James 1–5

New Testament Teacher Resource Manual, (2002), 230–33


Introduction

James 1–5is notable for its emphasis on practical religion. If we have faith, we must show it through our works, for example by comforting and aiding those in need. For James faith is always accompanied by action. One of the most striking instances of such faith occurred when the boy Joseph Smith read in James 1:5: “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.” Joseph felt prompted to go to the woods and inquire of the Lord which church was true. Heavenly Father rewarded his faith by appearing to him, together with Jesus Christ. The Father answered Joseph’s prayer by pointing to Jesus and saying, “This is My Beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Joseph Smith—History 1:17).

Prayerfully study James 1–5and consider the following principles before preparing your lessons.

Some Important Gospel Principles to Look For

Additional Resources

  • The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles, 403–13.

Suggestions for Teaching

Choose from the following ideas, or use some of your own, as you prepare lessons for James 1–5.

James 1:5–6(Scripture Mastery). We can ask for and receive wisdom from God if we ask in faith and do not doubt.

(25–30 minutes)

Write on the board the following statement by Elder Bruce R. McConkie:

“This single verse of scripture has had a greater impact and a more far reaching effect upon mankind than any other single sentence ever recorded by any prophet in any age” (Doctrinal New Testament Commentary, 3:246–47).

Invite students to guess what scripture Elder McConkie was referring to and why.

Read James 1:5as a class and ask how this scripture fulfills the declaration on the board. Read Joseph Smith—History 1:10–19and look for what came from Joseph Smith’s reading of that verse. Ask:

  • How has the First Vision affected your life?

  • What might be different in your life if Joseph Smith had never followed the prompting of the Spirit to pray?

  • How does asking for wisdom differ from what we often request in prayer?

  • What is the difference between asking Heavenly Father to solve your problems and asking for the wisdom to deal with problems?

  • Can you think of any examples of that difference? (Allow students to share experiences if they desire, but caution them not to share anything too sacred or personal.)

  • How could asking for wisdom bring more power to our personal prayers?

Read James 1:6looking for the source of power Joseph used to get his answers from God. Ask: What is the difference between a prayer offered in faith and one asked with wavering?

Have a student read what President Joseph F. Smith taught about prayer:

“It does not take many words to ask the Lord for what we need; but we must ask in faith, confidence and trust. It will not do to have doubts in our minds when we call upon the Lord for a blessing” (Gospel Doctrine, 216).

Discuss with students what they can do to pray with more faith and less wavering. Testify that our prayers will have life-changing power if we ask God for the blessings we need with confidence and faith.

James 1:22–27. Be doers of the word and not hearers only.

(35–40 minutes)

Before class find and read a recent talk by the President of the Church in which he addresses the youth of the Church (for example at a priesthood session or women’s conference). Select three or four requests he makes of the youth. Write them on the board and ask students to determine in their own minds if they have been obedient to the prophet’s counsel.

Read James 1:22–25and discuss the following questions:

  • What does it mean to be a doer of the word?

  • What does it mean to be a hearer only?

  • What is a forgetful hearer? (One who does not act on what is learned.)

  • What benefits come to those who choose to be doers as opposed to those who only hear? (Note:If desired, you could insert the teaching suggestion for James 2:17–18here to show the relationship between being a hearer but not a doer and having faith but no works.)

Read James 1:26–27and look for the definition of ”pure religion.“ Ask:

  • What is the difference between seeming to be religious and practicing pure religion?

  • How can being a doer of the word help us overcome merely seeming to be religious?

The book of James gives a great deal of practical advice on how to be doers of the word. Divide the class into five groups. Give each group a piece of paper labeled To Do List. Assign each group a different chapter in James. Have the groups read their chapter looking for what James suggests we can do to be better followers of Jesus Christ. Discuss their findings and write a comprehensive “to do” list on the board. Ask:

  • How could your life change if you follow James’s counsel?

  • Which of these instructions have already benefitted you because you followed them?

Invite those who are willing to share an example of how they were blessed to do so. Encourage students to practice keeping “to do” lists (especially those from prophets) so they can be doers of the word and not forgetful hearers.

James 2:17–18(Scripture Mastery). We cannot have faith without works, nor can we be saved by faith alone. Righteous works are the fruits of faith.

(10–15 minutes)
boat

Bring two rowboat oars to class. Label one faith in Jesus Christ and the other works. Keep the oars turned so students cannot see the labels. Or draw on the board a picture of a rowboat with oars (do not label the oars yet). Ask:

  • Which oar is the more important one?

  • If one oar was attached to one side of a rowboat and you rowed as hard as you could, what direction would you go?

  • Why do you need both oars?

Read James 2:17–18and turn the oars to show the labels (or label the oars on the board). Ask:

  • How is the message of these verses like the lesson of the oars?

  • In what ways might we fail to use the “faith in Jesus Christ” oar?

  • How might we ignore the “works” oar?

Invite students to read and answer the questions in James 2:14. Read James 2:15–26looking for James’s answer and for what we can do to ensure that we have both faith and works.

James 3:1–12. Governing the tongue (controlling our speech) helps us in developing perfection.

(20–25 minutes)

Write Who Am I? on the board and read the following clues. Have students write possible answers as you give each clue.

  • I am difficult to tame.

  • I can both bless and curse.

  • I can give out much poison.

  • I can comfort people.

  • I can harm the work of the Lord.

  • I can hurt other people’s reputations.

  • I can witness of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Give students an opportunity to solve the puzzle. Read James 1:26together looking for the answer. Ask: In what ways can the tongue match all these clues?

If one is available, display a horse’s bridle and ask students to identify it. Ask:

  • What is a bridle used for? (To control and direct a horse.)

  • What does it mean to “bridle” the tongue?

  • How can we do this?

  • What kinds of trouble can we experience when we do not bridle our tongue? (see also Alma 38:12).

Have students read the following statement from the For the Strength of Youth pamphlet:

“How you speak says much about who you are. Clean and intelligent language is evidence of a bright and wholesome mind. Use language that uplifts, encourages, and compliments others. Do not insult others or put them down, even in joking. Speak kindly and positively about others so you can fulfill the Lord’s commandment to love one another. When you use good language, you invite the Spirit to be with you.

“Always use the names of God and Jesus Christ with reverence and respect. Misusing their names is a sin. Profane, vulgar, or crude language or gestures, as well as jokes about immoral actions, are offensive to the Lord and to others. Foul language harms your spirit and degrades you. Do not let others influence you to use it” (For the Strength of Youth, 22).

Invite students to consider who is affected when we do not bridle our tongue. Read James 3:1–10 as a class and discuss the meaning verse by verse. It may be helpful to draw on the board pictures of a horse’s bridle and bit, a ship’s rudder, a match, and a bottle of poison to refer to as you discuss these verses. Read and cross-reference Matthew 15:10–20 looking for how these verses relate to James’s teachings about the tongue. Ask:

  • Where do the words we speak come from?

  • Can bridling the tongue affect what is in the heart? How?

  • How can bridling our heart influence our ability to become perfect?

Read Mosiah 4:30 looking for the counsel King Benjamin gave about the tongue. Why should we watch our words? Read Alma 12:14 to find the answer. Testify that we must watch our words because improper words will condemn us. Encourage students to learn to bridle their tongues as a means to bless others and perfect themselves.

James 4:4–10. If we embrace the things of this world, we become enemies to God.

(25–30 minutes)

Make a sign that says The Things of God and place it on the back of a chair. Prepare a second sign that says The Things of the World and place it on the back of a second chair. Set the chairs side by side and ask the students if it is possible to be in both “places” at the same time. Invite a student to demonstrate by sitting on both chairs at once. Have the student stand, and then separate the chairs by several chair-widths. Ask the student if it is still possible to be in both places at the same time. Have the student choose one of the chairs to sit in.

Ask students:

  • What could this demonstration represent?

  • What happens to our relationship with God when we try to be in the world and in the kingdom at the same time?

  • What difficulties come into our lives as a result of choosing the things of this world over the things of God?

Read James 4:4–10and invite students to identify phrases that teach how to become a friend of God. Cross-reference Mosiah 3:19and discuss how this verse is a second witness of James’s teaching.

Read James 1:12–13, noting the Joseph Smith Translation change in verse 12. Ask if God is responsible for the temptations we face. Read James 1:14–16and share the commentary for James 1:14in The Life and Teachings of Jesus and His Apostles (p. 408). Ask:

  • How does the devil entice us to sin?

  • Why would you want to be friends with the Lord when He comes again?

Read James 5:7–20looking for ways we can prepare to be friends with God, and list them on the board. These might include:

Ask students how obeying the counsel listed on the board would help them prepare to be friends of Jesus Christ at His coming. Invite students to select from the list one or two items in which they are weak and write a personal plan to improve in those areas. Share the counsel of Elder Joseph B. Wirthlin:

“The simple fact is this: anything that does not draw us closer to God takes us away from Him. We have no middle ground, no foggy gray area where we can sin a little without suffering spiritual decline. That is why we must repent and come to Christ daily on submissive knees so that we can prevent our bonfires of testimony from being snuffed out by sin” (in Conference Report, Oct. 1992, 48; or Ensign, Nov. 1992, 36).

Encourage students to set aside the world and become friends of God.