Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. […] Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
James 1:2-4, 12
Did you know that the Book of James only mentions Christ by name twice? For this reason – and several others – Martin Luther, the great reformation theologian, questioned the place of the book in Scripture. He dubbed it an ‘epistle of straw, compared to these others, for it has nothing of the nature of the Gospel about it’.
Well, no offence Martin, but I would beg to differ. The book of James is deeply relevant for such a time as this and packed full of teaching that reflects the heart of Jesus, aligning with how we see him act and hear him teach in the gospels.
Indeed, this passage alone feels like an expansion of Matthew 5:10, 12 – ‘blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. […] Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.’ Jesus’ own words, his wise teaching, are echoed here by James.
Even so, like straw, it is hard to swallow. This book is full of bold statements and big challenges – especially to our world today. Consider it pure joy when you face trials of many kinds?! Really, James? I’d rather not. I’d rather sulk and hide in my duvet fort, thank you very much.
And yet there it is – James is clear that trials lead to perseverance, perseverance leads to maturity and, eventually, the crown of life. Which is, I would argue, much better than a duvet fort. And this joy isn’t supposed to be a simple happiness, a keep-on-smiling-life-is-great attitude, but instead a deep, settled contentment that God is good, and we can trust in him.
The Book of James has a lot to say to us – pandemic or no pandemic, lockdown or no lockdown. We all need perseverance and spiritual maturity. And we certainly all need to be reminded that God is good, and we can trust in him. If nothing else, that is what the Book of James will encourage us to do. Even from our duvet fort.