Key Scriptures: James 2:5, Matthew 5:3, James 3:10-12, Matthew 7:15-20, James 3:18, Matthew 5:9, James 5:2-3, Matthew 6:19-20, James 5:12 and Matthew 5:33-37.
Guiding Question: What advice do James and Peter give Christians that is still applicable today?
Optional Introductory Activity: Have an adult (or teacher) gather students together and tell them about the “bad day” he or she has had. Have the students think of things that could make this person feel better. Consider also reversing it with the person sharing great news and students deflating it. Discuss how words can change everything.
Lesson: (Questions for students are in bold italics.) One of the interesting things about God’s commands is that he often repeats them multiple times. We have looked before at all of the different scriptures where God condemns lying over and over. Why do you think God has more than one writer give basically the dame command? (Answers will vary and there is not really a right or wrong answer, we don’t know for sure.)
Someone did an interesting study comparing some of the things James wrote about things Jesus taught in the Sermon on the Mount. Look up the scriptures and see what you think. Read the “Key Scriptures” listed above.
No one knows for sure when any of the New Testament books were written (although we have general clues in some), as people did not put exact dates on letters like they often do today. We do know that often one letter was taken from one congregation to another to be read or the letter might be copied multiple times and sent on to other congregations. Eventually these were compiled with the Gospels, Acts and Revelations (which may have also started as letter type documents or were at least circulated in a similar way) to form the New Testament.
James was probably written at the same time or even before the Gospel of Matthew. It really doesn’t matter which came first, as the New Testament writers had been at many of the same events or probably used some of the same sources (like some of the Apostles and/or Mary). We also know that God inspired the writers to write what needed to be written. We have no way of knowing for sure if every congregation got to read all of the letters/books that now make up the New Testament. By repeating many of the same principles, the writers of the New Testament could make sure every Christian could know without a doubt what God expected of them.
In James 3, he spends a lot of time talking about our speech. Can you find verses in Proverbs and other books that give similar or additional guidance about how we are to speak? What are the basic guidelines that James gives us? With which of them do you struggle? Do you agree with James? How can you start to get your own “tongue” under control?
What does James say about wisdom in the rest of chapter 3? What other verses in the Bible, particularly in Proverbs, deal with wisdom?
James 4 deals with submission and arrogance. We have discussed these concepts some in the past, but they often confuse people. People who are not doing God’s will can misuse these commands and use them to oppress others. Look at chapter 5 through.
You must remember, when this book was written, it was a letter. There were no chapter and verse divisions. These were added later to help us read and study the Bible.
In the original letter James’ advice about submission would have been quickly and smoothly followed with his warnings to those who oppress others.
If you think of James 4 and 5 as one letter, what are the basic principles that James is trying to communicate? James was very practical in his writing. If you had to make a list of all of James’ suggestions, what would the list include? With which of these things do you struggle? How can re-reading the book of James from time to time help you stay on track?
The last part of James 5 also gives us a way to help us remember to do the things we are supposed to do. What is it? James understood that often we need people to verbally remind us of what we are trying to do. He clearly saw the church as a group of people who supported one another – helping each other in bad times, celebrating together in good times and calling each other back to God’s ways when necessary.
How do you see the church today filling each of those roles/can give examples – either positive or negative – or when you have seen the church either follow or forget to follow what James wrote in chapter 5? How can you act this way towards your brothers and sisters in Christ? What are some specific things you can do to fulfill these scriptures?
I and II Peter follow James in our Bibles and were probably written at about the same time or slightly after the book of James. Peer was killed during the reign of Nero – probably after Rome burned and before Nero’s death. They were written to Christians living in Asia Minor or basically the area we call Turkey today.
Many of Paul’s letters were written to specific churches that were having specific issues – many of which still occur today in our churches. The letters Peter wrote were more about giving advice on Christian living rather than chastising people for specific behaviors.
Just like the people to whom the book of James was originally addressed, the people to whom Peter wrote were experiencing persecution. They not only needed encouragement to live a Christian life, but to stay faithful to Christ in spite of any persecution.
If you knew your life might be in danger for worshipping God, how do you think you would react? What concerns would you have? What temptations would tempt you the most? What could someone write to you that would encourage you to not leave Christianity?
Application Challenge: Read James chapters 3-5 again. What practical, godly advice does he give that is new to you? What do you need to change in order to follow his advice?
Author: Thereasa Winnett