Studying James ~ Considering the Context

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Before we take a look into James next week, let’s spend a bit of time considering the context in which it was written.  By all means, take some time to do a little research yourselves and see what you can find out.  Bible Gateway has some great resources and articles to help.

 

Who, when, why?

 

  • James is considered to have been written by Jesus’ brother, James between AD 40 and 50, written from Jerusalem.
  • It is thought to have been written during the early diaspora; check out Acts 8:1-4.
  • Christians at the time were experiencing severe persecution; they had recently lost Stephen and were being driven out of their homes in Jerusalem. So, the audience would have been Jewish-Christian and with a fairly recently acquired Christian faith.
  • Because of their persecution, they would have lost their incomes and belongings as well as their homes.  They would have experienced separation from family members and friends and were likely quite poor.
  • The focus of James is the importance of acting like God’s people: faith in practical action, where good works are the fruit (but not guarantee) of salvation.

How does this relate to us?

 

As you read the words above, no doubt there were people (even yourself) who came to mind with some of the circumstances the early Christians found themselves in.  We still know or hear of people who have lost their homes and possessions, are experiencing persecution, who are forced to move from where they live, who live in poverty…these are still problems today for many people around the world.

I sit writing this from the comfort of a home that is not in a country where I am persecuted for my faith – at worst, a few people might not be friendly or may laugh at you behind your back for being a Christian, but rarely does it get much worse than that. Does this mean that James doesn’t have anything for those of us whose circumstances are better than those of the early church during the diaspora described in Acts 8? Of course not! James is also a practical book, full of lessons and wisdom (it’s sometimes referred to as the Proverbs of the New Testament) and whatever our circumstances, we are called to lead lives that display characteristics in keeping with our faith.

So, whatever you are doing, wherever you are today, as you start to read James, keep these things in mind. We may or may not be in the same situations as those in James’ audience, but we are all required to display the fruit of our faith.

Grace and Love

Helen x

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