Bible Study Guides

James

Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.

James 3:13

 

The book of James is short letter which stresses the importance of having a living faith. James emphasises action and urges his readers to be do-ers of the Word and not simply hearers. The book of James has been described as the ‘Proverbs of the New Testament’. It contains many short pithy statements and contains many parallels with Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. James is concerned that his audience understands the nature of genuine faith.

We have provided some resources for a small group discussion. There are questions for four sessions and we encourage everyone in the group to read the book before the first session.  You can download these questions in an A5 booklet or A4 format or you can view them online by clicking on the links below. 

Resources provided by Bibleworld Museum & Discovery Centre, Rotorua, New Zealand

 

Introduction to 

the Book of James

The author of the book describes himself as ‘James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ’. The New Testament records a number of men named James, including two of the disciples. It is generally believed that the author of this letter was James, the half-brother of Jesus who became the leader of the Jerusalem church (Acts 15).

 

The letter from James is believed to be one of the earliest New Testament letters, possibly written as early as 46 – 49 A.D. The letter is written to Jews as an encouragement to endure in their faith. James provides simple instructions for young believers.

 

Discussion Questions for the Book of James

Session One: Wisdom in Facing Trials

What are your initial impressions about the book of James? What words would you use to describe the book? What stood out to you as one of the most important instructions in the book of James?

 

James begins his book with a surprising command: ‘Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds’ (James 1:3). Pure joy? Trials of many kinds? What are the kinds of trials or suffering that most common in your life and in the lives of your friends?  What are the advantages of enduring trials? Why does perseverance matter for a Christian (1:4)?

 

Can you describe a time when you have deliberately chosen to see a trial you have faced as an opportunity for growth? What did you learn through the process? What can you learn about God through a time of trial?

 

‘Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial’ (James 1:12). What might you say or do to help others facing trials? How might you pray for yourself or someone else who is facing a time of trial?

 

James warns us not to see temptation as coming from God (James 1:13-15). How would you describe the process of temptation to others? How does this understanding then help us deal with temptation?

Discussion Questions for the Book of James

Session Two: Wisdom in Speech

James is pretty realistic about the challenge of controlling the tongue. He appears to be expressing his own frustration with wanting to say the right things but knowing that no-one (including himself) can tame the tongue (James 3:8). Why then should we even try to tame the tongue?

 

James warns against slandering or judging others (James 3:9; 4:11; 5:9). He indicates that those who judge others will be judged (James 2:12-13). What is so dangerous about judging others?

 

In what situations or with what people do you find it most challenging to control your tongue? Have you found anything that helps you to control your speech?

 

The tongue can be used for good. James makes quite a few references to prayer (James 1:5; 3:9; 4:2-3; 5:13-18). What can we learn about prayer from the book of James? James encourages us to pray for wisdom (James 1:5). In what situations could you apply this in your daily life?

 

In chapter 5:13-19 the tongue is used to bring healing and restoration.  In what situations might God be calling you to bring healing and restoration?  What are some positive ways in which we can use our tongues?

 

Discussion Questions for the Book of James

Session Three: Wisdom in Action

James admits that we all stumble in many ways (3:2). But he urges us to live a life of good deeds (3:13). Why do our actions matter?

 

Martin Luther famously called the book of James ‘an epistle of straw’. He argued that people are saved by faith and not by works. How would James have responded to this statement?

 

‘Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God’ (James 4:4).  In what areas of life do we find conflict between the practices of the world and the way God wants us to live?

 

‘Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Come near to God and he will come near to you’ (James 4:8).  What is the connection between coming near to God and resisting the devil? What can you specifically do this week to come near to God?

 

Discussion Questions for the Book of James

Session Four: Wisdom with Money

When you read in the Bible about the rich and the poor, which group do you most readily identify with?  Have a look at www.globalrichlist.com and see how your personal income compares with the rest of the world. What is your response to this perspective?

 

James seems to be hugely concerned about the behaviours of the rich who are oppressing others (James 5:1-6). What practices does he oppose? What are the dangers of wealth?

 

James is also concerned with favouritism toward the rich (James 2:1-7). What is the problem with favouritism? How does favouritism contradict the ‘royal law’: “Love your neighbour as yourself” (James 2:8)?

 

What does James say about the rich in 1:10-11? How should this affect the way we handle our money and possessions?

 

James seems to suggest that there are advantages in being poor (James 2:5; 1:9). What advantages or blessings might come from being poor?

 

In conclusion, what have you learnt from the book of James that is helping you to change your life for the better?

 

Suggestions for leading a small group Bible study

We believe there is great value in studying a book of the Bible as a whole, within a small group setting. If you are new to this we encourage you to begin with a shorter book such as Colossians, James or Ruth. We have put together these study guides based on the following five guidelines.

 

1. Encourage everyone in the group to read the book repeatedly.

2. Trust God to help you understand and apply his Word.

3. Focus on what the book reveals about God/Jesus.

4. Focus on what it clearly reveals about how God wants us to live.

5. Don't get bogged down on minor, uncertain or controversial issues. 

 

1. Encourage everyone in the group to read the book repeatedly.

We enjoy a Bible study group when everyone has read the Biblical text and comes along ready to discuss it. It makes for a much more interesting evening than a leader providing a monologue about the Bible! For that reason, we also like to hand out questions to everyone ahead of time, so everyone can come prepared to contribute in a thoughtful way. As a leader we encourage you to try and get everyone in the group to participate if they wish to.

 

There can be a temptation to read books or commentaries about the Bible rather than reading the Bible itself. Books about the Bible can be helpful, but we encourage everyone to spend the majority of their time becoming familiar with the Bible text itself. It may sound like a huge commitment to read through a book of the Bible ten times, but for a 15 minute book like James, this only takes about 2 ½ hours in total.

 

We have used the term ‘read the Bible’ however we are increasingly becoming fans of the practice of ‘listening to the Bible’. We highly recommend that everyone tries out an audio Bible to see how they find it. We suggest checking out the Bibleis app. An audio bible on your phone provides the opportunity to listen to the Bible while waiting, doing housework, commuting or while exercising.

 

2. Trust God to help you understand and apply his Word.

We need to trust that God wants to help us understand his Word. We encourage you to pray for wisdom as individuals and to pray when you come together as a group.

'If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.' James 1:5.

 

3. Focus on what the book reveals about God/Jesus.

God reveals so much about himself through the Bible. We have tried to come up with questions that focus on God - his abilities, his activity in our world and his character.  How does God work in people’s lives? What is important to God? For New Testament books, we are also interested in what we can learn about Jesus? What mattered to him?

 

4. Focus on what it clearly reveals about how God wants us to live.

Try to focus on how the members of your group can apply the message of the Biblical book to their lives. What does this book clearly reveal about how God wants us to live? What can we specifically do? What are the particular challenges that people are facing? What hope does this book provide?

 

5. Don't get bogged down on minor, uncertain or controversial issues. 

Accept that there are things in the Bible that we don't understand. We can waste a lot of time in a small groups on unhelpful discussion. Paul sums this up well in his letter to Timothy: Don't have anything to do with foolish and stupid arguments because you know they produce quarrels. (2 Timothy 2:23). There is however a difference between a robust healthy discussion and petty quarrelling. We encourage you to aim for the former and seek to avoid the latter.

 

There is a sense in which the Bible is both easy to understand and hard to understand. It covers over 4000 years of history. It is set in locations on three different continents (Africa, Asia and Europe). It is written in a range of literary styles (history, poetry, wisdom, prophecy, letters, gospels and apocalyptic). Some of the customs and practices of the people are quite foreign to us. However despite these difficulties there is a sense it which the Bible is easy to understand. We have a loving God who has sent his son Jesus so that we can enjoy life to the full and spend eternity with him. If you would like some further help with Bible study, we recommend the book ‘How to Read the Bible for all its worth’ by Gordon Fee and Douglas Stuart.