For this week’s bible study, our group read the first two chapters of James. As we read, it seemed that the theme of faith at the end of Hebrews seemed to continue in James. The first thing that we commented on was that as of finishing the Book of Hebrews last week, we would not be reading any more of the writings of Paul – which some people feel is a relief! lololol!
Paul may not always make total sense in so far as hir thoughts on the place of women, hir advocating shaming people to bring them to/back-to Christ, and in hir professing in other verses hir great pride in hirself while at the same time condemning the pride of others, etc. lol. As well, some verses are, I think, for a specific time, place, or circumstance. And as much as I think they’re so cool, fun, and adorable, there are probably few Christians out there that believe that head coverings for women are required today, when Paul clearly taught their importance in hir day (1 Corinthians 11:5-10). As Christians, devoted to following the life and teachings of Jesus, in our new life of joy and hospitality to the stranger, in the highest mind, we must choose things in that such light.
One of the first things that struck us was verse 2 which reads, “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations,” (KJV), looking to another translation for clarity, it reads, “Whenever trouble comes your way, let it be an opportunity for joy” (New Living Translation). This really speaks perhaps not to the idea of faith in things not seen as might be supposed, but really, to the positive, joyful new life in Christ in which in your eternalness, you see that creation of “trouble” as a point of contrast from which to play and feel that joy more fully.
Later verses speak of asking God for knowledge, and that if or when our faith wavers, it takes us out of our place of power, eternal life, and infinite knowledge. “Blessed is the man that endureth temptation, for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life” (12). The temptation being to push the crown away. The sin, the fall, is the separation.
We also ended up talking a lot about verses 9-11:
Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
Other verses throughout these two chapters also talk about this economic contrast and its implications. The conversation lead us to discuss these verses in a light of the “rich” lifting up the “poor” to exhalt them, thus have the rich lowered themselves. And even, it provides the rich the opportunity to do this, and for the poor, their economic contrast allows them to experience an exhaltation. In the end, all that is monetary passes away anyway. The poor are also more especially lifted up by the elimination of the contrast in a world rebirthed as heaven on earth. We also discussed such verses in the light of political, hierarchal power also.
Of course in this chapter are other famous verses, “But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves” (22), and “Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world” (27).
In chapter 2 were a lot of verses talking about befriending the poor over the rich. One of my favorite passages was verses 2-4:
For example, suppose someone comes into your meeting dressed in fancy clothes and expensive jewelry, and another comes in who is poor and dressed in dirty clothes.
Ultimately, it seems that the end goal is dissolve all forms of separations between us all. The evil is the separation, the alienation.
We also talked about how the whole idea of “faith” is a concept that James might have defined better or been a little clearer about in hir definitions, but essentially ze says that there is a difference between having faith and having faith with works; by the reading, the ‘faith alone’ just means, yes, you believe that God indeed exists, while the latter, ‘faith with works’ means that you do something about it toward an end of celebrating the God power and bringing the heaven to earth, and even simply living now in the joy of the heaven creation. I’m not a scholar in these matters, but the former might have better been called “believing,” the latter “faith,” and then ze might have said, for clarity, if your faith doesn’t lead to a new life, it simply is not faith.
The very end of chapter 2 made mention of the harlot Rahab in Joshua 2 in the Old Testament. Curious about the story, for our own edification, we turned and read that entire chapter 2 of Joshua. Hir story really is an amazing story of faith too. Ze had faith in the unseen power of God, and thus the deliverance ze desired was granted unto hir and hir family.