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What is the book of James about in the Bible? Watch as we explain its major themes and gain a deeper understanding of its place in the biblical story.

Book Overviews Dec 6, 2016


  1. What is one way this video expands your understanding of James’ letter?
  2. How does the first chapter impact the structure of the whole letter?
  3. Reflect on one of James’ twelve teachings. How does this teaching challenge your perspective?

Go Deeper

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.

Read: James 1

  1. 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?

  2. 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)?

  3. 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?

  4. 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?

  5. 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)?

Learn More

James combines the wisdom of Jesus with the book of Proverbs in his own challenging call to live a life of devotion to God.

The introduction to the book of James summarizes the words and themes found throughout the book, which is filled with short, challenging wisdom speeches that are full of metaphors and easily memorized one-liners.

While James doesn't teach new theology, it does challenge believers on how they should live. When believers listen to and obey God's word, they show their love for him and others. Their actions match their words, and their lives are made whole and perfect.

Wisdom For the Ages

Written by Jesus' half brother Jacob (often translated as James), the book of James shares sage wisdom for all followers of Jesus. The book is heavily influenced by Proverbs and frequently quotes Jesus' famous teaching the Sermon on the Mount.

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