by Glen H. JonesThe New Testament Book of James is not the first choice of most Bible expositors. James, the half-brother of Jesus, writes with such bluntness that it sometimes makes his readers uncomfortable. The book is addressed to Jewish believers scattered throughout the Roman Empire, but its teachings are applicable for us today. James reminds us that trials lead to spiritual growth. Trials do not necessarily mean that God is displeased with us. These vicissitudes of life happen to us because we are humans who live in a world affected by the Fall. Trials teach us patience toward ourselves, toward others, and toward God. When we find ourselves in trials, we need to ask God for wisdom. (Knowledge tells us we are in distress; wisdom allows us to understand these times of distress.) James reminds us that those who are rich risk losing their spiritual perspective. Riches are not sinful, but they pose problems that can blind us to the needs of others. Riches pass away, but faith in God never disappoints us. Owens gives us insight to James' teachings on temptation, disobedience, the abuse of speech, and the vice of favoritism in the church. The most controversial passage in James is James 2:14-26-the faith-versus-works discussion. Martin Luther had difficulty reconciling Paul's Roman epistle (salvation by faith alone) with James' assertion that faith without works is dead (2:17). But Paul and James do not actually contradict each other. Paul proclaims that salvation for the unbeliever is by grace through faith, plus nothing and minus nothing. James says to professing believers that salvation by grace alone cannot be demonstrated to others without works. Works do not earn salvation; they demonstrate salvation. Finally, James exhorts us to remain firm in our faith, steadfast in suffering, patience, and prayer. We need to persevere like Job of old. The compassion and mercy of our God will shine through.