Life is hard, and humans are far from perfect, so what does it mean for God to make us perfect through the hardships of life? Watch the featured video, reflect on some questions, and go deeper into study on your own or with a group. If you're participating in our reading plan One Story that Leads to Jesus, this Reflections Bible Study lines up with week 49.
Once you've watched the featured video, take time to reflect on these questions.
What is one way this video expands your understanding of James’ letter?
How does the first chapter impact the structure of the whole letter?
Reflect on one of James’ twelve teachings. How does this teaching challenge your perspective?
James, or Jacob, writes his letter to those of us who are suffering all kinds of different hardships and tests of life. He personally understands what it means to suffer and how pain makes us vulnerable to shame, doubt, lust, deception, anger, and pride. But he also knows that in suffering, there’s a unique opportunity for God to perfect and complete the valuable character-building work he started in us. God meets us with wisdom as we face the tests of life. When we listen closely to his wise words of truth, trusting that he is good and responding with action, we begin to experience the wholeness God designed us for. And those around us experience it too. When we see our sufferings through the wisdom and goodness of God, we are moved to alleviate human suffering whenever we encounter it, especially the sufferings of the most vulnerable in our communities. But when we forget God’s goodness, we often allow our own pain to provoke selfish actions and cruel words that destroy our communities. There’s a lot at stake, so Jacob urges us to listen carefully and respond tangibly.
The word “perfect” (also translated as “complete”) is used seven times in James' entire letter, and five of those times are mentioned in chapter one. Can you find the first five? What do you observe about how the word is used in each of these instances?
How are the metaphors of conception, pregnancy, and birth used in James 1:13-21? Notice the two different types of seed: lust and the word of truth. What do we need to trust in order to avoid conceiving lust (e.g. James 1:13-17)? How are we instructed to receive the word of truth (e.g. James 1:21)?
Compare Genesis 3:1-12 to James 1:13-17. What are the similarities and differences? According to these passages, what do people falsely believe about God when they are being deceived?
Compare Genesis 4:1-8 with James 1:18-21. What do you observe? How does anger fail to make things right, and what are we instructed to do instead?
There are two ways to respond to God’s words of truth. How does Jacob describe the difference between a “forgetful hearer” and an “effectual doer”? How do they listen (James 1:19-25)? How do they speak (James 1:19; James 1:26)? How do they impact the lives of the most vulnerable in society (James 1:27)?