James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
– James 1:1 KJV
Its widely accepted that the James who wrote this book is not James the son of Zebedee, who was a disciple of Jesus while He walked this earth. Rather, it is the half-brother of Jesus named James, who became a Christian after the resurrection. When Paul started His ministry, James was one of the first people to greet him (Galatians 1:19). James had become a leader in the church in Jerusalem and was one of the first to accept Paul’s ministry as authentic. He also worked extensively with Peter once Peter was released from prison and became a pillar of the early church (Gal 2:9). This letter was written between 45 and 48 AD to the Jerusalem council, so it is written to a Jewish Christian audience. That is why he says in the first verse “to the twelve tribes.”
James considers himself a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. A simple definition of a servant is one who performs duties for another. As I look at that definition, I have to ask myself “What duties do I perform for my God and my Savior?” I lead worship at my local church, write a few blogs that I hope express His spirit to all of you, mentor a young evangelist in Nigeria, and am an encouragement to many others. I am a loving father and husband who does his best to help his family follow God more closely. Sounds like a decent list to me. But what does God think? What does Jesus think? I like to think they are pleased, and I am quite sure they are, but how much more could I do, or should I do? I think these are questions we all ask ourselves.
To me, the real question is how hard I am listening. Am I hearing God when He asks me to speak to someone about His Son? Am I hearing Jesus when He wants me to help a friend out of a jam and I seem to be ignoring the situation? Am I hearing God when He tells me not to worry or fret about what is going on around me, but instead I try to figure things out myself and become impatient? Am I listening when Jesus tells me to pray for that person in the wheelchair at Walmart, but I am too busy to hear His voice? How often do I get too busy to listen?
A good servant always listens for his master’s voice. Jesus said His sheep hear His voice. What kind of sheep am I? One who has an attentive ear, or one who is distracted by the ways and noise of this world. Too many Christians are too busy listening to the world to hear the shepherd when he calls. We wander into difficulty without consulting our master. We go places whole He is telling us not to go. We do things while he is whispering in our ear not to do them. We say things he is trying to keep out of our mouths. I know these things because it happens to me way too often.
A true servant makes sure he hears exactly what the master wants and then sets out to accomplish the task without hesitation. He does not question his (or her, sorry ladies) master. He does not sit and wonder if he should do it or not. He knows his master’s voice and does the bidding of his master. He/she does not worry about what others may think of him. Once he is told the task, he does it. Simple.
James is sending this letter to the Jews, not to the churches like Paul did. This is an interesting twist and bears our attention as we read this book. I would not be surprised at all if this letter did not circulate to the churches, but the fact that this is the only letter that mentions the twelve tribes is fascinating to me, especially given the content of James’ letter. He gives them instruction that is most assuredly for Christians. He gives all of us practical instruction that will affect every area of our walk with Christ, and with our lives. We would do well to heed to what he says. As for me, I want to be that kind of servant for the Lord and for God. I want to hear Him every time He speaks to me, and I want to be willing to do whatever He asks me to do. I have a long way to go.