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Salutation c.47-8ce (written from Jerusalem (?))

a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Greetings to the Twelve Tribes dispersed throughout the world.

Faith and Wisdom

2My brothers, whenever you have to face trials of many kinds, count yourselves supremely happy, 3in the knowledge that such testing of your faith breeds fortitude, 4and if you give fortitude full play you will go on to complete a balanced character that will fall short in nothing. 5If any of you falls short in wisdom, he should ask God for it and it will be given him, for God is a generous giver who neither refuses nor reproaches anyone. 6But he must ask in faith, without a doubt in his mind; for the doubter is like a heaving sea ruffled by the wind. 7A man of that kind must not expect the Lord to give him anything; 8he is double-minded, and never can keep Or: anything; a double-minded man never keeps ... a steady course.

Poverty and Riches

9The brother in humble circumstances may well be proud that God lifts him up; 10and the wealthy brother must find his pride in being brought low. For the rich man will disappear like the flower of the field; 11once the sun is up with its scorching heat the flower withers, its petals fall, and what was lovely to look at is lost for ever. So shall the rich man wither away as he goes about his business.

Trial and Temptation

12Happy the man who remains steadfast under trial, for having passed that test he will receive for his prize the gift of life promised to those who love God. 13No one under trial or temptation should say, 'I am being tempted by God'; for God is untouched by evil, Or: God cannot be tempted by evil. and does not himself tempt anyone. 14Temptation arises when a man is enticed and lured away by his own lust; 15then lust conceives, and gives birth to sin; and sin full-grown breeds death.

16Make no mistake, my friends. 17All good giving, every perfect gift comes Or: All giving is good, and every perfect gift comes ... from above, from the Father of the lights of heaven. With him there is no variation, no play of passing shadows. Some witnesses read: no variations, or shadow caused by change. 18Of his set purpose, by declaring the truth, he gave us birth to be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Hearing and Doing the Word

19Of that you may be certain, my friends. But each of you must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to be angry. 20For a man's anger cannot promote the justice of God. 21Away then with all that is sordid, and the malice that hurries to excess, and quietly accept the message planted in your hearts, which can bring you salvation.

22Only be sure that you act on the message and do not merely listen; for that would be to mislead yourselves. 23A man who listens to the message but never acts upon it is like one who looks in a mirror at the face nature gave him. 24He glances at himself and goes away, and at once forgets what he looked like. 25But the man who looks closely into the perfect law, the law that makes us free, and who lives in its company, does not forget what he hears, but acts upon it; and that is the man who by acting will find happiness.

26A man may think he is religious, but if he has no control over his tongue, he is deceiving himself; that man's religion is futile. 27The kind of religion which is without stain or fault in the sight of God our Father is this: to go to the help of orphans and widows in their distress and keep oneself untarnished by the world.


Warning against Partiality

1MY BROTHERS, believing as you do in our Lord Jesus Christ, who reigns in glory, you must never show snobbery. 2For instance, two visitors may enter your place of worship, one a well-dressed man with gold rings, and the other a poor man in shabby clothes. 3Suppose you pay special attention to the well-dressed man and say to him, 'Please take this seat', while to the poor man you say, 'You can stand; or you may sit here Some witnesses read: Stand where you are or sit here ... . Others read: Stand where you are or sit ... on the floor by my footstool', 4do you not see that you are inconsistent and judge by false standards?

5Listen, my friends. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he has promised to those 6who love him? And yet you have insulted the poor man. Moreover, are not the rich your oppressors? 7Is it not they who drag you into court and pour contempt on the honoured name by which God has claimed you?

8 [ Lv.19.18. ] If, however, you are observing the sovereign law laid down in Scripture, 'Love your neighbour as yourself', that is excellent. 9But if you show snobbery, you are committing a sin and you stand convicted by that law as transgressors. 10For if a man keeps the whole law apart from one single point, he is guilty of breaking all of it. 11 [ Ex.20.14, Dt.5.17. ] For the One who said, 'Thou shalt not commit adultery', said also, 'Thou shalt not commit murder.' You may not be an adulterer, but if you commit murder you are a law-breaker all the same. 12Always speak and act as men who are to be judged under a law of freedom. 13In that judgement there will be no mercy for the man who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgement.

Faith and Works

14MY BROTHERS, what use is it for a man to say he has faith when he does nothing to show it? 15Can that faith save him? Suppose a brother or a sister is in rags with not enough food for the day, 16and one of you says, 'Good luck to you, keep yourselves warm, and have plenty to eat', but does nothing to supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? 17So with faith; if it does not lead to action, it is in itself a lifeless thing.

18But someone may object: 'Here is one who claims to have faith and another who points to his deeds.' To which I reply: 'Prove to me that this faith you speak of is real though not accompanied by deeds, and by my deeds I will prove to you my faith.' 19You have faith enough to believe that there is one God. Excellent! The devils have faith like that, and it makes them tremble. 20But can you not see, you quibbler, that faith divorced from deeds is barren? 21Was it not by his action, in offering his son Isaac upon the altar, that our father Abraham was justified? 22Surely you can see that faith was at work in his actions, and that by these actions the integrity of his faith was fully proved. 23 [ Gn.15.6. ] Here was fulfilment of the words of Scripture: 'Abraham put his faith in God, and that faith was counted to him as righteousness'; and elsewhere he is called 'God's friend'. 24You see then that a man is justified by deeds and not by faith in itself. 25The same is true of the prostitute Rahab also. Was not she justified by her action in welcoming the messengers into her house and sending them away by a different route? 26As the body is dead when there is no breath left in it, so faith divorced from deeds is lifeless as a corpse.


The Tongue

1MY BROTHERS, not many of you should become teachers, for you may be certain that we who teach shall ourselves be judged with greater strictness. 2All of us often go wrong; the man who never says a wrong thing is a perfect character, able to bridle his whole being. 3If we put bits into horses' mouths to make them obey our will, we can direct their whole body. 4Or think of ships: large they may be, yet even when driven by strong gales they can be directed by a tiny rudder on whatever course the helmsman chooses. 5So with the tongue. It is a small member but it can make huge claims. Or: it is a great boaster.

What an immense stack of timber Or: What a huge forest ... can be set ablaze by the tiniest spark! 6And the tongue is in effect a fire. It represents among our members the world with all its wickedness; it pollutes our whole being; it keeps the wheel of our existence red-hot, and its flames are fed by hell. 7Beasts and birds of every kind, creatures that crawl on the ground or swim in the sea, can be subdued and have been subdued by mankind; 8but no man can subdue the tongue. It is an intractable evil, charged with deadly venom. 9We use it to sing the praises of our Lord and Father, and we use it to invoke curses upon our fellow-men who are made in God's likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praises and curses. 11My brothers, this should not be so. Does a fountain gush with both fresh and brackish water from the same opening? 12Can a fig-tree, my brothers, yield olives, or a vine figs? No more does salt water yield fresh.

The Wisdom from Above

13WHO AMONG YOU is wise or clever? Let his right conduct give practical proof of it, with the modesty that comes of wisdom. 14But if you are harbouring bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, consider whether your claims are not false, and a defiance of the truth. 15This is not the wisdom that comes from above; it is earth-bound, sensual, demonic. 16For with jealousy and ambition come disorder and evil of every kind. 17But the wisdom from above is in the first place pure; and then peace-loving, considerate, and open to reason; it is straightforward and sincere, rich in mercy and in the kindly deeds that are its fruit. 18True justice is the harvest reaped by peacemakers from seeds sown in a spirit of peace.


Friendship with the World

1What causes conflicts and quarrels among you? Do they not spring from the aggressiveness of your bodily desires? 2You want something which you cannot have, and so you are bent on murder; you are envious, and cannot attain your ambition, and so you quarrel and fight. You do not get what you want, because you do not pray for it. 3Or, if you do, your requests are not granted because you pray from wrong motives, to spend what you get on your pleasures. 4You false, unfaithful creatures! Have you never learned that love of the world is enmity to God? Whoever chooses to be the world's friend makes himself God's enemy. 5Or do you suppose that Scripture has no meaning when it says that the spirit which God implanted in man turns towards envious desires? 6 [ Pr.3.34. ] And yet the grace he gives is stronger. Thus Scripture says, 'God opposes the arrogant and gives grace to the humble.' Be submissive then to God. 7Stand up to the devil and he will turn and run. 8Come close to God, and he will come close to you. Sinners, make your hands clean; you who are double-minded, see that your motives are pure. 9Be sorrowful, mourn and weep. Turn your laughter into mourning and your gaiety into gloom. 10Humble yourselves before God and he will lift you high.

Judging a Brother

11Brothers, you must never disparage one another. He who disparages a brother or passes judgement on his brother disparages the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not keeping it but sitting in judgement upon it. 12There is only one law-giver and judge, the One who is able to save life and destroy it. So who are you to judge your neighbour?

Warning against Boasting

13A WORD WITH YOU, you who say, 'Today or tomorrow we will go off to such and such a town and spend a year there trading and making money.' 14Yet you have no idea what tomorrow will bring. Your life, what is it? You are no more than a mist, seen for a little while and then dispersing. 15What you ought to say is: 'If it be the Lord's will, we shall live to do this or that.' 16But instead, you boast and brag, and all such boasting is wrong. 17Well then, the man who knows the good he ought to do and does not do it is a sinner.


Warning to the Rich

1Next a word to you who have great possessions. Weep and wail over the miserable fate descending on you. 2Your riches have rotted; your fine clothes are moth-eaten; 3your silver and gold have rusted away, and their very rust will be evidence against you and consume your flesh like fire. You have piled up wealth in an age that is near its close. 4The wages you never paid to the men who mowed your fields are loud against you, and the outcry of the reapers has reached the ears of the Lord of Hosts. 5You have lived on earth in wanton luxury, fattening yourselves like cattle—and the day for slaughter has come. 6You have condemned the innocent and murdered him; he offers no resistance.

Patience and Prayer

7Be patient, my brothers, until the Lord comes. The farmer looking for the precious crop his land may yield can only wait in patience, until the winter and spring rains have fallen. 8You too must be patient and stout-hearted, for the coming of the Lord is near. 9My brothers, do not blame your troubles on one another, or you will fall under judgement; and there stands the Judge, at the door. 10If you want a pattern of patience under ill-treatment, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord; 11 [ Dn.12.12. ] remember: 'We count those happy who stood firm.' You have all heard how Job stood firm, and you have seen how the Lord treated him in the end. For the Lord is full of pity and compassion.

12ABOVE ALL THINGS, my brothers, do not use oaths, whether 'by heaven' or 'by earth' or by anything else. When you say yes or no, let it be plain 'Yes' or 'No', for fear that you expose yourselves to judgement.

13Is anyone among you in trouble? He should turn to prayer. Is anyone in good heart? He should sing praises. 14Is one of you ill? He should send for the elders of the congregation to pray over him and anoint him with oil in the name of the Lord. 15The prayer offered in faith will save the sick man, the Lord will raise him from his bed, and any sins he may have committed will be forgiven. 16Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, and then you will be healed. A good man's prayer is powerful and effective. 17Elijah was a man with human frailties like our own; and when he prayed earnestly that there should be no rain, not a drop fell on the land for three years and a half; 18then he prayed again, and down came the rain and the land bore crops once more.

19My brothers, if one of your number should stray from the truth and another succeed in bringing him back, be sure of this: 20any man who brings a sinner back from his crooked ways will be rescuing his soul from death and cancelling innumerable sins.

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