1:1 James [the half-brother of Jesus], a servant [Gr. “doulos” (servant, slave); this is the only title James used to identify himself; important qualities in a servant include obedience, humility, loyalty] of God and of the Lord [this title was blasphemous to the Jews and treasonous to the Romans] Jesus [the earthly name of God with us (Immanuel)] Christ [the anointed one], To the twelve tribes scattered [Gr. “diaspora” refers to Jews who had left their land by force or by choice; cf. Acts 8:1] among the nations [“It is hard to find a spot in the whole world which is not occupied and dominated by the Jews.” (Strabo, a geographer who was contemporary with Jesus)]: Greetings [Gr. “chairein”].
1:2 Consider [to regard, count, deem, reckon] it pure joy [genuine rejoicing], my brothers [a reminder that we do not have to face trials alone; we are vulnerable when we try to face trials alone because “Satan is a pirate looking for a vessel without a fleet”], whenever [not “if” but “when”] you face [or “fall into” trials or are ambushed (cf. Lk. 10:30); some rejoice only when they escape trials] trials [represent the possibility of growth] of many kinds [multicolored],
Note: What trial are you going through right now? What hope do you have in the midst of this trial?
1:3 because you know that the testing [Gr. “dokimion”; the results of the trial; tests are opportunity to show what we have learned; God helps believers mature through trials] of your faith develops [produces] perseverance [endurance; staying power; steadfastness under trial].
Note: What do you think God may be trying to accomplish by allowing pain and grief into your life? Have your trials produced the perseverance that James described or have they produced bitterness?
1:4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be  mature [experienced; seasoned] and  complete [fully trained; a developed Christian],  not lacking anything [security that comes from trusting God and knowing that He has what we need and is able to supply it when we need it].
1:5 [trials (1:2-4) often accentuate our need for wisdom] If [or “since”] any of you lacks wisdom [we need wisdom to face the trials of life], he should ask [rather than despair] God, who gives [cf. Rom. 8:32] generously to all without finding fault [God will never complain or criticize us for asking Him for wisdom], and it [wisdom; God’s guidance; the wisdom to do and to remain in His will] will be given to him.
1:6 But [note that faith is the condition for receiving] when he asks, he must believe and not doubt [to be in two minds (about God’s character); to oscillate between belief and unbelief], because he who doubts is like a wave [a picture of that which is unsettled] of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.
1:7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord;
1:8 he is a double-minded [claiming to trust God while keeping other options open in case God does not come through] man, unstable in all he does.
1:9 The brother in humble circumstances [“in humble circumstances” (Gr. “tapeinos) refers to those who are lowly, poor, powerless, and insignificant in the world’s eyes] ought to take pride [or rejoice in the fact that God regards him as a person of great worth] in his high position [as a child of God].
1:10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position [humility], because he will pass away like a wild flower.
1:11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away [cf. Ps. 39:4-6] even while he goes about his business [literally “goings”; a reminder that disaster and death often strike unannounced; cf. Jas. 4:13-17].
1:12 Blessed [Gr. “makarios”: the same word used by Jesus in the Beatitudes (Matt. 5:3-12)] is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test [literally means “having become approved”], he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.
1:13 When tempted [Gr. peirasmos; here refers to the appeal of an inward desire to do evil; read Matthew 4:1-11; 1 Corinthians 10:13; and 2 Timothy 2:22], no one should say [people have been making excuses (shift blame) for their sins since the Garden of Eden], “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil [there is nothing in God that is attracted to evil; God is “untemptable”], nor [because evil is repulsive to God and in total opposition to His nature and purpose] does he tempt anyone;
Note: List some excuses people make when they sin.
1:14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil [desires contrary to God’s will] desire [Gr. epithumia is a neutral word; cf. Phil. 1:23 where the word refers to a good desire], he is dragged [or drawn] away [as a hunter draws an animal into a trap] and enticed [lured like a fish; to satisfy an appropriate desire in an inappropriate way].
Note: How does a fisherman use deceit to make danger look attractive or to mask danger entirely?
1:15 Then, after desire has conceived [when a person actually yields to temptation], it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death [spiritual separation from God; cf. Rom. 6:23; 7:7-12; 1 Jn. 2:16-17; 3:14]; loss of spiritual vitality for a disobedient Christian].
1:16 Don’t be deceived [stop being deceived; to be led astray; do not be deceived into thinking that God is the source of temptation], my dear brothers.
1:17 Every good [God’s gifts do never encourage evil desire or sin] and perfect [God’s gifts fulfill His will for His people] gift is from above [indicates heavenly origin of good and perfect gifts], coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights [He created the sun, moon, and stars], who does not change [His character is trustworthy (cf. Mal. 3:6)] like shifting shadows.
1:18 He chose to give us birth [the new birth] through the word of truth [the gospel of salvation (cf. Eph. 1:13)], that we might be a kind of firstfruits [the first portion of the harvest, which was given to God; cf. Lev. 23:9-14] of all he created.
1:19 My dear brothers, take note of this [note three forms of self-discipline]: Everyone should be  quick [implies a readiness to heed what we hear] to listen [to God’s Word; everything we hear should be checked by God’s Word lest we fall prey to false teaching and error],  slow to speak [you cannot listen when you are speaking; may be admonition to new Christians who wanted to become teachers of God’s Word before they understood it themselves] and  slow to become angry [anger can be a hindrance to listening to God’s truth],
Note: “We have two ears but only one mouth that we may hear more and speak less.” (Zeno)
1:20 for man’s anger [anger often leads people into sinful actions and words] does not bring about [or produce] the righteous life that God desires.
1:21 Therefore, get rid of [put away] all moral filth [morally degenerate behaviors; everything that God considers impure; all that is contrary to God’s Word and hinders from living a righteous life] and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly [means to be teachable] accept [has the idea of welcoming; open your heart to the influence of God’s Word] the word planted in you [planted in the soil of an open heart], which can save [or rescue from the destructive influence of sin] you.
1:22 Do not merely listen [in James’ day people accustomed to hearing Scripture read because they did not possess personal copies of Scripture; cf. 1 Tim. 4:13 re: “the public reading of Scripture”] to the word, and so deceive [to deceive oneself through fallacious reasoning] yourselves. Do what it says [cf. Lk. 11:28; Rom. 2:13].
Note: Do you obey God’s Word because you want to or because you have to?
1:23 Anyone who listens to the word but does not do what it says [listens with no intention of obeying] is like a man who looks at his face in a mirror [God’s Word reflects what is in our lives and shows us what we look like on the inside]
1:24 and, after looking at himself, goes away and immediately forgets [implies the look was casual rather than careful] what he looks like.
1:25 But the man who looks intently [with serious attention] into the perfect law [cf. “royal law” in 2:8; cf. Matt. 23:37-40] that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it—he will be blessed [cf. Lk. 11:28] in what he does [cf. Ps. 1:1-3].
1:26 If anyone considers [important thing is what God considers us to be] himself religious and yet [must be evidence of our faith in our actions] does not keep a tight rein [to put a bridle in own mouth] on his tongue [cf. Jas. 1:9; 3:1-12; Mark 7:20-23], he deceives himself and his religion is worthless [nonproductive; empty; useless].
Note: Does what you choose to talk about and the way in which you speak indicate to others that your faith is real? List ways in which the tongue can dishonor God and offend others?
1:27 Religion that God our Father accepts as pure [free from contamination] and faultless is this [note the practical nature of the religion God accepts]: to look after orphans and widows [two of the most vulnerable members of society] in their distress and [concern about others must be balanced with concern about our own life] to keep oneself from being polluted by the world [cf. Jn. 17:15].
Note: How is your inner faith expressed outwardly in daily life?