As we continued our Bible study in James last week in the Forum, we looked at James 2:14-26. In order to appreciate the writing technique of James, we must understand that the layout of this text appears to be a Hellenistic Diatribe. The Hellenists were Greek Jews. They blended their religious behaviours with the Greek culture they lived in. Embracing worldly wisdom, the Greeks believed that it was the highest thing they could obtain in life.
Under Alexander the Great and the onset of the Greek Empire, this thinking was born. Consequently, we still live under this same system, seeking to obtain wisdom, and will continue to do so until the Millennium. Then the spiritual side of man will become the highest thing in life to obtain, and that under Christ Jesus.
Looking at the Diatribe
A diatribe was a technique used by philosophers during their orations. It had four basic parts to it. 1-Proposition; 2-Rationale, delivering proof for the proposition; 3-Imagery of Opponent; 4-Amplification through examples. James included all of these in his text.
James begins by asking a question, introducing his proposition to support his conviction that faith without works is dead. Here, James is not saying to never say, “I’ll pray for you!” But what he is saying is that the person standing next to you or sitting beside you is your neighbor. If you can help him, do it. Show your faith by backing it up with good works.
Faith Displayed Through Works
James was speaking here about helping those in need of basic requirements for survival, clothing and food. Tying in this portion of James’ letter with the earlier sections, I believe the destitute weren’t receiving aid from their brothers and sisters in the Faith because the brothers and sisters were thinking God didn’t favor the destitute, so the wealthy were feeling justified not helping them.
During this time, there were no social services. If widows and orphans had no extended family, they would die, often from starvation. They were extremely vulnerable. It was crucial for the church to love them practically. Not only would such applications benefit the needy, their actions would radiate Godly love through their communities.
Demons Believe in God
I was in awe when I first read this. The demons believe and shudder! God didn’t create demons; He created angels. Some of these angels chose to follow Satan, they fell and God transformed them into demons. They, of course, know their Creator. They, then have faith. But they do not have good works. James uses this illustration to illustrate his proposition: faith without works is dead.
There would be no bigger illustration than this to drive his message home.
Culminating the first two chapters in the book of James, we first learned why we should rejoice through trials. From there we saw the importance of being doers of the word, and not just hearers. We looked deeper into the dangers and sin of favoritism. Now we see a strong break down of why faith without works is dead.
Consciously do some specific thing this week to demonstrate mercy to someone you would normally avoid, exclude, or dismiss or when an opportunity arises to help someone, do it. This is just to practice living out what James is teaching. One day, before you know it, it will just be part of your nature, if it isn’t already.
Written by Jori Sams
Jori Sams is a Christian author and freelance writer with nearly 2000 published pieces on the Internet, with over 1500 being published by Yahoo. Her books are published through Writeious Books. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her following the sun…