The Epistle of JAMES

An amplified paraphrase

Chapter 1
I, James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, am writing to Christians scattered far and wide throughout the world, the new Israel of God; like the old Israel, you are twelve tribes, but one nation, the chosen people of God. I send you my greetings. [2]My brothers and sisters in Christ, when you encounter various kinds of trials and temptations you should be full of joy, for you know that this testing of your faith develops endurance. Make sure, then, that this endurance completes its work of sanctification in your lives, so that you may be mature and enjoy the whole inheritance of God's goodness in Christ, lacking in nothing. And if any one of you does lack wisdom, let him ask for it from God, who gives his gifts generously to every one, and finds fault with no one; and the gift of wisdom will be given to him. But when you ask, pray in whole-hearted faith; for a half-hearted Christian is like a wave in the middle of the sea, blown and buffeted this way and that by the wind. This sort of person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord: he - or she - is a double-minded Christian, half in love with the world, lurching from side to side as he walks along life's road. [9]The humble Christian of lowly status in society should rejoice that in Christ God has raised him to the heights. But the rich man who is an unbeliever should lower himself in humility before God, so that he, too, can rejoice with true joy. Otherwise, he will pass away like a flower in a field of hay; for the sun rises in the morning, and with its scorching heat withers the hay, and its flower falls to the ground, and the beauty of its appearance perishes. In the same way, too, the rich man will wither away as he journeys hither and thither through life. [12]Blessed is the man who endures trials and temptations: he has passed the test, and will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who truly love him. But when you are put to the test, no one should say: "I am being tempted by God". God is not touched in any way by anything evil, and he himself does not tempt any one. Rather, each person is tempted when he is led astray and seduced by his own inner desires; in due course, that desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and sin, when it is fully developed, gives birth to death. [16]But God gives life. My beloved brothers and sisters in Christ, do not be deceived by appearances: every good gift, every gift that is really worth having and is untainted by evil, comes down to us from our Father in heaven above. He is the almighty creator of the sun, the moon and the stars; his sovereign purpose never changes, and no shadow ever dims his glory. By a decision of his unchanging will, he gave us new birth and new life through the word of his truth, the gospel of Jesus Christ. His eternal purpose is that we should be the first-fruits, as it were, of his great harvest, the first children of the new family which he is creating. [19]So take to heart what I am saying, my beloved brothers and sisters in Christ. Each one of you should be quick to listen to this word of truth, but slow to speak and slow to anger; for a man's anger cannot achieve the righteousness required by God. So take off, like dirty clothes, every kind of unclean behaviour, and put aside the sinful attitudes that so often envelop you, and with the simple humility of little children accept the teaching of the gospel which has already taken root in your lives, and has the power to make them healthy and whole. [22]But do not deceive yourselves into false assurance: it is not enough merely to listen to God's word; make sure you translate it into action. For the person who just listens to God's word and does not put it into action is like a man who carefully studies in a mirror the face he was born with; for after all his careful study he goes away and completely forgets what he looked like.. But the person who bends his proud back and humbly accepts and abides by God's perfect law of freedom, not just hearing and forgetting it but putting it into action, this person will have God's blessing in what he does. [26]If any one thinks he is religious but cannot properly control his tongue, he has deceived himself about the true state of his heart, and his religion is an empty pretence. Genuine religion, a religion with which God our Father finds no fault, is this: to go out to visit and care for orphans and widows in their distress, and to take care that one's inner life is not corrupted by the temptations of the world around us. For it is equally hypocritical to be so preoccupied with our personal holiness that we ignore the needs of others, and to help others while our hearts are corrupted by the world. Love for God and love for neighbour should go hand in hand.

Chapter 2
My brothers and sisters, make sure that your fellowship with one another is not spoilt by discrimination on the basis of outward appearance or social status; this is not consistent with the faith that gives us all an equal share in the glory of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Suppose your church assembly is hearing a dispute between two Christian brothers; one of them comes in with a gold ring on his finger and wearing expensive clothes, while the other comes in poor and shabbily dressed. If you show deference to the one who is expensively dressed, and say to him: "You sit down here in this comfortable chair"; but you say to the poor man: "You, stand over there, or sit on the floor by my feet", have you not shown partiality between members of your own fellowship ? How can you judge fairly between them when the thoughts of your hearts are so evil ? [5]`Listen to me, my brothers and sisters in Christ: are we not all of equal worth in God's sight ? Has he not chosen those who are poor in worldly terms to be rich in faith, inheriting all the treasures of the kingdom which he has promised to those who love him ? But if you show such partiality, you are dishonouring this poor Christian, and failing to recognise his spiritual wealth. Is it not the rich people in the world who use their power to oppress you ? Do they not drag you into court as debtors ? Do they not blaspheme the beautiful name of Christ by which, as Christians, you are called ? The royal law, written in scripture and quoted by Jesus himself, our King, says: "You shall love your neighbour as yourself." If then you keep this law, and love all your neighbours equally, you do well. If, however, you discriminate between them, you are committing a sin, and are convicted by the law as law-breakers. For someone who keeps all the rest of the law, but falls into sin by breaking a single commandment, has become guilty of breaking the law as a whole. For the God who said: "You shall not commit adultery" also said : "You shall not commit murder." So if you refrain from adultery but commit murder, you have still become a breaker of the law. All of us, therefore, are law-breakers; but by the grace of God we have been set free from the condemnation of the law. But that freedom also has its law - the royal law, the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. So everything you do and everything you say should be done and said in the knowledge that you will one day be judged by this law of freedom. "Blessed are those who show mercy to others," Jesus taught, "for they themselves will receive mercy." But for the one who does not show mercy, God's judgement, too, will be without mercy; for God delights in mercy more than in judgement. [14]My brothers and sisters in Christ, what use is it if someone says: "I have faith", but does no acts of mercy ? Can his faith alone save him ? Suppose a brother or sister in Christ has no clothes and no food - no "daily bread" - and one of you says to them: "Depart in peace. May you be kept warm and well fed" - but you give them nothing to meet the needs of their cold and hungry bodies, what use is that ? Faith, too, on its own, is equally useless - indeed, it is utterly lifeless - if it does not lead to action, to acts of mercy. Indeed, someone might well say: "You are a believer, I am a doer: you demonstrate your faith to me, if you can, without doing anything, while I demonstrate my faith to you by what I do." Do you believe that God is one ? Well done ! The devils in hell share your faith - and it leads to action: they tremble in fear at God's awesome power ! O foolish believers, do you want chapter and verse to prove to you that faith without actions is useless ? Was not our father Abraham regarded as righteous by God as a result of his actions, when he offered up his son Isaac as a sacrifice on the altar ? Do you not see that his faith was at work with his actions, and that it was by his actions that his faith was shown to be genuine ? So the scripture was fulfilled which says: "Abraham had faith in God, and his faith was credited to him as righteousness", and "he was called a friend of God". So you can see that it is not by faith on its own that someone is made righteous with God, but by the actions which result from that faith. In the same way also, was not Rahab the prostitute made righteous as a result of her actions ? When Joshua sent two young men into Jericho to bring him news of the state of the city, she sheltered them in her house, and then sent them on their way by a different route from the one on which their pursuers were hunting for them. For just as a body without the breath of life in it is dead, so faith only comes to life when it leads to action.

Chapter 3
Not too many of you, my brothers in Christ, should become teachers; you should realise that those of us who are teachers will receive a more severe judgement when we fall into sin - as we all do all too often. And if someone does not fall into sin in the words that he speaks and the language he uses, he is a truly mature Christian, with the power to control his whole body, with all its urges and appetites, just as a bridle controls a wilful stallion. For if we bridle the mouths of horses, we can control their whole bodies, and they obey us when we turn them this way or that. Or consider ships: how huge they are, and what fierce winds drive them over the water ! Yet with the tiniest of rudders the helmsman turns them this way and that according to his whim. In the same way, the tongue is only a tiny part of our body, but the power it boasts is great. Or again, consider how small a spark of fire can set a whole forest ablaze. The tongue, too, is a spark of fire; indeed, among all the parts of our body, the tongue stands alone as a whole world of evil, and with that evil it contaminates all the rest of the body; it is set on fire by the fires of hell itself, and in turn it sets on fire the whole course of a man's natural life, destroying relationships and wrecking fellowship. [7] All kinds of wild animal - birds and sea-creatures, too - are being tamed, and have been tamed, by mankind, but no man has the power to tame the tongue; it is an uncontrollable evil, pouring out a stream of deadly poison. We use our tongues to bless God, our heavenly Father and Lord, and to sing praises to his glorious name; but then with that same tongue we curse and swear at our fellow men who are created in God's image. My bothers and sisters in Christ, this should not happen. Can a spring from the same opening pour out both sweet, fresh water and bitter salt-water ? Can a fig-tree produce olives, or a vine produce figs ? Of course not; neither can a salt-water spring pour out fresh water. [13]Is there any one among you who is knowledgeable and wise ? You should show that your wisdom is truly the gift of God not by your words but by your actions, by the daily beauty and goodness of your life, for God's wisdom leads to meekness and humility. But if you are full of bitterness and envy, and your heart's desire is only to prove yourself right and every one else wrong, do not flatter yourself that you have any real knowledge of God's truth: you are turning it into a lie by your actions and attitudes. This is not the wisdom that comes down to us as a gift from God above; this is the sort of "wisdom" that comes to us from the world here below, from fallen human nature, from the devil himself. For the heart that is full of envy and aggressive self-assertiveness is dangerously unbalanced, and is capable of all kinds of sinful behaviour. But the wisdom that is a gift from heaven shows itself above all in holiness, so that those who are truly wise are peaceable, reasonable and teachable, and their lives are richly fruitful in acts of goodness and mercy to those in need. For just as the fruit on a tree grows from a tiny seed, so those who make peace and live at peace with those around them are sowing a seed from which holiness and righteousness will blossom.

Chapter 4
Why, then, is there so little peace among you ? Why are there so many fights and battles within the body of Christ ? Is it not because of all the selfish desires and sinful pleasures that are waging war for control of your own bodies ? You set your heart on satisfying some desire, but do not find satisfaction; so your hearts are filled with envy and jealousy, and you lash out at those around you - and still you cannot achieve the satisfaction you are seeking. So instead of being at peace with your neighbours, you are constantly fighting them and competing with them. And the reason that you never get what you want is that you never ask God for it in prayer; and even when you do pray, you do not receive what you ask for because you are praying from the wrong motives: like the prodigal son, you want to squander any gifts your Father God gives you on your own selfish pleasures. [4]Your unfaithfulness is adultery, betraying the God to whom you have pledged yourselves. Do you not realise that to be in love with the world is to be at war with God ? So any one who decides to make a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. Or do you not take seriously the scripture which says: "I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God", and the Spirit which he sent to live within us jealously longs for our whole-hearted loyalty, and gives us all the grace we need - and more besides - to remain loyal. We need to be humble enough to ask for that grace, for, to quote scripture again, "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble". [7]Kneel, then, in submission to God; but stand up against the Devil, and he will flee from you; but if you come close to God, he will come close to you. But you cannot come into God's presence with hands stained by sinful actions, or hearts torn in two by love of the world; so wash your hands clean with tears of true repentance, and consecrate your hearts afresh to God as you grieve and mourn over your unfaithfulness. Let your worldly laughter turn to grief, and your delight in sin turn to humble repentance. Kneel humbly before God, and he will lift you up into his presence. [11]Do not speak evil of one another, my brothers and sisters in Christ; for if you speak evil against your brother, the evil you speak is against the law - the royal law of Jesus, who commanded us to love one another, and not to judge one another. So if you judge your brother and find fault with him, the fault you find is with the law of Jesus; and if you find fault with the law, you are not sitting beneath it and doing what it commands you to do, but sitting above it as a judge. But there is only one judge, the God who made the law; it is he alone who has the power to save and to condemn. So what right do you have to pass judgement on your brother ? [13]Now sit up and take notice of what I say, you businessmen: you say to yourselves: "Today or tomorrow we will relocate to this city or that, and spend a year there; we will set up a business, and make a lot of money." But you cannot be sure what your life will be like tomorrow: you are like a vapour-trail, which is seen in the sky for a short time, and then evaporates. What you should say is this: "If it is the Lord's will, we will still be alive tomorrow, and we will do this or that." But as it is, you arrogantly presume on God's continuing goodness, and heedless of his will, and the needs of others, you boast about your worldly business pls. What you shansaaans. All such presumptuousness is wrong. So the person who knows the good he should do but fails to do it has sinned and fallen short of God's standard of holiness.

Chapter 5
And now, you rich unbelievers, you , too, take notice: weep and wail at the sufferings which will come upon you on the Day of Judgement. On that day you will find that all your riches have rotted away, your fine clothes consumed by moths, your gold and silver corroded by rust; your rusted riches will bear witness to your wickedness, and the fires of God's judgement will consume your flesh. Jesus our Lord commanded us to lay up for ourselves treasure in heaven; you have stored up treasure for yourselves on earth, but judgement in heaven. Take notice of this, too: God's law commands you to pay your day-labourers their wages before the sun goes down; but you have withheld the wages of those who reaped your fields and gathered in your harvest, and their shouts of protest and cries for justice have reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. In this world you have lived in luxury and self-indulgent extravagance, satisfying all the desires of your heart - yet the day of your destruction is near. For you have dragged righteous men to court and condemned them, depriving them of their livelihood. Does not God "resist the proud"? Have you not made him your enemy ? [7]Yes, my brothers and sisters in Christ, our Lord Jesus will come again, to judge the living and the dead, so until that day endure patiently. Look at the farmer: he confidently expects a precious harvest from his land, but first he must wait patiently for the autumn rain so that he can sow the seed, and then for the spring rain to mature it. So you, too, should show the same patient endurance, reassuring your hearts with the confident expectation that the coming of our Lord Jesus is close at hand. [9]My brothers and sisters, as I have said before, do not speak ill of one another, or grumble at each other, in case you yourselves are judged by the standards you are demanding of others; and, remember, Jesus our judge could return at any time: he is standing just outside the door to human history. Instead of looking at each other and grumbling, look at the prophets of old who spoke in the name of the Lord: let them be an example to you of patient endurance when suffering hardship or persecution. Remember, my brothers and sisters, how we say as Daniel said: "blessed are those who patiently endured". You have all heard of the patient endurance of Job in his sufferings, and you have read to the end of his story, how the Lord rescued and restored him; for the Lord our God, as he revealed himself to Moses, is "compassionate and gracious, abounding in love and faithfulness". [12]I am nearing the end of my letter, and at this point, if I were following the conventions of the world, I would swear to you on oath that all I have written is true. But our Lord Jesus commanded us not to swear, either by heaven or by earth or by anything else: "Your 'yes' should mean 'yes' and your 'no' should mean 'no'." So, my brothers and sisters, never swear an oath, but always speak the truth, so that you do not fall under judgement. [13]If any among you are suffering hardship or persecution, they should pray to the Lord for the strength to endure patiently; if any are in good heart and health, they should sing songs of thanks and praise to the Lord. Any one who is ill should call the elders of his church to his bedside, and they should anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord and pray over him; and their prayers, if they pray in faith, will restore to full health the one who is ill, and the Lord will raise him from his sick-bed - and if he has committed some sin, he will be forgiven. So make it your normal practice to confess your sins to one another, and to pray for each other to be healed . The prayer of one who is righteous in God's sight, when it comes from the heart, has great power. The prophet Elijah was an ordinary human being, just like us, experiencing all the feelings and emotions that we do. When Ahab was king of Israel, Elijah prayed and prayed to God to act in judgement on Ahab's wickedness by withholding the rain; and it did not rain in Israel for three and a half years. Then Elijah prayed again, and the heavens opened, and the rain poured down and the earth became green and fruitful once more. [19]My brothers and sisters in Christ, if any one wanders away from the truth, and someone turns him round and leads him back into the way of righteousness, the one who turned round the wandering footsteps of a sinner can be sure that he will save that person's soul from death, and all his sins, however many, will be covered over by the blood of Christ's sacrifice.