot McKnight

James at times narrows his focus on the teachers, the tongue of a teacher, and the need for teachers to be conscious and intentional about what the say and how they say it. I believe James 3:1 all the way […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 66

posted by Scot McKnight

The following words, however clear they might be in an English translation like the TNIV, are much disputed: Or do you think Scripture says without reason that the spirit he caused to live in us envies intensely? But he gives […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 65

posted by Scot McKnight

James finds evidence of a problem in the messianic community, especially among the teachers, and he finds the source of the problem to be the yearning, desiring, and craving for power. He must tell them so (James 4:1-3). Next he […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 64

posted by Scot McKnight

I don’t think prayer is mechanical. That is, I don’t think if we “do” things right — as the right way, use the right formulae, etc — that we will get what we want. But James makes a mechanical point […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 63

posted by Scot McKnight

What is it that leads Christians — those who say they are following Jesus — to go at one another, to being at one another’s throats, to schism and division? Here are the words of James: What causes fights and […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 62

posted by Scot McKnight

We need now to turn to the sadness of how the church appears to many, and to how the messianic community connected to James was behaving (James 4:1-3): What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 61

posted by Scot McKnight

We didn’t finish this verse last week, so let’s look at it again: Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness. A few translations, including the NASB and ESV, are wooden and clumsy, but this TNIV captures the […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 60

posted by Scot McKnight

James 3:17-18 can be said to define Jesus. Notice these words: But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 59

posted by Scot McKnight

Wisdom does not hang out with divisiveness. Wisdom can find its way into disagreements, but it will pursue the way of peace so it avoids being schismatic and divisive in style. Notice how James puts this in James 3:14-16: But […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 58

posted by Scot McKnight

Genuine wisdom manifests itself in living. Wisdom is not the same as “knowledge,” with the second term more tied to “information” and “mastery of facts.” Wisdom transcends knowledge as worship transcends music. Notice how James shows the importance of living […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 57

posted by Scot McKnight

We turn now to James 3:13-18, one of the favorite sections in James for many Christians. I want to quote the whole passage today so you can read it in context: Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 56

posted by Scot McKnight

James now brings his teachings about the impact of the tongue to a close in chapter three: With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 55

posted by Scot McKnight

I learned as a child this little ditty: “Sticks and stones may break my bones,but names will never hurt me.” The intent was good — to deflect unkind words. The truthfulness of the ditty, however, questionable. What is said can […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 54

posted by Scot McKnight

So important is the tongue to teaching that James can say this in James 3:2: We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 53

posted by Scot McKnight

James 3:1 begins a new section. There are a variety of proposals of where the section ends in James, but our view is that it ends at 4:12. Some see the entire section to be a mixed bag of exhortations […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 52

posted by Scot McKnight

No one knows for sure why James moves to Rahab as his second example, though some suggestions are clever. Hospitality seems the best explanation: the messanists for not showing it to the poor, Abraham for entertaining strangers, and Rahab for […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 51

posted by Scot McKnight

We better quote the text from James 2:20-24 again: 20 You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? 21 Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 50

posted by Scot McKnight

The next seven verses are some of the most fought-over verses in the Bible. These verses led Luther to his famous “right strawy epistle.” It led him to put James further back in the German New Testament. Calvin wrestled these […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 49

posted by Scot McKnight

These two verses are considered by some to be the most difficult verses in the whole Bible to interpret. Questions abound for all. Here’s the NIV translation of James 2:18-19: 18 But someone will say, “You have faith; I have deeds.” […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 48

posted by Scot McKnight

The last lines in James 2:14-17 simply put forth what has been implicit all along: 14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose a brother […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 47

posted by Scot McKnight

James 2:14-17 probes deeply into those who see needs (or ignore needs) and do nothing to alleviate needs. James, in fact, says that kind of response indicates the lack of faith — the lack of saving faith. Notice his words: […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 46

posted by Scot McKnight

What does “works” mean to James? James 2:14-17 shows the sorts of things he has in mind. 14 What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? 15 Suppose […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 45

posted by Scot McKnight

There is nothing difficult to understand in some passages in James. The problem with James is that (1) he sometimes chafes against our theology and (2) he sometimes chafes even more against our theology. In other words, he says this […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 44

posted by Scot McKnight

What do you think these words mean from James 2:13? “judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” I think it sounds like Jesus in Matt 6:14-15: “14 For if you forgive […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 43

posted by Scot McKnight

James 2:12-13 reads: “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgment without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgment!” Sailors, so […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 42

posted by Scot McKnight

To love your neighbor as yourself is the foundation of the Torah.To show favortism toward the rich and against the poor, you are not acting in love.Not to love is to break the law.Therefore, those who break the law (of […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 41

posted by Scot McKnight

The next passage we deal with in James is 2:8-13, and it reveals that James — like his brother and then also like Paul and John — made direct use of the Shema + Lev 19:18, which I call the […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 40

posted by Scot McKnight

We come to the last argument James uses with the messianic community. It is wrong to exploit the poor because it is against Jesus’ teaching, because it is contrary to election, because it is stupid, and finally because there is […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 39

posted by Scot McKnight

James has now argued from Jesus and from theology. He now argues from sheer pragmatics that despising the poor is stupid: Is it not the rich who are exploiting you? Are they not the ones who are dragging you into […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 38

posted by Scot McKnight

Snobbery is a major problem at work among the messianists. Notice these words from James 2: 5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 37

posted by Scot McKnight

For James, who once again sounds like his older brother, kow-towing to the rich is not what they learned from Jesus, it is not theologically sound, and furthermore it simply doesn’t make sense. 2:5 Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 36

posted by Scot McKnight

We finish off the sketch of how the messianic community was kow-towing to the rich and despising the shabbily-dressed. In this letter, the rich are the oppressors and the poor are the oppressed. As we will see next week, the […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 35

posted by Scot McKnight

How we treat the poor is a barometer of our faith in the Glorious Jesus Christ. That’s what James says in James 2:1 and then he sketches a scene before our eyes: 2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 34

posted by Scot McKnight

Faith in Jesus Christ implicates a person in his way of life. Here is a sketch, a caricature that delves at the same time in the depths of the ordinary: James 2:2 Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 33

posted by Scot McKnight

We enter into a self-contained new section of James (James 2:1-13). This passage prompts James to to speak of the relationship of faith and works, and that section (2:14-26) is James’ most cited passage in the history of theological debates. […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 32

posted by Scot McKnight

James’ words from James 1:27 continue to ring in our ears: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 31

posted by Scot McKnight

Clearly some of the most memorable words James ever uttered are in 1:26-27: 26 If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and his religion is worthless. 27 Religion that God […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 30

posted by Scot McKnight

Some people think they are especially religious but don’t control their tongue. Here’s how James puts it in James 1:26: If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his tongue, he deceives himself and […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 29

posted by Scot McKnight

I wonder how many Christians, especially since the Reformation, genuinely believe what James — in powerful adaptation of his brother — says in James 1:26-27. If anyone considers himself religious and yet does not keep a tight rein on his […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 28

posted by Scot McKnight

The Torah, properly understood, leads to a life of freedom. So James 1:25: But the man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it-he […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 27

posted by Scot McKnight

James has a goal in mind when he begins this section: he wants his readers to be those who listen and do. What he wants them to listen to is what he mentions next, and it is a source of […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 26

posted by Scot McKnight

Knowledge of the “word” (logos) is not enough for James. Any listening that does not lead to doing is not proper listening and is not enough. So James says in 1:22-25: 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 25

posted by Scot McKnight

We will look this week at James 1:22-25, and I want to begin by quoting these most important of verses: 22 Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says. 23 Anyone who listens to the […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 24

posted by Scot McKnight

James reveals an early, if not the earliest, early Christian (post Jesus) understanding of “new birth” and “spiritual formation.” Notice how James thinks the community is to be formed spiritually: “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 23

posted by Scot McKnight

Community’s advance and progress and are formed when those communities put away things that destroy and work against community. If quick-to-listen and slow-to-speak are two major characteristics of community, then James 1:21 describes the things that need eradication: 19 My dear […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 22

posted by Scot McKnight

How do humans accomplish God’s will? James tells us that human anger can never bring about God’s will, and he has to be speaking here into (at least) the zealot option of the 1st Century. The Zealots, if you remember, […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 21

posted by Scot McKnight

What are characteristics that form and sustain community? James, the brother of Jesus, has some powerful advice. Here are the words of James 1:19-21: 19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 20

posted by Scot McKnight

Why does God give humans the “new birth” or why does God “recreate” humans? Notice how James frames one of the earliest understandings of the doctrine of regeneration: “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 19

posted by Scot McKnight

Here is one of the earliest Christian reflections on the new birth: 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. There are a number of […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 18

posted by Scot McKnight

Does James suggest that the trails of life are to be seen as “gifts” from God? That they are to be converted from trial into “catacombs” of conversion? Notice these words and read them in the context of James 1:2-4: […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 17

posted by Scot McKnight

James 1: 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 16

posted by Scot McKnight

James looks into the eyes and hearts of the oppressed and poor messianists, now scattered from home and facing oppression at the hands of the rich — the odds are against them. He looks at them and tells the to […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 14

posted by Scot McKnight

There is reciprocity between God’s blessing and human living. Notice these words in James 1:12: “Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 13

posted by Scot McKnight

Once again James gets a look-alike award for what he has to say in James 1:12. Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 12

posted by Scot McKnight

We aren’t quite done with James 1:9-11. 9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 11

posted by Scot McKnight

Here are the words of James 1:9-11:  9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 10

posted by Scot McKnight

The theme of James 1:9-11, as we tried to show yesterday, is reversal. The current oppressive conditions of the poor will be overturned by an act of God and the oppressors will be brought before the bar of the Lord […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 9

posted by Scot McKnight

Reversal is one of James’ convictions. He’s looking at and like his brother on this one too. What is reversal? That the present conditions are unjust; that the conditions are contrary to God’s design; that God will (soon?) step in […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 8

posted by Scot McKnight

Doubt that God is good renders a person’s faith unstable. Notice the terse, strong, and insightful words of James 1:6-8: But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 7

posted by Scot McKnight

James, the brother of Jesus, is no promiser of happy days. Notice what he says in James 1:6-8: 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 6

posted by Scot McKnight

James is like his brother Jesus in how he understands God. God is good and God is there and God is not silent and God responds. who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 5

posted by Scot McKnight

James starts off James 1:5 with a line that has brought comfort to many: If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. Many […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 4

posted by Scot McKnight

James sees the testing of faith — the ability to see through a bad situation to what God will make of it — as an opportunity to set off a chain reaction: 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 3

posted by Scot McKnight

James exhorted the messianists to face their exploitation with some courage and faith and to see through the exploitation, which they were incapable of resisting, to something they could get out of it. So he tells them to face the […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 2

posted by Scot McKnight

James, brother of Jesus, offers us wisdom. He opens his letter with a very typical greeting and then dives right in with these words: 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 1

posted by Scot McKnight

We begin our series on James today and I suspect it will take us some time. As with previous Bible studies, we’ll do these Monday – Thursday. Our focus will be on how the brother of Jesus, James, offered wisdom […]

A Brother’s Wisdom 15

posted by Scot McKnight

Ask any pastor who knows suffering and persecution first hand and he or she will tell you that what James turns to in James 1:13-15 is the rugged, pastoral, moral reality: 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting […]

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