“James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the 12 tribes which are scattered abroad: Greetings.”—James 1:1

James is the get-to-the-point apostle. Elaborate salutations are a hallmark of Paul’s letters. James simply begins with “Greetings.” A letter he helped to write within the book of Acts begins the same way (Acts 15:23).

A man of the Jewish tradition who had seen the resurrected Christ, James was writing to others who shared his heart or were feeling their hearts pulled as his was. This is a letter to the believers and searchers in general—though written so early that it wasn’t even clear yet what it would mean for Gentiles to become Christians. The letter’s opening addresses the 12 tribes, which was the full breadth of the context for the church he knew at that time.

Throughout that church, what was on the minds of the people?

In such a general letter, presumably James would give attention to what he saw as the most common, pressing, and universal spiritual questions. If so, take a good look at the questions he starts with. See how well the concerns and struggles of first-century Christians still resemble the concerns and struggles that privately face us 2,000 years later. In the earliest lines of his letter, James picks up these points:

1. If Jesus saved us, what did he save us into? In my new life, I still have troubles. What does this mean? (James 1:2)

2. Even within the church, some people are rich and some are poor. What should I think about this? (1:9-10)

3. Though I have obtained forgiveness, I still am drawn to sin. How is this happening? (1:13-14)

All of these questions address matters from which we might prefer to look away, so as not to risk tarnishing the specialness of the life of faith. Yet James did not see any of these questions as matters to be avoided. He brought these questions right into the open, right away.

[31 Days of James]