Mary had other sons after Jesus, including James, the writer of this letter. After his resurrection from the dead, Jesus appeared to his followers, who by then included his own brothers (Acts 1:14). James later became the "shepherd" of the flock of believers in the Jerusalem area (Acts 15:13).

The letter of James is addressed to Jewish believers in various parts of the Roman Empire. Jews who did not live in Judea, but were dispersed (scattered) among the nations, were called "The Dispersion". Among them were some who, like James, had become Christians.

The letter was written to provide practical help and encouragement in the face of persecution and oppression (1:12, 5:7), but it also teaches the need to put our faith into practice. It is a very practical letter and applicable to believers everywhere, in all ages.

From the 1st Century AD onwards there has been debate about which is more important - faith or works. In this letter, James explains that faith (beliefs) should result in works (deeds); while works give evidence of faith. Both matter!

James gives examples of believers who showed both faith and works:

• Abraham (2:21-23) ... believed and obeyed God
• Rahab (2:25) ............. showed her belief by helping God's messengers
• Job (5:11) .................. suffered patiently
• Elijah (5:17) ............... believed, so prayed earnestly

There is sound practical advice about the curbing of our tongues (Ch. 3), on the need for humility (Ch. 4) and on the importance of prayer (Ch. 5).


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