This book, according to the very first verse, is written by “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ”. Some scholars have thought this book was written by James, the brother of Jesus, but we really do not know, for the author never tells us. It is obviously addressed to Jewish readers: “To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.”
James is another one of those books in the Bible that reminds us that the Bible is a library, a collection, of very different types of books all thrown together. Allow me to point out just a few features of this unique book….
James is called a letter, but it is not really like the letters of Paul. It is not even a sermon. Rather, this book is like the Jewish wisdom literature. James lacks doctrine per se. It is filled, on the other hand, with practical exhortation, encouragement, command. It is a difficult book to outline because it seems to have very little pattern to it. It seemingly moves from one topic to another by free association. The book mentions Jesus twice but does not really tell us much about him. The book would be 99.99% the same if it never mentioned Jesus at all.
Then there is the seeming conflict between what James says about the relation of faith and works and what Paul says. Paul says we are justified by faith apart from works. James says we are justified by works. This seeming conflict is probably the main reason why Martin Luther referred to James as a right strawy epistle. Now, in defense of Paul and James it should be noted that both are probably using forms of the word “to justify” in different ways. We are all familiar with various levels of meaning to different words. Paul seems to be using “justify” to mean: “to declare righteous”. James seems to be using the word in such a way as to mean: “to demonstrate righteousness”.
I like the way C. S. Lewis resolves this seeming discrepancy….
Christians have often disputed as to whether what leads the Christian home is good actions, or Faith in Christ. I have no right really to speak on such a difficult question, but it does seem to me like asking which blade in a pair of scissors is most necessary. A serious moral effort is the only thing that will bring you to the point where you throw up the sponge. Faith in Christ is the only thing to save you from despair at that point: and out of that Faith in Him good actions must inevitably come. (Mere Christianity)
If you want to learn more about Lewis’ views on faith and works, allow me to recommend my book, Mere Theology, which you can obtain here: Amazon
And if you would like to listen to a sermon I preached recently on James, you may click here: James 5:11