I have met several Jewish people in my life who have trusted Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Some of them call themselves “completed Jews”, because their faith was completed when they met their Messiah. James, a key leader of the original church in Jerusalem, wrote this letter to his fellow “completed Jews” who had been scattered by persecution. Apparently he had gotten wind that some of them were at odds. They were at war with each other, and James knew where the conflict came from (v.1-3). They were so focused on attaining the things of the world that they had forgotten what was most important: their intimate relationship with the One who made their lives complete.
James reminded them that chasing after the things of this world is a vain pursuit. The world can never satisfy the needs of the soul (v.2). Only God can give us what we really need, but we block His blessings when we push Him out of our lives and refuse to ask Him in prayer (v.3-4). Maybe you know how that feels — to get caught up in the things of the world and drift away from intimacy with God (I know I do). The only way to reverse that trend is to draw near to God in humility and repentance. When we do, we will find ourselves embraced by His grace and lifted out of the quicksand of worldliness (v.6, 8, 10).
Verses 11-17 give us three very practical instructions about how to live out our faith. First, James addresses the issue of judging others (v.11-12). Only Jesus holds the right and authority to judge people, and so when we pass judgment we are committing an act of rebellion against His authority. God expects you to be wise and to use discernment, and at times that might mean calling a fellow believer to accountability. But before you mount that horse, you had better be sure that you are blameless before God, that your conclusion is correct, and that your motive is love.
Second, James reminds us that we should surrender our plans to the will of God. God considers it to be “evil boasting” when we make plans as if His will doesn’t matter (v.16). Our short lives only find significance in His great plan (v.14). Third, James points out that sin is not just doing evil, it is also failing to do good (v.17). We sin when we break God’s commandments, but we also sin when we ignore God’s commandments.
Draw near to God today. Surrender to His will. Press in to His presence and worship like there’s no tomorrow — there might not be!