“Unit 29, Day 1: James 2–3,” New Testament Study Guide for Home-Study Seminary Students (2016)
“Unit 29, Day 1,” New Testament Study Guide
The Apostle James encouraged the Saints to reach out to the downtrodden and taught that true followers of Jesus Christ are not to give preference to the rich over the poor. He also taught the relationship between faith and works, and he taught the Saints the importance of controlling their speech. He then contrasted the world’s wisdom with the wisdom that comes from God.
Think of a time when you have seen someone treated better than others because he or she was popular, wore fashionable clothes, was from a wealthy or influential family, or some other arbitrary reason.
- In your scripture study journal, write a little about your experience and describe how you felt about it. Also answer the following question: Why do people sometimes show favoritism?
Read Joseph Smith Translation, James 2:1 (in James 2:1, footnote a), looking for what James wrote about “respect to persons.” To have “respect to persons” means to show favoritism or to treat a person or group differently than others because of their circumstances or characteristics.
Read James 2:2–4, looking for an example James gave of a situation when the Saints should not show favoritism to one person more than another.
Think about situations in our day where people treat others poorly because of their circumstances or characteristics.
According to James 2:5–7, James reproved the Saints who despised the poor. He reminded them that God had chosen the poor who were rich in faith and that it was the rich who had oppressed the poor and committed blasphemy against the Lord.
Read James 2:8, looking for what James reminded the Saints to do that would help them eliminate favoritism.
Why do you think this commandment was referred to as “the royal law” (James 2:8)?
President Marion G. Romney of the First Presidency taught about this teaching from James and applied it to fast offerings:
“We must love our neighbors as ourselves. The Savior put this law second only to the love of God [see Matthew 22:37, 39]. …
“In the payment of our fast offerings, we must do so with the royal law in mind. …
“The caring for the poor and the handicapped and those who need our help is a main purpose and an absolute requirement in fulfilling the royal law of loving our neighbors as ourselves” (“The Royal Law of Love,” Ensign, May 1978, 95).
Finish the following principle from what James taught in these verses: Faithful disciples of Jesus Christ .
- Write this principle in your scripture study journal. Then answer the following questions:
How was the Savior an example of loving others regardless of their circumstances?
Who is someone you know who strives to love all people regardless of the circumstances? What does this person do to show he or she loves all people regardless of their circumstances?
Consider how you treat others. Look for opportunities to follow the Savior’s example by loving others regardless of their circumstances.
Imagine that, after hearing James’s teachings about loving all people, you hear someone say that it is not a big deal if we show favoritism to some while mistreating others. This person also says there are far worse things we could do.
Read James 2:9–10, looking for why it is a serious matter to not love all people regardless of their circumstances.
There are many commandments, and disobeying any one of these commandments means that we have broken God’s law, become unclean, and are unable to dwell with God. It is as though we have become “guilty of all” (James 2:10) because the result is the same: separation from God (see 1 Nephi 10:21).
From these verses, we can learn the following doctrine: If we commit even one sin, we become guilty before God.
Even though our disobedience makes us unclean, we can still have hope. President Dieter F. Uchtdorf of the First Presidency taught how we can be made clean again:
“The grace of God is our great and everlasting hope.
“Our sins, though they may be as scarlet, can become white as snow [see Isaiah 1:18]. Because our beloved Savior ‘gave himself a ransom for all’ [1 Timothy 2:6], an entrance into His everlasting kingdom is provided unto us [see 2 Peter 1:11].
“The gate is unlocked!” (“The Gift of Grace,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2015, 108).
What do we need to do to become clean through the Atonement of Jesus Christ so that we may enter the Lord’s kingdom?
The process of overcoming our weaknesses and becoming clean and pure through the Savior’s Atonement is accomplished by striving to be a little better each day. Becoming like the Savior should be the quest we follow throughout our entire life.
James 2:11 contains an example of James’s teaching in verse 10, emphasizing that breaking any of God’s commandments makes us sinners. In James 2:12–13 he encouraged the believers to be merciful in the way they treat people because if they treat others without mercy, they also will be judged without mercy.
People use the word faith to mean different things. Some might use it to describe a belief in something, while others might use it to describe an action. In James 2:14–26 we learn how James corrected a false idea about faith.
Read James 2:14, looking for what James asked the Saints about faith.
In this context the Apostle James used the word works differently than the Apostle Paul used it. When Paul used the word works, he referred to the works of the law of Moses. When James used the word works, he referred to acts of devotion or works of righteousness.
What do you think the phrase “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (verse 17) means?
From these verses we learn that true faith in Jesus Christ is shown by our righteous works.
Reflect on your actions during the past week. Did many of those actions show that you have true faith in Jesus Christ? Would it be easy for someone else to recognize that you have true faith in Jesus Christ?
Imagine squeezing all of the toothpaste out of the tube. Now imagine trying to put all of the toothpaste back into the tube.
How can this toothpaste be like the words we speak?
Have you ever said anything that you later regretted? As you study James 3:1–12, look for truths that will help guide you in choosing the words you speak.
Notice in verse 2 how James taught that to “offend not in word,” or in what we say, indicates a level of self-control. The phrase “we offend all” in verse 2 means that we all stumble or make mistakes, and the word tongue in verse 5 refers to the words we speak.
A bit (James 3:3) is a small piece of metal placed in a horse’s mouth. The bit connects to the reins, allowing a rider to direct the horse. A helm (James 3:4) refers to a ship’s rudder and helps someone to steer or turn a ship.
According to James, what do a horse’s bit and a ship’s helm have in common?
How can James’s comparison of these objects to a tongue, or the words we speak, help us understand the power of our words?
One truth we can learn from these verses is that learning to control what we say can have a great effect on our lives.
How can something that may seem so small as learning to control what we say have a large effect on our lives?
Think about how lives could be “set on fire” (James 3:6), or put at risk, by our unwise use of words. How can making small changes in what we say affect our lives in positive ways? How can such changes affect the lives of others?
As recorded in James 3:8, James warned that an untamed tongue, or untamed speech, is like deadly poison. In this day of digital communication and social media, be aware that poisonous or unkind words can spread rapidly, destroying lives, and can be permanently remembered in the digital world.
Read James 3:7–12, looking for what else James compared our words to.
From James 3:9–10 we learn that followers of God strive to use their words for righteous purposes, not to spread evil.
After quoting James 3:2–10, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles spoke about what our words should and should not be used for:
“Obviously James doesn’t mean our tongues are always iniquitous, nor that everything we say is ‘full of deadly poison.’ But he clearly means that at least some things we say can be destructive, even venomous—and that is a chilling indictment for a Latter-day Saint! The voice that bears profound testimony, utters fervent prayer, and sings the hymns of Zion can be the same voice that berates and criticizes, embarrasses and demeans, inflicts pain and destroys the spirit of oneself and of others in the process. …
“So, brothers and sisters, in this long eternal quest to be more like our Savior, may we try to be ‘perfect’ men and women [see James 3:2] in at least this one way now—by offending not in word, or more positively put, by speaking with a new tongue, the tongue of angels. Our words, like our deeds, should be filled with faith and hope and charity, the three great Christian imperatives so desperately needed in the world today. With such words, spoken under the influence of the Spirit, tears can be dried, hearts can be healed, lives can be elevated, hope can return, confidence can prevail” (“The Tongue of Angels,” Ensign or Liahona, May 2007, 16, 18).
Think about some things you can do to be a little more “perfect” (James 3:2) in choosing what you say.
“How you communicate should reflect who you are as a son or daughter of God. Clean and intelligent language is evidence of a bright and wholesome mind. Good language that uplifts, encourages, and compliments others invites the Spirit to be with you” (For the Strength of Youth [booklet, 2011], 20).
- Answer the following questions in your scripture study journal:
When have you been uplifted or encouraged by another person’s words?
How have you been blessed as you have tried to uplift or encourage others with your words?
On a separate piece of paper, write a goal concerning what you will do to better control what you say and to use your language for righteous purposes. Be sure to act on what you write down.
As recorded in James 3:13–18, James contrasted the world’s wisdom with wisdom that comes “from above” (verse 17), or wisdom that comes from God. The world’s wisdom leads to “envying” (verse 16); “strife” (verse 14), or contention; and “confusion” (verse 16), while the wisdom that comes from God is “pure” and “full of mercy” (verse 17).
- Write the following at the bottom of today’s assignments in your scripture study journal:
I have studied James 2–3 and completed this lesson on (date).
Additional questions, thoughts, and insights I would like to share with my teacher: