Read almost any newspaper or magazine and you will regularly find articles giving lifestyle advice. You name it and at some point you will find guidance about almost every imaginable lifestyle choice: diet and fitness, health and medicine, personal image, clothing, finance, relationships, family life, the list goes on.
Much of the advice is good, based upon sound observations and good logic. Yet, no matter how expert the advisors are, it is impossible to escape the underlying worldview behind what is offered; a worldview that ignores God and considers only the time frame of the present, rather than taking an eternal perspective.
If we wish to live as genuine followers of Jesus we need guidance on how to live as Christians. The book of James is a great starting point for anyone looking for Christian lifestyle advice. Unlike most of the other letters James is short on doctrinal teaching, but is packed with down to earth practical instructions on how to behave. Martin Luther famously dismissed the book as ‘an epistle of straw’ because it lacks the magnificent descriptions of grace, and salvation by faith found in books like Romans and Ephesians. Yet James is not a legalistic book of rules, rather it is a description of what people gripped by grace and living by faith look like. It provides us with a yardstick by which we can evaluate whether our lifestyle is truly Christian or has been hijacked by worldly values.
Some see a similarity between James and the Old Testament book of Proverbs. When we recall that the author of James was almost certainly one of Jesus’ brothers, a better comparison might be with Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount.
Over the summer months we shall be looking at James in our Sunday meetings in a series called A Toolkit for Christian Living. My prayer is that you will be encouraged and challenged as we read together the direct and practical teaching of the Apostle James who helped shape the early church.
This blog post featured in the May 2014 edition of Lifelines