In our study, we look at how our lives are changed by our faith in Jesus Christ. It is a practical manual for applying our faith to our daily lives. He was the head of the body of believers in Jerusalem which were mostly Jews. He continued to observe the Mosaic Law not to be saved but because he was saved and as a testimony to other Jews.
"James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings." NIV translation
We are introduced to the author here and the way he introduces himself has a great lesson in it. You see, he was the brother of Jesus and so he would have grown up in the same house with him yet that is not how James introduces himself. Instead, he introduces himself as a "servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ". To be more precise, he is a bondslave which has a deeper meaning.
A bondslave is one whose sole purpose is to carry out the will of his master. He is bound until death; where other servants could be bought/sold a bondslave could not. A bondslave has only the will of the master in mind and does not even belong to himself or have any rights. That is hard for us to imagine today where it seems that all we hear about is some new kind of right. This letter is addressed to Jewish Christians who were living outside the area of Palestine. Many had left Jerusalem because of persecution and were experiencing the same thing in their new homes.
"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." NIV translation
What a hard teaching right out of the box! He tells us that we are to consider our struggles "pure joy" but he goes on to explain why and how. All of the trials and testing we go through in this life, as Christians, help us to grow to rely on God more and even to praise Him when times are tough. At first, it is really difficult but, the more you see how God gets you through things and how He even uses them to grow you, the easier it gets. That is growing and maturing in the faith and the goal is to become a bondslave just as James described himself. When we do, we will not lack anything because it is up to the master to provide for the needs of the bondslave. There is truly freedom in being a bondslave to God as we do not have to worry about anything anymore. One of the Hebrew names for God is El Hanne'eman which means "Faithful" and He always keeps His promises and will never forsake us.