How to Live for Jesus

About James’s letter

James wrote his letter to tell all Christians what they should do. He also told them what they should not do. The letter was in the Greek language. It is different from Paul’s letters. It does not tell people what they must believe. James did not write it to tell them how to become Christians. He is writing to Christians. They know that Jesus died for them. He is writing to help them to live for Jesus. He is telling them how to become better Christians. After he had written his letter, he sent it to every Christian church. It is important to all Christians today. James was the brother of the Lord Jesus Christ. James was also a leader of the church in Jerusalem. (See Acts 12:17 and Acts 15:13-22.)

Chapter 1

1 This letter is from James, who is a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. I say ‘hello’ to the 12 tribes of the Jews, who live in many parts of the world.

2 My Christian brothers, be very happy when all kinds of tests happen to you. 3 You are continuing to fight these troubles. And you know that your faith will become stronger then. 4 Continue to be strong for the fight. So you will become completely mature and you will not need anything. 5 If any of you need wisdom, ask God for it. He is ready to give to everyone. And he never says that it is wrong to ask. God will give that wisdom to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe. You must believe that God will give it to you. Some people are not sure whether God will give it to them. That kind of person is like the water that is in the sea. The wind blows it this way and that way. 7-8 A person who is like that never knows what to do. He is confused. He does not know what to think. He should not think that he will get anything from the Lord.

James is the brother of Jesus, but he describes himself as a servant of Jesus Christ. Christians should be servants too. In those days, servants were not free. They were like their master’s things. They had to do everything that their master wanted. Some masters were bad and some were good. Christians are servants of God. And he is the best master that anyone could have.

In the Greek language, the words in verse 1 mean ‘the 12 tribes who are not in their own country’.

9 The poor Christian in your group should be happy, because God will make him great. 10 And the rich Christian should be happy that God will make him small. He should remember that he will die like a wild flower. 11 The sun rises and hot winds dry the wild flowers. They fall and die. And they are no longer beautiful. In the same way, while the rich man is busy, he will die like a wild flower.

12 Some people do not stop believing even when troubles happen. God will bless a person who is like that. After he has won the fight, God will give a gift to him. That is the gift that God promised. This gift is eternal life. God will give this gift to all people who love him. 13 Trouble will happen to tempt us. But do not say that God is causing it to tempt you. Nothing bad can tempt God and God does not tempt anyone. 14 It is our own thoughts that tempt us sometimes. And then we want to do wrong things. We want what is bad. And that causes us to do wrong things. 15 Sometimes we do the bad things that we wanted to do. When we do that, we sin. In the end, the result of sin is death.

16 Do not make a mistake, my dear Christian brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift comes to us from God. He is the best Father. He is like a strong light that sends away all shadows. He does not change. 18 He chose to make us his children. He made us his children by his true word. The result is that we will be like the first part of his harvest.

It is not always easy to be a Christian. It is not easy to make God happy in all the things that we do. Life is sometimes very difficult. Sometimes we are sick or we feel pain. Or trouble happens to us. Sometimes other people hurt us because we are Christians. God does not cause these troubles to happen to us. But God loves us very much. He can use these troubles to help us to grow. Even pain can cause us to be more like God. If we ask him for help, he will hear us. He will help us to understand more. Sometimes life is difficult. But then we must not think that God has made it difficult. We must trust him to use difficult things. He can use them to make us stronger.

Verse 18 Christians are like God’s harvest.

19 Understand this, my dear Christian brothers. We must all be careful to listen. We should not be too quick to speak. We should not get angry easily. 20 When a man is angry, he does not do the right things. He does not do what God wants. 21 So, stop doing and stop saying evil things. God has put his word in your minds, and it can save your souls. So, believe what it says.

22 But do not only listen to the word of God. Do what it says too. If you do not, you will be making a mistake. 23 You will be like a man who sees his face in a mirror. 24 This man looks at himself and then he goes away. And he immediately forgets what he is like. 25 But the person who continues to look into the good law of God will be free. That is, if he obeys it. That person will not forget what he hears. He will do what it says. And so God will bless that person in what he does.

26 We may want to do the things that make God happy. We may think that we are doing those things. But if we speak bad words, we are wrong. We are not making God happy. And what we think is not helping us. 27 Things that really make God our Father happy are good. For example, we should help children that have no parents. We should help women whose husbands have died. And we must keep away from all that is wrong in the world.

All God’s servants must hear and remember his words. We must do what he wants. And we must obey his words. If we do those things, we will be happy. This is how we work for God. We may say that we are his servants. But we might not do what he wants. And so we are not saying what is true. To do good things cannot buy us a place that is near to God. We must not think that it can. But we should do the good things that God wants us to do. That will show our love for God. And so we will be good servants, and we will be God’s good children.

Chapter 2

1 My Christian brothers, you trust the Lord Jesus Christ, who is full of glory. So, do not think that one person is more valuable than another person. 2 Two men may come into the place where you have your meetings. One of them is wearing good clothes and he has gold rings. The other man is poor, and he is wearing old clothes. 3 You look at the man who is wearing good clothes. You say to him, ‘Please sit here in a good place.’ But you say to the poor man, ‘Stand there’, or ‘Sit at my feet.’ 4 If you do that, you are not doing the right thing. You are thinking that each of them has a different value. You must not think that one of them is better than the other man. This is wrong and your thoughts are not correct.

5 My dear Christian brothers, listen to me. This is what God has done. He has chosen those that people of this world call poor. But those poor people believe in God, so he calls them rich. He will give to them a place in his kingdom. God has promised this to those who love him. 6 But you have done wrong things to the poor man. And so, you have caused him to feel ashamed. It is the rich people who cause trouble to happen to you. They ask judges to say without a good reason that you have done wrong things. 7 It is rich men who speak badly about the good name (Christ). But you are called his people (Christians).

Every Christian is important to God. Each Christian is valuable to him. Our money and good clothes are not important. God has chosen poor people to show us that his love is better than money or good clothes. We should be good to poor people and to rich people. God wants us to be good to people who are from every family and from every country. We may have more money than other people have. But that does not make us better than they are. God wants us to love other people. And he wants us to love him more than we love anyone else.

8 But God, who is king, has said in his word, ‘Love other people as you love yourself.’ If you really do that, you do well. 9 But perhaps you think that one man is better than another man. If you think that, you are sinning. God’s law says that you are wrong. 10 That is because we must obey all of God’s rules. We must obey every rule that the law tells us. If we fail to obey one small rule, we have failed to obey the whole law. 11 For example, God has said in his law, ‘You must not have sex with another person who is not your husband or your wife.’ But he has also said, ‘Do not kill another person.’ Perhaps you do not have wrong sex but you do murder. If you do that, you have not obeyed the law of God. 12 Speak as those whom God will judge by his law. And remember that, whatever you are doing. This law makes us free. By this law, God will say soon if our lives are good or bad. 13 God will not be kind to those who have not been kind. He will be kind to those who have been kind. And that is better than when he says, ‘You are wrong.’

14 My Christian brothers, you say that you believe in God. But you show this when you do good things. But some people among you may not do any good things. What those people say is not worth anything. If your faith is like that, it cannot save you. 15 If a Christian brother or sister does not have enough clothes or enough food, he or she needs help. 16 It does not help them if you say to them, ‘Go and be well. Keep yourself warm and eat well.’ But you do not give to them what they need. That does not help them at all. 17 Perhaps you say that you believe. But you do not do good things. That is not worth anything. Christians must do good things. In that way, they show that they really believe in God.

18 Someone will say, ‘You believe in God but I help people.’ Show me that you believe in God. You cannot show me that if you are not doing any good things. But I will show you that I believe in God. I will show it to you when I help people. 19 You believe that there is one God. Good! The demons believe that, and it makes them very afraid. 20 You silly person, you should not need me to show you these facts. You may say that you believe. But, if you do not do good things, that is not worth anything. 21 Think about our father Abraham, who offered his son Isaac on an altar. God called him a good man because he did that. 22 Abraham did what God asked him to do. So you can see that he believed God. He obeyed God. So he showed that he really believed in God. 23 The Scriptures said that this would happen. They say, ‘Abraham believed God, so God called him a good man.’ God also called him his friend. 24 A person may say that he believes in God. But God does not call a person good only because he says that. God calls a person good when that person does good things too.

25 It was the same with Rahab. She was a person that men paid to have sex with her. But some Jews came to her. And then she did something that made God happy. They were enemies of her people and they had come to look at her city. To make God happy, she let them stay in her house. She kept them safe. Then she sent them back by a different way. So, because she did that, God called her good. 26 The body with no spirit is dead. In the same way, you may say that you believe in God. But perhaps you do not do good things. So, what you say is not worth anything.

If we do only one small wrong thing, God will be angry with us. Any wrong thing that we do makes God sad. He will punish us one day if we do bad things to other people. If we are kind to other people, God will be kind to us. But we must obey all his rules. We must do the things that make God happy. That is how we show our love to God. Words mean nothing if we do not do any good things. We must show that we are God’s people. We must help other people. And we must do the things that make them happy. We show that we are God’s people in that way. We should trust God as Abraham and Rahab trusted him. Rahab was a bad woman. But God forgave the bad things that she had done. She trusted God and he saved her whole family. (See Joshua 2:1-20; 6:22-23; James 2:25.) She became one of God’s people, and she became an ancestor of his kings (Matthew 1:5, 6). She even became an ancestor of Jesus Christ.

Chapter 3

1 My Christian brothers, not many of you should be teachers. God will judge everybody. But at that time, he will demand more from teachers than he will demand from other people. 2 That is because we all make many mistakes. Perhaps one person never says anything that is wrong. That person is good in all that he does. He can cause his whole body to do what is right. 3 For example, think about what we do with a horse. We can cause it to obey us. We put a bit of iron in its mouth. After we have done that, we can turn it. And then we can cause its whole body to go where we want it to go. 4 Think about ships that sail on the sea. They are large, and strong winds push them over the water. But we fix a very small piece of wood under the back of the ship. With this piece of wood, a man can cause the ship to turn anywhere that he wants it to go. 5 The tongue is like that too. It is a very small part of the body but it talks about big things. A very small fire can cause a big forest to burn. 6 And the tongue is like a fire. It is like a whole world of evil things. The tongue is a small part of the body but it makes the whole person bad. It destroys all of his life. That fire is the fire that comes from hell. And that is what makes the tongue so dangerous.

7 Remember this: People can cause all kinds of animals, birds, snakes and fishes to do what they want them to do. 8 But no person can rule his tongue. No person can stop it from saying bad things. It is like a bad poison and it can cause death. 9 We use the tongue to praise our Lord and Father. We also use it to speak bad things against people. But God made people to be like himself. 10 So we use the same mouth to praise and to speak bad things. My Christian brothers, we should not do this. 11 Salt water and sweet water cannot come from the same well. 12 My Christian brothers, a fig tree cannot make olives. A plant that makes grapes cannot also make figs. And a well cannot have salt water and have sweet water too. In the same way, we should not use the tongue to praise God, and then to speak bad things.

If we choose to say only one wrong word, it can cause us to go away from God. One small wrong word can turn our minds away from God’s way. Then we do or say more wrong things. This could take us a long way from God. We should let God help us with our minds and our words all the time.

Teachers must be careful to teach God’s word correctly. They must teach all the words of the Bible. They must ask God to help them. And he will help them to understand the Bible. God wants teachers to teach by what they do. They should not only say the words. Teachers must show other Christians what they should do. The teachers should show them because the teachers do the right things themselves.

We must all be careful to speak only good words. The devil wants us to say bad things. We must not let him cause us to do that. God’s people must not say things that are not true. And they should not say things that are not kind. God’s people should say and do only good things.

13 Some of you may be wise. You will understand these things. So show that you are wise. Show it by what you do. Do things that are good and wise. 14 Perhaps you think bad things about other people. Some people may have what you want. And perhaps you feel bad because of that. Perhaps you want to make yourselves important and you do not think about anyone else. You may think these bad things. If you do, do not think, ‘We are better than other people.’ Do not say that you are wise. 15 Perhaps you think bad things about other people. But that is not how God would want you to think. People who do not know God may think like that. The bad parts of human nature cause you to think like that. It is like the way that demons think. 16 You may think bad things about other people. And you may think that you are better than those people. That will cause trouble among people and lots of bad things will happen. 17 If God makes you wise, you will first be clean and true. Then you will love to have peace with other people. You will be quiet. And you will not want to argue with people. You will be loving and kind. And you will do good things to all people. You will be honest. And you will be like that all the time.

18 Those who bring peace to other people help them to have peace with everyone. God will call those people good.

Chapter 4

1 You very often fight and quarrel among yourselves. You must know why that is. It is because you want to make yourselves happy. You have wrong thoughts. That is why you are doing this to each other. 2 You want something but you do not get it. You kill other people. And you try to take things that are not yours. But you cannot get them. You fight and you quarrel. But you do not get what you want. You do not get it because you do not ask God. 3 When you do ask, you do not receive anything. That is because you ask for the wrong reason. This is why you ask: You want to spend what you get to make yourselves happy. 4 You are like a wife who has sex with other men. Some people do not love God. Those people do the things that he does not like. If you want to do those things, you are against God. Some people choose to be friends of those who do wrong things. People who choose to do that are enemies of God. You should know that! 5 With good reason, the Scripture says to us: ‘God has caused his Spirit to live in us. He wants very much to keep us for himself.’ 6 But God gives more loving help to us. That is why the Scripture says, ‘Some people think that they are very important. God is against those people. But some people know that they need God. He gives his loving help to those people.’ 7 So give yourself only to God. Be strong against the devil and he will run away from you. 8 Come near to God and he will come near to you. Do not try to love sin and to love God at the same time. You cannot do that. So, start to love God only. Make your hearts and your minds clean. I am writing to those who want to go both ways. You cannot love sin and love God at the same time. 9 Be sorry and weep. Do not laugh but be sad. Do not be happy but be serious.

10 Think about yourselves as small in front of the Lord God. Then he will make you great.

11 My Christian brothers, do not say bad things against each other. Perhaps you speak against another Christian. If you do that, you are speaking against the law. If you make yourself another Christian’s judge, you are speaking against the law too. When you say these things, you are not obeying the law. You are making yourself a judge instead. 12 God says what we should do. And he will be the judge. Only he can save us or kill us. So you must not try to be another person’s judge.

Some people fight and argue. They are being like the devil. If we say bad things about God’s word or about his people, we are being like the devil. If we only want to make ourselves happy, God will not hear us. We must listen to God. We must be sorry about the wrong things that we have done. We must do good things. So God will give to us all that we need. As a result, we will be able to do the things that make him happy. Then we will be happy. We should fight the devil, and not fight other Christians. God will make us strong to fight. We must be strong against the devil. If we do that, he will run away. When we really trust God, the devil may attack us. But he cannot hurt us.

13 Listen to me, you who say, ‘Today or tomorrow we will go to this city or to that city. We will stay there for a year. We will buy and sell. And we will get rich.’ 14 You do not know what will happen tomorrow. Your life is like smoke. Smoke appears for a little while and then it is there no longer. 15 What you ought to say is, ‘If the Lord wants it, we will live here or there. If he wants it, we will do this or that.’ 16 But now you talk about what you will do. You speak as if you can cause it to happen. It is wrong to speak like that. 17 So, we all know the good things that we ought to do. If we do not do them, we sin.

We do not know what God will do tomorrow or the next day. We do know that he wants to do only the best things for his people. Troubles may happen to us sometimes. But we know that we can trust God, even at those times. We should obey what he teaches us every part of every day. If we do that, our lives will make him happy.

Chapter 5

1 So, you rich people, weep and cry aloud. Many troubles will soon happen to you. 2 Your money does not really have any value. Your beautiful clothes are as if moths had eaten them. 3 You have kept a lot of money for yourselves in these last days. Your money has mould on it. That mould will show how bad you are. And it will become like fire that is burning your bodies. 4 You have not paid the wages of those who worked in your fields. Listen! The Lord of all the angels heard the workers when they shouted for his help. The money that you have kept for yourselves shows God something. It shows him that you have done wrong things. 5 You have had all that you wanted. You have lived to make yourselves happy on this earth. You have made yourselves fat. Now you are like animals that are ready for men to kill. 6 You have said about the good man, ‘He is bad. We should kill him.’ He does not try to fight against you.

God and his word should be more important to us than anything else is. Our money and our good clothes do not make him happy. The good things that we do are important to him. And the kind words that we speak are important to him too. He wants us to be good to our workers. It makes God happy when rich people give money to help poor people.

7 So be patient my Christian brothers until the Lord comes. Think about this: The farmer is patient while he waits for the land to give food for him. He continues to wait for the rain to come in the autumn and in the spring. 8 You, too, be patient because the Lord will come soon. And be strong as you hope for that.

9 Do not say bad things about each other, my Christian brothers. If you do, God will judge you. He will come very soon to judge people.

10 Think about the prophets who brought messages from the Lord. They showed us how to be patient, my Christian brothers. They were patient even when much pain happened to them. 11 God blessed people who were like that. We know that he did. They were in trouble. But they continued to do what God wanted. For example, you have heard about Job. He continued to wait for God to help him. You have heard how, in the end, the Lord blessed him. The Lord was kind and the Lord did very many good things for him.

12 When you say a promise, never say, ‘as sure as heaven is there’ or ‘as sure as earth is there’ or anything like that. Your ‘yes’ should mean ‘yes’ and your ‘no’ should mean ‘no’. If you say more than that, God may punish you.

13 If one of you is in trouble, talk to God about it. If one of you is happy, sing. And praise God. 14 If one of you is sick, he should ask the leaders of your church to come. They will put a little oil on him and they will say, ‘In the name of the Lord Jesus we do this.’ They will ask God to make him well. 15 Believe that God will answer. If you do, God will make the sick person well. He will become well again. And God will forgive any wrong things that he has done. 16 So, tell each other about any wrong things that you have done. God makes sick people well, so speak to him on behalf of each other. God really listens to a person who obeys God. God does powerful things when someone like that asks him to. 17 For example, Elijah was a man who was like us. He prayed that it would not rain. And he believed that God would answer him. And so it did not rain on the land for three years and six months. 18 After that, he asked God to send rain again. Rain came from the sky. And the seeds that were under the ground began to grow.

19 My Christian brothers, one of you may start to do or to think bad things. If he does, try to bring him back to God. 20 Whoever turns a person from sin will save that person’s soul from death. You should know that. Then God will forgive that person for the many wrong things that he has done.

God always does everything that he has promised to do. He cannot say things that are not true. He can do more than we can understand. He will help us to be happy if we ask him. If we are ill, we should ask for his help. He can make us well again. We may have done something wrong. If another Christian prays for us, God will answer his prayer. We may turn away from what God wants us to do. If another Christian helps us to turn back to God, he will be saving us from death. God always listens to the prayers of people who are really obeying him.

Word List

altar
special table for people to burn animals or other gifts, which they offer to God.
ancestor
people centuries ago that your grandparents’ grandparents were born to.
angel
a spirit who works for God and who fights in his army.
bless
to say or to do good things to a person.
church
a group of Christians who meet together. A church is not only the building that they meet in. It can also mean all the Christians in the world.
dear
what we call someone that we love.
demon
bad spirit from the devil; spirit that works for the devil; spirit that does bad things.
devil
another name for Satan, who is the worst enemy of God.
eternal life
a special and new life that a person starts when they accept Jesus. This new life will be with Jesus always.
evil
things or people that are very bad. There is nothing good in them.
faith
when you believe in something or someone; when you believe that someone will be good to you; when you believe that someone will do the right thing.
fig
kind of sweet fruit that grows on a tree.
forgive
when someone stops being angry with another person who has done bad things.
glory
like a beautiful light from God. It shows how good and how powerful he is.
grape
a fruit. People can make a drink that contains alcohol from grapes.
harvest
the time when people pick all the fruits that are ready to eat. It may also be the fruits themselves.
heaven
the place where God lives and rules.
hell
a place where people are not happy; a place that is a long way from God; a place where very hot fire is always burning; always separate from God; the place where people who do not know God go after death.
Jews
people who were born from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and their children.
judge
to say what or who is right; or, the person who can say that.
kingdom
where a king rules.
law
the rules that God or rulers make; we can read about God’s rules in the Bible.
Lord
someone who rules or who is a master. God is the Lord who rules everyone. It is also a name that Christians use for Jesus. We use it because we should obey him.
mature
like a person who has grown up.
moth
an insect that flies; its babies eat clothes.
mould
something that grows on cloth or paper and destroys it.
olive
a tree with small fruits (or the fruits themselves) that people used to make oil. They burned the oil to give them light. They used it in other ways too.
peace
a time of rest with no war or fights or quarrels; when people do not argue.
perfect
there is nothing wrong with it.
praise
to say good things about a person.
pray
to talk to God.
prayer
the words that we say when we talk to God.
prophet
a person who speaks on behalf of God. He can sometimes tell people about future events. Someone who says what God thinks; or someone who says what God will do. Some prophets wrote books in the Bible.
punish
to hurt someone for the wrong things that they have done. For example, a person who has robbed another person must go to prison.
Scripture
the Bible; the Old Testament.
sin
when people do not obey God’s rules; or what people do when they do not obey God’s rules.
soul
the part inside a person that we cannot see; it is in us during our life; it lives after we die.
spirit
part of a living person, which we cannot see; spirits are alive, but we cannot see them. There are good spirits that we usually call angels. Bad spirits (also called evil spirits or demons) live in the air round us. The devil is their leader.
tempt
when we try to cause someone to do something bad.
test
almost like an exam to show whether they were good or bad.
tongue
large red part (of the body) in the mouth. It helps us to speak.
tribe
family from one man. The first Jews were the 12 sons of Jacob. The family of each son became a tribe.
trust
to believe that someone will be good to you.
wages
you do work and someone pays you for it. That money is wages.
wisdom
we say that a wise person has wisdom.
wise
when we understand God’s word; wise people know what is good and right; and they do it.

Book List

NIV Study Bible

R. V. G. Tasker ~ James ~ Tyndale NT Commentaries

Robert K. Brown and Philip W. Comfort ~ Greek English Interlinear New Testament ~ Tyndale House (1990).

Info

© Wycliffe Associates (UK), 1999-2008

This version published December 2008

The translated Bible text has been through Advanced Checking.