Course Hero. "New Testament Study Guide." Course Hero. 27 Apr. 2018. Web. 21 Aug. 2018. <https://www.coursehero.com/lit/New-Testament/>.
Course Hero. (2018, April 27). New Testament Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved August 21, 2018, from https://www.coursehero.com/lit/New-Testament/
(Course Hero, 2018)
Course Hero. "New Testament Study Guide." April 27, 2018. Accessed August 21, 2018. https://www.coursehero.com/lit/New-Testament/.
Course Hero, "New Testament Study Guide," April 27, 2018, accessed August 21, 2018, https://www.coursehero.com/lit/New-Testament/.
The early part of the letter advises believers to let their faith lead them to do good works and avoid wrongdoing.
In Chapters 4 and 5 the author addresses specific conflicts and suffering within the community, seeking to encourage his readers.
Among the documents of the New Testament, James is remarkable for its lack of references to Jesus, who is only mentioned twice (James 1:1; 2:1). As a universal (Greek katholikos) letter, James offers important ethical guidance grounded in a concept of active faith. The author reveals a special concern about the dangers associated with wealth and the accumulation of wealth.
For the person who is rich or trying to become rich, wealth comes with a particular set of temptations. A person looking to gain money might be drawn into unethical behaviors and, at the very least, is not properly focused on righteousness and the final judgment. Wealthy people also present a few kinds of danger to other members of the Christ-believing community. First, they might lead the community to show preferential treatment that is not God-like. Material wealth is insignificant to God and might even be detrimental. The second danger arises because wealth is associated with political and social power: the rich are identified as those who "oppress" the community, and the author calls them litigious and blasphemous (James 2:6).
The letter also invites its readers to engage with a deeper question behind the importance of ethical behavior: for Christ-believers, actions reflect beliefs. The author insists that unless someone performs good deeds, such as caring for the poor and needy, that person's faith is not truly active or effective. It is only on the basis of a person's good life that observers can truly tell that the person believes in a loving God and his son Christ, who teaches people to love one another. The author explains the need for both belief and action, using the terms "faith" and "works."
Because the letter insists on the importance of works, it has had mixed reception among Christian groups at various times throughout history. For example, in the 16th century the Protestant reformer Martin Luther saw the letter of James as teaching something incompatible with the letters of Paul. In Luther's reading, Paul claims that works of the law cannot lead to salvation, because only faith can save; James's insistence that "faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" could be seen as directly contradicting Paul's statements (James 2:17).
However, many other interpreters, including Catholic interpreters at Luther's time, saw no incompatibilities between the teachings of Paul and James. Hardly any interpreters today think that the author of the letter of James is rejecting an idea of God's grace in favor of humans saving themselves through good deeds. Instead, most people read the letter as offering corrective guidance to a community that thought belief was enough even if their practical actions did not change.