James 1:1-11

These small group studies of James contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications.  Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.

James 1:1-11 Inductive Bible Study

Paraphrase with Cross References

  1. I, James, serve the Lord Jesus Christ and send greetings to the twelve tribes throughout the world.
  2. Be joyful when you face trials.
  3. They test your faith and produce endurance. Philippians 1:29, Philippians 4:4, 1 Thess 5:16-18, Romans 5:2-5
  4. This endurance can bring you to maturity and completeness. Hebrews 12:2
  5. If you lack wisdom ask God and He will give it generously and kindly. James 3:17
  6. You must ask with faith. If you don’t circumstances will overcome you. Matthew 21:21-22
  7. Also that person won’t receive anything from the Lord,
  8. because he is a hypocrite and insecure.
  9. Even a person in a low situation has a high position and should rejoice in it. Luke 14:11, Matthew 5:3
  10. A rich man should rejoice when he is brought low, knowing his life will pass away like the flowering grass. Jeremiah 9:23-24
  11. Just as the sun destroys the flower and its beauty, so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will perish. Isaiah 40:7
  12. Blessed is the person who perseveres in the face of trials. When he has passed the test the Lord will give him he crown of life promised to those who love Him.
  13. God can’t be tempted and doesn’t tempt others. We can’t blame Him when we are tempted. 1 Cor 10:13
  14. The temptation comes from ourselves when we follow our lusts.
  15. If we follow our lusts to their destination sin occurs. The result of this sin is death.

Outline

  1. Greeting (verse 1)
  2. Trials
  3. Be joyful (verse 2)
  4. Result of Trials (verse 3-4)

III. Pray

  1. Purpose of Prayer (verse 5)
  2. Pray with Faith (verse 6)
  3. Result of Faithless Prayer (verses 7-8)
  4. Contentment
  5. In Humble Circumstances (verse 9)
  6. Rich Man (verse 10)
  7. True Meaning of Life (verse 11)Authorship

Only two real candidates have been proposed, James the brother of John, and James the oldest and half brother of Jesus (Mark 6:3). James, the brother of John was probably martyred too early to have written this book, leaving James, Jesus’ half brother as the author. He originally rejected Jesus as the Messiah, but evidently trusted in Him after seeing Jesus resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:7). He was an associate of the apostles and a key leader in the Jerusalem church (Acts 12:17, Galatians 2:12).

Background

James was primarily directed towards Jewish believers who had been scattered, perhaps because of persecution under Herod Agrippa. As such, it is very Jewish in nature and contains frequent references to the Old Testament.

Content

This epistle is mostly focused on practical Christian living as opposed to theoretical knowledge or doctrines. It focuses on day to day life, relationship, and applications in the world around us. It’s first aim seems to be to encourage the believers to live godly lives.

Key Verses

2-3 Trials are a good thing and are sent from God. They are meant to test our faith. They give us a chance to prove our love for God by action. Many times it is easy to say we love God and it also to be faithful to Him when things are going very easily. But what about when things turn difficult? These are the times that really require faith and show our true character. It is during these times that many people turn away from God. Instead we need to view trials as a gift and as a chance for us to grow. We should rejoice when God considers us worthy to suffer for Him and we should give thanks to Him in all things.

5 True wisdom comes from God and not from ourselves. The world offers the appearance of wisdom, but only when looking at things through temporal eyes. God wants us to succeed and He wants us to follow His will by making the right decision. Therefore He will give us true wisdom from Him when we ask Him to. The problem is sometimes we don’t want it.

6 We can’t straddle the fence in this world or we will be eaten apart. If our faith is not strong the moment the trials and difficulties come we will flee. But we must have strong faith so that when the moments of testing come we can stand on the solid rock that is Jesus Christ and not be moved.

12 Again it is easy to  persevere when everything is going well. But when continue to follow Him even when Satan throws numerous obstacles in the way we will inherit the true blessings from Him.

14-15 Temptation comes from Satan, the world, and our sinful flesh. We can’t blame God for it. It is our own fault and so is its consequences. The result is horrible and we must have an eternal perspective to escape such bad consequences.

I.Verse 1

Discussion Questions

Who is the author?
What is his relationship to God?
Who are the recipients?

Cross-References

Mark 6:3 – James mentioned.
1 Corinthians 15:7 – Jesus appeared to James.
Acts 12:17, Galatians 2:12 – Verses depicting James’ involvement in the early church at Jerusalem.

Teaching Points

  1. James is the half-brother of Jesus. He was the leader of the early New Testament church in Jerusalem. Also, he was one of the key people who made the decision at the Council of Jerusalem on how to solve the conflict between the Gentiles and the Jews.
  2. The book is written primarily to a Jewish audience, hence it says “to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations.”II. Verses 2-4

Discussion Questions

What kinds of trials do you think the believing Jews of that day were facing?
What is your definition of trial? Does it include difficulties I bring on myself as a result of sin?
What can you learn from the use of the word “various”?
What is the natural reaction to trials?
How are believers supposed to react? Why are we to react like this?
What is the purpose of trials? What two ways can we react to them?
How do these test our faith? How does this produce endurance? How does endurance bring is to maturity and make us complete? What might be the difference between the faith/character of a believer never exposed to trials (if there were such a thing) and a believer who had faced many trials and passed the test?

Cross-References

Matthew 5:10-12 – Blessed are those who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness.
Acts 5:41 – The apostles were rejoicing that they were considered worthy to suffer for Christ.
James 8:35-38 – In all these things we are overwhelming conquerors. Also, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.
Philippians 1:29 – For it has been granted to you, not only to believe on Him but also to suffer for Him.
1 Peter 4:13-16 – If you suffer, make sure it is for the right reasons. If so, there is nothing to be ashamed of.
1 Peter 1:6-8 – Now for a little while you face all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith may be refined like gold.
Romans 5:3-4 – Suffering produces perseverance, which produces character, and hope.
2 Corinthians 4:16-18 – Momentary troubles achieve for us an eternal glory that far outweigh them all.
Romans 8:28 – Everything works together for good…

Teaching Points

  1. Consider it pure joy – This is a mindset that James encourages his readers to have. Trials are certainly not enjoyable. But yet we are to be joyful in all situations. Why? The reason is given in verse 3. Trials test our faith and develop perseverance. Though a person would not normally look at a trial and say “I am so happy my health is poor” or “I am so happy that I lost my job” a person could look at these situations and say “I know that God has my best interests at heart” or “I know that losing my job is an opportunity to rely on the Lord instead of my own understanding.” Thus when we face trials we should always try to look at what lessons God wants to teach us in the middle of those trials. It is also possible that as long as we don’t learn the lessons, then the trial will continue until we do learn them. For example when I pray for patience, God might even answer this prayer by sending someone into my life who tests my patience. And this trial may continue until I really learn the lesson that God has for me.
  2. Whenever you face trials of many kinds – We are not only to have a good attitude in certain kinds of trials, specifically ones that are not so difficult or ones that are very short term. We are to have joy even in the midst of very difficult trials or trials that go on for a very long time. Paul had a thorn in his flesh that he asked God to remove three times, but God did not remove it because He had a purpose for that. One of my close relatives has struggled with serious pain in her neck for many years. It seems to go on and on. Of course sometimes it is difficult, but she maintains a good and cheerful attitude. This is a great testimony to the rest of us.
  3. So that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything – God does not take away trials from our lives because trials are beneficial for us. They bring us up to maturity. Imagine a child who grows up in a pampered surrounding. He gets everything he wants immediately. He never faces challenges because his parents step in and solve them for him. How will this child end up? He will grow up spoiled. Then when he leaves home and a real trial hits, he will have no idea what to do. He might go off the deep end. The Lord wants to bring us up to maturity slowly and surely. Are you growing in the midst of trials or staying the same?III. Verses 5-8

Discussion Questions

How does this wisdom connect to the issue of trials just discussed?
Who/what is the source of wisdom? What other places to people/we often turn to wisdom? What kind of wisdom will we get from these sources?
What is God’s attitude towards us and our prayers? What does it mean “without reproach”?
Through what methods might God give us this wisdom? (Tell us from the sky?)
What condition do we need to fulfill?
Explain the faith mentioned in verse 6. Faith in what? What exactly must we have faith in? What kind of doubts does this refer to?
Does this put the answer to prayer back in our hands somehow?
Why is the term “double-minded” used in verse 8?

Cross-References

Proverbs 3:5-7 – Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding.
Jeremiah 1:6-8 – God would give Jeremiah the words to speak.
John 15:7, 16:24 – Ask from God and He will answer.
Mark 11:22-24 – Pray in faith (mountain).
Hebrews 11:6 – Without faith it is impossible to please God.
Mark 21:22 – If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask.
Hebrews 10:23 – Hold unswervingly to the hope.

Teaching Points

  1. Verse 5 – If anyone lacks wisdom – In fact we all lack wisdom quite often. The first test is to see if we will admit it or not. A prideful person seldom prays because he thinks that he can solve problems on his own and with his own logic. When we are humble, we will realize that there are so many variables we don’t understand. We will realize how little we actually know. And we will be motivated to turn to the Lord in prayer. God will give generously and without finding fault. This phrase “without finding fault” is quite interesting. He seems to be saying that God won’t blame you for your lack of knowledge. A child may ask his parents for help with his homework and that parent may blame the child for not knowing the answer already. Here we see that God will not do this. Rather He welcomes our questions and requests.
  2. He must believe and not doubt – Do we really believe God can and will answer our prayers? Do we really believe He is listening? Do we really believe He is all powerful and all good? These are questions we must ask and solve before we approach God in prayer. We should then pray confidently, knowing that He hears every word we speak and will answer. His answer may not be exactly what we want or hope for, just as a parent does not always give his child the candy or ice cream he asks for, but His answer will be exactly what is good for us, exactly what we need.IV. Verses 9-11

Discussion Questions

Explain the term “brother of humble circumstances”.
What does it mean “to glory in”?
How is his position high?
In what way will the rich man be humiliated?
What do these verses tell us about the importance of earthly possessions?
What can a poor person learn from this?
How about a rich person?
What can we learn about the meaning of life?

Cross-References

Proverbs 19:1 – Better a poor man whose walk is blameless than…
Luke 1:52-53 – He has brought down rulers from their thrones,but has lifted up the humble.
James 2:5-6 – Has not God chosen the poor… to be rich in faith…
Romans 8:17 – If we are children, then we are also heirs.
2 Corinthians 6:10 – Having nothing yet possessing everything.
Matthew 5:3 – Blessed are the poor in Spirit for their is the kingdom of heaven.

Jeremiah 9:23-24 – Let not the rich man boast in his riches or the strong man in his might…
Philippians 3:8 – Paul considered everything rubbish next to gaining Christ.
1 Timothy 6:17 – The rich are not to put their hope in riches, but are to put their hope in God.
1 Peter 1:24, 1 John 2:17 – The world/grass will pass away, but the Word of the Lord/he who does His will will last forever.
Luke 12:16-21 – Parable of the rich man.

Teaching Points

  1. Verse 9 – Although a person’s economic position may be poor, his position in Christ is high (Galatians 3:28). He may be physically poor, but spiritually rich. Those who are poor in this world should not focus on their lack of material things. Rather they should focus on their abundant spiritual blessings.
  2. Verses 10-11 – The rich person should realize that in the end he is just like the poor person. His riches will fade away. His life itself will be as short as many of the poor people around him. His riches and materials can not buy long life (or not eternal life anyway). And yet this person, if he trusts in Christ, can also be spiritually rich and full of blessings.
  3. Application: If you have little, don’t focus on that, but set your mind on things above. If you have much, don’t focus on that either (though you should be thankful). Instead set your mind on things above and be thankful for your blessings in Christ.
Study James 1:12-27

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