A few years back, a New Testament scholar by the name of David Rhoads penned a fine article* that spoke to the heart of the contrasts in the letter of James. As a part of that article, he included a chart summarizing the characteristics of the two ways of living as discussed in James’ letter. Since I first saw Rhoads’ article, I have yet to come across a more concise and clear summation of the main idea expressed in James. Rhoads wrote:
“James expresses coherence and consistency in a contrast between two ways of living. … In James, the two ways are expressed in terms of being either “friends of the world” or “friends of God (4:4; cf. 2:23) – with the following characteristics for each way.
“In James, the two ways are expressed with metaphors of growth. Often this growth is expressed in images from nature – conception, pregnancy, birth, fruit-bearing, plants, rains for the field, sowing and harvest, and so on. The images mainly show a progressive growth of evil and a progressive growth of good, each dynamic moving toward the ‘maturity’ of its respective end. The idea of maturity or ‘perfection’ – the attaining of the goal of something or someone – the the central theme of James. …
“Regarding the progressive movements in opposite directions, James urges readers to reject friendship with the world and to choose friendship with God. James also warns the friends of God about two pitfalls: not to be a friend of the world at the same time they are claiming to be friends of God, and not to think that faith is adequate unless it matures to good works.”
Since we will begin our journey through James in our adult Bible classes at MoSt Church in just a couple of weeks, let me ask you to ask yourself the question I’m asking of myself:
“On the basis of my behavior, in which direction is my life truly moving toward maturity, toward deeper friendship with God or with this world?“
* David Rhoads, “The Letter of James: Friend of God,” Currents in Theology and Mission 25:6 (Dec. 1998): 473-486