I teach about the Bible in lots of settings. Sometimes I have a hard time knowing where to start.
For example, a group of us are starting a study of James. It’s a short letter in the New Testament. It’s a great letter to read if you want to defend poor people against rich people. It’s a great letter if you like a direct, in-your-face, fix it now, style.
For the first week, I talked about the history of the letter. From a conservative perspective, James is a brother of Jesus, the letter was written in the middle of the first century, and it feels like an argument with Paul. We looked at a map of the places the letter mentions. We did background conversation.
The second week, we read the letter out loud. I think it’s a helpful thing to do. I may write about that. And we looked at the ways that the letter sounds like other parts of the Bible. For example, it sounds like the Sermon on the Mount, one of Jesus’ core messages. It sounds like some Old Testament prophets.
But for the third week, I couldn’t do any more overview. We needed to start digging in. And I was struggling. I want to help my friends understand the text before jumping to application or argument. Often, we have been beaten with a word in the text which the beater may not have understood. So we push back before we unpack.
James is full of those opportunities. We don’t understand being perfect. We hate the suffering around us that James seems to praise. We feel like he’s demanding too much work.
But then, as I read, the more I saw pictures. James loves word pictures. Five in the first 18 verses. We’ll look at them tomorrow.