I'm not really sure why the biblical book James speaks to me so forcefully. I've tried to figure it out and I can't. From what I understand, Luther was not a huge fan of the book. I believe he said it was made of straw. That might be, but it is probably the most read book in my Bible, it certainly is the most marked up and has the most margin notes. Matter of fact, I've written and highlighted it so much its almost too hard to read, and yet I keep going back to it.
I think what it is about James that turns me on is how he talks about Faith. It is not a passive, or in physics-speak, potential energy. It is something that is alive and kinetic. Faith is a verb in James, not a noun or a platitude. It is doing something. I call James the "faith is, as faith does" book. That's it though, isn't it? That's the thing that gets it a bit poo-poo'ed by folks. I guess many folks see James as saying you have to do good works to be saved. I, of course, read it totally different.
I've always read James to say that because I have faith, I'll want to do good works. In other words, Faith through doing. I don't have to, but I want to; because Christ is in my heart and mind and his glory is given me, I want to share it. Does that mean I have to go out build houses, or change the world in huge ways? No. For some people the answer might well be "yes," one has to be careful though when one starts to think that way. It can become a game of faithful one upmanship. And that can be dangerous. That can turn into a Faith Competition and that's no good for anyone.
A couple weeks ago the guy who started Habitat for Humanity was at our church, for the life of me I have forgotten his name, but I was impressed by his sincerity of faith and his action on it. I got the impression that he did do what he did because he felt he had to, but he did it because he wanted to and that is the key. I can see some of you saying "oops, you're going against your own interpretation and you're line of thought..." and pointing and accusitory finger in my general direction, but I don't think I am. I think one of the key verses in James is in chapter 2 verses 18: "But someone will say 'You have faith; I have deeds.' Show me your faith without deeds and I will show you my faith by what I do." Faith Is as Faith Does.
Of course there is much more to James another reason I like it. I've always thought it would be interesting to do a Bible study with high school kids concerning James. Just them and word reading it together and discussing what they read. There is a lot in there that speaks to the world today.
Can you tell that I've been rereading James... he always cooks my noodle.