James was possibly the first New Testament book written, probably penned in the very late 40’s AD. It is generally accepted that the book was written by James, the leader of the Jerusalem Church, also known as James the brother of Jesus.

From the very first, some people objected to having James in the New Testament. Martin Luther pushed for its exclusion (as well as some other books) because he thought it crossed some Protestant doctrines. However, history shows that God intends for James to be included in sacred Scripture.

Perhaps some of the controversary around the book can be ended if people are willing to accept the book for what it is, and not try to force it to be something it is not. We get a quick look at what it is by looking at the first verse: “James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad.”

James was the leader of the Jerusalem church, but was not one of the original apostles. His letter shows that he is a strong, experienced leader whose purpose is to guide Jewish Christians about how to live as Christians in various countries and cultures. He accomplishes his purpose.


True or not, the generations since World War II are often considered to be much more self-centered than previous generations. The 1950s beatniks and 1960s hippies led the charge of “doing my thing.” Since then, the notion of leading lives of obedience to people in authority seems to be receding further and further in the distance.

From start to finish, the Bible has the consistent theme that people are to be obedient to God and his chosen authoritative figures. People very often have chosen not to do this. In Genesis, Adam and Eve had only one prohibition…and they chose to break it. Revelation concludes with commands not to add or take away from the prophecy. Based on humans’ tendency to disobey, God adds some horrible warnings for those who disobey those simple commands.

James personally observed three obedient people: Joseph, Mary, and Jesus. The New Testament portrays them as being perfectly obedient. Joseph and Mary obeyed completely and immediately every time they got a message from God, while Jesus’ childhood was described as one where he was obedient to Joseph and Mary. As an adult, Jesus obeyed God so completely that he summarized his life in a prayer to God this way: “I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.”  (John 17:4)

As the leader of the church in Jerusalem, James was intimately familiar with issues of obedience to God and to his chosen leaders. He recognized that problems often started with people choosing not follow God’s word. Problems could also start when people chose to follow the letter of the law while simultaneously trying to avoid God’s desires. He recommends this solution: “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

James recognizes that people try to disguise their actions through their words. His solution is to use simple, clear language. Both James and countless mothers through the ages recommend the same thing: let your “yes” be “yes,” and your “no” be “no.”

Primary Scriptures:
James 1:22-25; 2:8; 3:17-18; 5:12
Story Summary:
Verses with content about obedience
Kingdom of Judea (Israel)
Circa 50 AD