James, a bondservant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad, greetings.
When I was a child, my mother would regularly record how much my siblings and I were growing. The result of this, combined with living in the same house for fifteen years, was three columns of pencil marks scaling up the wall of our kitchen pantry. Needless to say, by the time I had reached eighteen I was considerably taller than I was at the age of five. Growth is the natural process of becoming older; with maturity often comes evidence of its existence.
This was so with the early Church as well. The author of James was none other than the brother of Christ. He wrote his epistle, or letter, to a group of Jewish Christians between the years of 50 and 60b.c. As a result, this short book is not only one of the earliest in our New Testament, but one of the greatest looking glasses’ into the dealings of early Christianity. As we will see through the study of this book, Christianity has matured greatly from its humble, and sometimes difficult, beginnings. By the time that the Apostle Paul had begun writing letters to the churches, there was a greater need to explain theology and doctrine to his readers. James, however, is concerned with ethical and practical counsel. Most of the Jewish Christians were coming from a deep tradition in Judaism. Judaism had often fallen into the trap of teaching legalism on paper, but all to often, forsaking it in reality. This is the reason for such a great difference between the letters of James and Paul. As one of the first leaders among Christians, James was concerned with how to live while Paul, several years later, was able to emphasize why we live. Within those few short years, Christianity as a whole had experienced great maturity. Scripture, much like the pencil marks at my house, leave us with the evidence.
I ask you to recall your life prior to meeting the Lord? Have things changed? How much deeper are you now able to study the Bible? Have you yet reached the point where you can mentor those around you? A child that fails to grow in height is often experiencing nutritional or physical obstructions to his maturity? In the same manner, a child of God who fails to grow in his faith is, more often than not, lacking the spiritual food he needs or being held back by worldly obstructions. How much growth have you made?