All About Works

Or Is It?

Hello! Hope everyone is well this Monday morning. G and I are still working from home and quarantining for the most part – a good decision for us. If you are staying in as well, find ways to keep connected to others. If you are going out and about, be a blessing wherever you go.

I started reading a few commentaries on the Letter of James this weekend, which was quite enlightening. I’ve never spent a lot of time studying James and in my recent memory, I can’t recall a devotion centered around any scripture in James. That said, I recognized several of the scriptures and realized a few appear elsewhere in the Old and New Testaments.

For the most part, the author James – most likely the brother of Jesus and a leader in the early Christian church – remains singularly known as “the one who disagrees with Paul about works and salvation.” Which is really too bad. Unlike one scholar who refers to James’ letter as the “junk mail of the New Testament,” I’m finding it holds many gems, including James’ thoughts on works as an expression of our faith.

Saint James
Orthodox icon of Saint James

For instance… In Cory’s sermon yesterday, he read from Philippians 2:19-30, a personal section of Paul’s letter where he talks about Timothy and Epaphroditus. These two have been serving as messengers between the Philippians and Paul during his imprisonment, and no matter how much difficulty they’ve encountered, they have remained loyal to Jesus and to Paul. Epaphroditus almost died from an illness, to which Paul says, “honor people like him because he almost died for the work of Christ.” He risked his life to help Paul on behalf of the Philippians to ensure the continued spread of the gospel.

James says something pretty similar in 2:14-25 when he writes: “Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,’ but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it?”

In much the same way, I know Paul appreciated the Philippians prayers on his behalf, but he also made clear his appreciation for the tangible ways they helped him. Sending Epaphroditus – and his willingness to make the journey – was one of those ways, not done to garner favor with Paul or God. No. Their tangible help was an expression of the depth and authenticity of their faith. It was living out the command to love their neighbor as themselves.

Well, all that to say, there’s more to James and his letter than you might think! And once we examine the context of both writers, he and Paul might not be so far apart on faith and works. Tomorrow, I’ll share information regarding the commentaries I’m reading, and provide a brief background/overview of the Letter of James. As I said before, this isn’t a formal study, but I hope you find some interesting bits of information if you’re reading along.

Have a great day!

May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all. (2 Cor. 13:14)

Odds & Ends

  • IMPORTANT REMINDER:  Beginning tonight at 6:30, Cory will be on Facebook Live leading a new Bible Study on Philippians. As Cory mentioned this past Sunday, Paul’s letter to the church at Philippi should be an interesting read for us since Paul wrote this letter during his imprisonment. Hmmm… just what can be accomplished when you can’t leave where you are?  We shall see!
  • In anticipation of tonight’s Bible study, you might be interested in this  (approximately) 5-minute video from The Bible Project:  New Testament Letters: Historical Context. While the examples given in the video are primarily from Romans, it still provides good information on how to approach any of the New Testament letters.
  • It wouldn’t be an “Odds & Ends” post without a Christianity Today link! This week I’m recommending the article Resurrection Hope Extends Beyond Easter Sunday, by Jarvis J. Williams, an associate professor of New Testament interpretation at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville.
  • And please remember… Missions, outreach, and everyday expenses don’t stop for COVID-19. Donations to NCUMC may be sent to P.O. Box 194, New Castle KY 40050.


I close today with one of St. Benedict’s prayers. God be with us.

O gracious and holy Father,
give us wisdom to perceive you,
diligence to seek you,
patience to wait for you,
eyes to behold you,
a heart to meditate upon you,
and a life to proclaim you,
through the power of the spirit
of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.