By David McNeely
Missouri’s nickname is The Show Me State. Many stories claim the origins of the slogan, but the one most widely known credits a Missouri U.S. Congressman named Willard Duncan Vandiver. During an 1899 speech in Philadelphia he said, “I come from a state that raises corn and cotton and cockleburs and Democrats, and frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies me. I am from Missouri. You have got to show me.”
The book of James could be the Missouri book of the New Testament. In essence, James reminds the readers that the world is looking at the church and says, “frothy eloquence neither convinces nor satisfies our curiosity about this new Christian religion. You have got to show me.” Following Jesus isn’t about saying one follows Jesus. It’s about actually following Jesus. And God radically changes the lives of the followers of Jesus.
James is the half-brother of Jesus and one of the leaders of the early church in Jerusalem. He was martyred in A.D. 62 and probably wrote this letter to a persecuted church in the late 40’s; making James one of the oldest books written in the New Testament. James quotes Jesus more times per page than any other NT book.
Interestingly, the book of James was viewed with suspicion by a few of the church fathers. They did not see it worthy of being a part of the sacred scriptures. Martin Luther said it was, “a right strawy epistle.” He said this because he thought the book was weak on the doctrine of justification by faith. It isn’t. It is simply looking at what faith produces. It shows what happens as a result of genuine faith.
The book of James is clear, concise, efficient, practical, and memorable. It has been a favorite book of many Christians throughout the centuries. He pulls no punches, uses many metaphors and illustrations, and hits on subjects such as trials, wisdom, favoritism, controlling the tongue, and prayer. This book is one of the most read, quoted, and memorized books in all of the scriptures.
Over the next few weeks we’ll look at each chapter, and you’ll see how every paragraph meets us right where we are. This book is a teacher’s dream. It is written like a sermon ought to be preached. For all these reasons and more I’ll bet you’ll find this book to be unforgettable Monday through Saturday. And that’s the goal. We want us all to “Read Your Bible.”
Use your guide to read and meditate on God’s Word. Pray that each week the Holy Spirit would enable you to come, look up, listen, and respond. In the first chapter James wrote this, “17 Every good and perfect gift is from above.” What a gift the book of James is to God’s people. God has spoken … He is speaking … and He will speak to us through this book.
See you on Sunday!