The influence of Christmas: The message of James
It is not often that the letter of James is associated with Christmas. James, the brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3; Galatians 1:19), is generally regarded as the author of the letter of James. What does James teach us about the message of the gospel?
James calls himself a servant of God and of Christ (James 1:1) and later identifies himself as a teacher when he writes 'and we who teach', hence including himself among the teachers (James 3:1).
If James was living in our celebrity culture, he might well have been tempted to introduce a few more titles and descriptions before his name. Such as 'the brother of the most anointed Jesus Christ and second in line to the throne', or, 'The one who rubbed shoulders with Jesus Christ and came out of the same womb'. I am sure our culture could have come up with a few more titles.
James attitude and humility is constant throughout his writings. Here was a man that had been thoroughly moulded by the gospel. James alerts us to the need to offer full respect to all people irrespective of their status or lack of achievements in life. Lets read James 2:1-4.
My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, "Here's a good seat for you," but say to the poor man, "You stand there" or "Sit on the floor by my feet, "have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? James 2:1-4
James duly reminds us that our current status and achievements on earth are temporarily (James 1:11). He tactfully prods us to learn from how God chooses the poor to be rich in faith (James 2:5).
If we are to take James seriously, then favouritism is sin. Read James 2:8-10.
If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, "Love your neighbor as yourself,"you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it. James 2:8-10
Treating other people unfairly on the grounds that you do not like their colour, age, gender, social status or family background or even spiritual gift is a serious disregard for people created in the image of God. James calls it a sin.
Now this is serious stuff. The antidote to this sin is humility. Jesus set the example by putting down his majesty and becoming one of us.
The testimony of Christ's life and death is deprived of it's power when we Christians look down at 'others' as we scornfully call them sinners.
Furthermore, even among ourselves, we tend to grade people according to their supposed 'status'. This is offensive to God.
Like James we need to identify and acknowledge that we have the same potential to commit sin like everyone else and whatever position God has given us in the home, work or church is due to his grace and not our greatness.
Always respect people whatever their status. We are all made in the image of Christ.
It is wrong to show favoritism in any form or shape. Denying others privileges because they do not 'praise your name' or overlooking those you perceive do not have 'influence' is disheartening to God.
Unless we Christians embrace humility in our actions we will loss the heart of the gospel. James puts it much better.
But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."
Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.
You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that- and shudder.
You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,"and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. James 2:18-24
In short, the gospel came to change the way we live not just what we believe.
Let's try and remember that this Christmas and always.