The Book of James (Chapter 2) ~ A Bible Study for Families

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WEEK 2/Chapter 2 – The Book of James ~ A Bible Study for Families

(from The Message Translation)

By Allison T. Cain

 

Just in case you missed last week (Chapter 1) go back and start there  – – – – Just a reminder: I have written this study using The Message translation to make it easier for children to comprehend. However, as you go along please read the text from your favorite and more traditional translation (we like the NIV). You can break this up by chapter or by verses. Do whatever is best for you and your family. I pray the lessons in the book of James will be absorbed in all of our hearts as we study it together.

Chapter 2 – The Royal Rule of Love

1-4 My dear friends, don’t let public opinion influence how you live out our glorious, Christ-originated faith. If a man enters your church wearing an expensive suit, and a street person wearing rags comes in right after him, and you say to the man in the suit, “Sit here, sir; this is the best seat in the house!” and either ignore the street person or say, “Better sit here in the back row,” haven’t you segregated God’s children and proved that you are judges who can’t be trusted?

According to James 2:1, what SHOULD NOT influence how we live or act?

What is public opinion?

Whether someone is rich, poor, smart, disabled, mean or nice, how are we supposed to treat them?

Have you ever been treated unfairly or different from others?

How did it make you feel?

5-7 Listen, dear friends. Isn’t it clear by now that God operates quite differently? He chose the world’s down-and-out as the kingdom’s first citizens, with full rights and privileges. This kingdom is promised to anyone who loves God. And here you are abusing these same citizens! Isn’t it the high and mighty who exploit you, who use the courts to rob you blind? Aren’t they the ones who scorn the new name—“Christian”—used in your baptisms?

Does God follow the world and do things like others (v. 5)?

Who does God love, adore and promise His kingdom to?

James explains that we often treat those God has promised His kingdom to badly. Can you give an example of  this from our world or your own life?

8-11 You do well when you complete the Royal Rule of the Scriptures: “Love others as you love yourself.” But if you play up to these so-called important people, you go against the Rule and stand convicted by it. You can’t pick and choose in these things, specializing in keeping one or two things in God’s law and ignoring others. The same God who said, “Don’t commit adultery,” also said, “Don’t murder.” If you don’t commit adultery but go ahead and murder, do you think your non-adultery will cancel out your murder? No, you’re a murderer, period.

What does James consider the Royal Rule of the scriptures?

Do we get to pick and choose which of God’s laws we want to follow?

Do you think following some of God’s laws makes it ok to break His other laws?

12-13 Talk and act like a person expecting to be judged by the Rule that sets us free. For if you refuse to act kindly, you can hardly expect to be treated kindly. Kind mercy wins over harsh judgment every time.

What should we expect others to treat us if we treat them badly?

Even when someone is mean to us, God tells us we are still supposed to love them like we love ourselves. Have you ever been nice to someone who was mean to you? Was it difficult or easy for you?

Faith in Action

14-17 Dear friends, do you think you’ll get anywhere in this if you learn all the right words but never do anything? Does merely talking about faith indicate that a person really has it? For instance, you come upon an old friend dressed in rags and half-starved and say, “Good morning, friend! Be clothed in Christ! Be filled with the Holy Spirit!” and walk off without providing so much as a coat or a cup of soup—where does that get you? Isn’t it obvious that God-talk without God-acts is outrageous nonsense?

What does James tell us we have to add to our words to be a good Christian?

If we made it a math formula, it might look like this:       words + actions = Christian

James gives us an example (vs.15-17) of using words with no actions. Can you give an example?

He says, God-t_______ without God-a________ is nonsense. What is nonsense?

18 I can already hear one of you agreeing by saying, “Sounds good. You take care of the faith department, I’ll handle the works department.” Not so fast. You can no more show me your works apart from your faith than I can show you my faith apart from my works. Faith and works, works and faith, fit together hand in glove.

Can you only have actions/works without faith or faith with no action? Why or why not?

When James says faith and works fit together hand in glove – what do you think he means?

Can you give some other examples of how faith and works fit together? (i.e. like peanut butter and jelly)

19-20 Do I hear you professing to believe in the one and only God, but then observe you complacently sitting back as if you had done something wonderful? That’s just great. Demons do that, but what good does it do them? Use your heads! Do you suppose for a minute that you can cut faith and works in two and not end up with a corpse on your hands?

Does calling yourself a Christian make you one? Why or why not? Can you find a scripture from another book of the Bible to support your answer?

If we cut faith and works and separate them what happens? What would it look like if we keep faith and works together?  Illustrate what it might look like.

21-24 Wasn’t our ancestor Abraham “made right with God by works” when he placed his son Isaac on the sacrificial altar? Isn’t it obvious that faith and works are yoked partners, that faith expresses itself in works? That the works are “works of faith”? The full meaning of “believe” in the Scripture sentence, “Abraham believed God and was set right with God,” includes his action. It’s that mesh of believing and acting that got Abraham named “God’s friend.” Is it not evident that a person is made right with God not by a barren faith but by faith fruitful in works?

In the verses above, James refers back to Abraham and Issac. Look back at Genesis 22 and read the story.

Do you think Abraham’s faith and works were united or severed? Why do you say that?

Based on this story, do you think it will always be easy to keep your faith and works/actions united?

When James says we should have a fruitful faith (v. 24), what do you think he means?

Look up Galatians 5:22-23 and write out the fruits of the spirit that are listed. Star the one you think you do well and circle two that you think you need to work on.

25-26 The same with Rahab, the Jericho harlot. Wasn’t her action in hiding God’s spies and helping them escape—that seamless unity of believing and doing—what counted with God? The very moment you separate body and spirit, you end up with a corpse. Separate faith and works and you get the same thing: a corpse.

Rahab was a woman who put her life on the line to protect Christians from soldiers who were after them. If you have time, you might want to read her story with your parents in Joshua 2.

James says that Rahab had the unity of b_________________ and d_________________.

In verse 26, James mentions a corpse. Do you know what that is?

He explains that when you take a spirit from a body it means the person dies. When you separate faith from works you get the same thing. . . a corpse. No, you don’t actually die, but your love, your heart and your faith grow cold to God and your faith suffers.

 

 . . . . . Stay Tuned. . . . Chapter 3 will come out next week . . . . 

The Book of James (Chapter 1) ~ A Bible Study for Families

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The Book of James ~ A Bible Study for Families

The Message Translation, By Allison T. Cain

 

Before you begin: I have written this study using The Message translation to make it easier for children to comprehend. However, as you go along please read the text from your favorite and more traditional translation (we like the NIV and ESV). You can break this up by chapter or by verses. Do whatever is best for you and your family. I pray the lessons in the book of James will be absorbed in all of our hearts as we study it together.

 

I, James, am a slave of God and the Master Jesus, writing to the twelve tribes scattered to Kingdom Come: Hello!

Chapter 1 – Faith Under Pressure

2-4 Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way.

James 1:1 shows us that James is writing a letter. Who is he writing to?

Where are they located?

Why do you think he wrote them a letter instead of going to see them in person?

James has great advice for the twelve tribes that we can learn from today. When you are under pressure to learn something new, speak in front of people, or have stressful things going on your life how do you feel?

However, James says we should feel great and consider it like a present. Why?

5-8 If you don’t know what you’re doing, pray to the Father. He loves to help. You’ll get his help, and won’t be condescended to when you ask for it. Ask boldly, believingly, without a second thought. People who “worry their prayers” are like wind-whipped waves. Don’t think you’re going to get anything from the Master that way, adrift at sea, keeping all your options open.

In verse 5 James tells what we should do if we need help. What is the verb he uses?

How are we supposed to pray?

9-11 When down-and-outers get a break, cheer! And when the arrogant rich are brought down to size, cheer! Prosperity is as short-lived as a wildflower, so don’t ever count on it. You know that as soon as the sun rises, pouring down its scorching heat, the flower withers. Its petals wilt and, before you know it, that beautiful face is a barren stem. Well, that’s a picture of the “prosperous life.” At the very moment everyone is looking on in admiration, it fades away to nothing.

According to verse 9, when should we cheer?

When is someone down-and-out?

Why do you think James instructs us to cheer for the arrogant rich when they lose?

Talk about why James compares wealth and prosperity to a wildflower. Who are we supposed to cling to and count on above all else?

12 Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life.

If you hang in there through your challenges, what is the reward?

13-15 Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer.

Does God to mean or evil things to us? Or is it our actions and decisions that cause bad things to happen to us?

Have you ever made a bad decision and gotten in trouble for it? Do you think God made you make that terrible decision or did you make it on your own?

16-18 So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.

In verses 16-18, what two adjectives does James use to describe the gifts out of Heaven?

He calls God the Father of Light.  Look up Genesis 1:3. Who created light? Do you think that is why James calls Him the Father of Light?

Act on What You Hear

19-21 Post this at all the intersections, dear friends: Lead with your ears, follow up with your tongue, and let anger straggle along in the rear. God’s righteousness doesn’t grow from human anger. So throw all spoiled virtue and cancerous evil in the garbage. In simple humility, let our gardener, God, landscape you with the Word, making a salvation-garden of your life.

When James says “post this at all intersections”, what do you think he means by that?

Where should anger be kept?

Where are we supposed to put evil and bad habits?

What does James compare God to in verse 21?

How or why do you think God is the gardener of your heart and life?

22-24 Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are a listener when you are anything but, letting the Word go in one ear and out the other. Act on what you hear! Those who hear and don’t act are like those who glance in the mirror, walk away, and two minutes later have no idea who they are, what they look like.

When James says don’t fool yourself (v.22) into thinking you are a good listener, what do you think he means?

Do you feel like you are a good listener and follow directions well? Why or why not?

Why do you usually look in the mirror? Do you remember what you see after you walk away?

In the same way, after reading God’s word (the Bible) do you walk away and forget it or do you remember what He told us to do and not do?

What are some things you could do to help you remember God’s laws when you at school, playing with friends or out and about with family?

25 But whoever catches a glimpse of the revealed counsel of God—the free life!—even out of the corner of his eye, and sticks with it, is no distracted scatterbrain but a man or woman of action. That person will find delight and affirmation in the action.

What kind of life does God offer us (v. 25)?

Compare and contrast the differences between a scatterbrain and a person of action.

Which one do you think others think you are?

What two adjectives does James use to describe what a person of action will have? Define them and discuss their meaning.

26-27 Anyone who sets himself up as “religious” by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is hot air and only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless in their plight, and guard against corruption from the godless world.

When you “set yourself up” you are pretending. Do you think it makes God happy when we stay we are religious but do not act like we are religious?

James says this kind of religion is only hot air. Does that mean the religion is real or fake?

What two things does James tells us show we are really a Christian/religious?

Can you think of any other ways?

 

++++++++++++++++ Coming next week . . . . . .  James – Chapter 2 +++++++++++++++++++++

 

Trail of ants. . .

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We’ve had a sweet ant problem in the kitchen. They were coming in uninvited from somewhere around the window near my kitchen sink. So, after a few weeks of trying to keep them out on my own, I went to store and bought something in the insect termination section. As the kids and I watched the ants enjoy the sweet little drops of poison my daughter said, “Mommy, why do all those other ants keep eating the poison when their friends are laying there dead. Don’t they get it?”

What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? 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 the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:14-17

It was the perfect way for me to reinforce what I tell my children all the time, “Just because your friends do it doesn’t make it right!” Honestly, it’s not just the kids who struggle with this. The desire to fall into sin doesn’t discriminate by age, sex, economic background, education, or years of Bible study you have. We are ALL tempted ~ daily.

We fail when we take our eyes off God and look around to take a cues from the world or others. I cringe when I think about all the times, I have followed others down a destructive path and drank the poison. Thankfully, I didn’t literally die like these ants in my kitchen did, but a little bit of heart, faith and trust in God did which is just as bad.

You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone. James 2:20-24

James reminds us in James 2 that in words + actions = Christian. We can’t have just words or just actions, we must have both to live a life worthy of our calling as a child of God. Are you living the complete formula?

COMING NEXT WEEK . . . . something special

I have been working on a Bible study for families on the book of James. Every week (for 5 weeks) I will post one chapter with the discussion questions for you to do with your children, grandchildren or neighborhood kids. I will be going through the study with my own children each week and would love to hear your feedback.