Background of James

What Is the Book of James About?

Time: 7 Minutes

Hey Friend!

Our editorial team wrote this book introduction for you. We hope it helps you find your bearings in the Bible story, and inspires you to open this book of the Bible!

Do you want to change? Not your style or size or what you like, but you. Do you want to change inside? Do you ever feel like you aren’t the person you know you ought to be?

The book of James performs a wonderful painful service for us. It holds up a mirror to our soul and asks us to take an honest look. Like the best of friends, it tells us what we may not want to hear about ourselves.

James tells us that faith which doesn’t change our lives isn’t true faith at all. “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17 ESV). True faith in God shapes our attitudes, words, and the way we treat people. In this letter, James illumines the ways our lives reveal a lack of faith, and exposes the temptations we face that will test our faith.

James tells us that faith which doesn’t change our lives isn’t true faith at all. “Faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead” (James 2:17 ESV).

Don’t fear, though! James’ goal is not to condemn us, but to lead us to cry out to God, who can save us and change us.

The Holy Spirit gave us James’ letter to expose where our lives lack integrity—where our faith doesn’t match our deeds.

James opens his letter by addressing the tenderest subject—trials. Trials and temptations test us and reveal the quality of our faith. James equips us with the mindset we need to endure these tests, a mindset of trust in God’s goodness, which leads to joy. He also warns us about many of the temptations we will likely encounter.

Throughout this letter, James exposes many of the temptations that arise from our sinful hearts. He shows us how each of these temptations reveal our lack of trust in God. These include the temptation to blame God (James 1:13), to neglect his Word (1:19-25), to show favoritism (2:1-7), to say we believe God without responding to him in obedience (2:14-26), to work evil with our tongues (3:1-12), to covet (4:1-5), to criticize fellow believers (4:11-12), to make plans apart from God (4:13-17), to forget Jesus’ return (5:7-8), and to make promises we don’t intend to keep (5:12).

Do you experience these temptations? We all do! And it’s tough to look in the mirror of God’s Word and see such nasty stuff in our souls. We see where we are divided—unable to live up to our beliefs. That’s why James challenges to keep looking into God’s Word and obeying—even when it hurts, because there’s a blessing waiting (James 1:25). The Holy Spirit urges us to receive the words of this letter, letting him plant his Word in us (1:21). The Lord wants to make us whole and mature, people whose lives reflect genuine faith in the Lord Jesus in the most practical areas of our lives.

Are you immature? Driven by winds of doubt and emotion? Unwise? Double-minded? Selfish? Impatient? Hypocritical?

If your answer is an honest yes, then James offers you tremendous hope! God has given us the good and perfect gift of his Holy Spirit to change us from the inside out (James 1:17). For we are far more depraved than we dare to say and have no power to change on our own. But God equipped us with the book of James to help us endure tests of our faith and to grow our faith as we realize where it is weak or absent.

James writes, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6), and he will give you the grace to change if you’re humble enough to receive his Word. As we humble ourselves before God by asking for his wisdom, listening to his Word, and confessing our sin, he works to make us whole.

God wants you to be spiritually whole, stable, wise, undivided in heart, patient, and sincere. He wants your life to reflect the truth you believe about him. Is that what you want too? God can change you—will you let him do a work in you?

Open to the book of James and ask the Holy Spirit to change you.