Lesson #6, for discussion on Sabbath, November 7, 2015
The prophet Jeremiah was fond of symbols and that spells trouble for a believing community that wants to keep the whole tribe together. That’s because symbols, whether enacted or visual, split the crowd right down the middle. Concrete thinkers often treat them too rigidly whereas abstract thinkers are too easily inclined to shrug and not take them seriously enough.
Lesson #3 (for Sabbath, October 17, 2015)
Jeremiah is heavy weather. Really heavy. Not in the sense of complexity. It’s his stinging, hard-hitting messages that make it difficult and give rise to two practical questions: (1) Did those hammer strokes work in Jeremiah’s day? (2) Does that kind of stuff work today? Could condemnation actually make matters worse? Does it ever make things better?
Sabbath School Lesson Commentary for Lesson #7 (August 15, 2015)
Jesus was certainly the “Master of Missions,” to use the title for this lesson in the standard adult quarterly. But he earned that label by coming in the back door, not the front. By the time he returned to his Father he had surprised everyone.
Sabbath School commentary for discussion on Sabbath, April 25, 2015
Across a span of 6 chapters (Luke 5 to 10), Luke describes Jesus’ call to his disciples: Peter, James, and John, summoned from their fishing nets (5:1-11), Levi Matthew from the tax booth (5:27-31), and the twelve from among a much larger group of followers (6:12-16).
After firmly condemning the rich, James then turns to his readers/listeners and admonishes them to be patient. After nearly inciting them to riot by condemning the rich landowners (or so it might seem), he then counsels them to accept their troubles with patience. James refers to the prophets and to Job as examples of those who suffered and were patient.
After the call to patience, James seems to drop in another unconnected admonition: Don’t swear at all, either by heaven or by earth (5:12). The connection with what precedes or what follows does not seem to be clear.
James 5:1-6 is the third frontal attack on the rich in the book, and this one the most brutal. Here the oppressive rich are the wealthy landowners who abuse their workers. In short, they have kept back the wages of their workers (5:4).
The attacks against the rich represent different groups within society. In 3:6 the offending ones are the bankers who drag the poor into court; in 4:13-17 the offenders are the traveling merchants; in 5:1-6 the offenders are the wealthy landowners.
Questions for Discussion:
In 1:26 James dropped a small bombshell against the unbridled tongue. Now in 3:1-12 he drops a large one, a blistering attack against the tongue. He does not really explain why this issue is so important to him, given his concern for social justice. Nor does he give us any direct help in controlling the tongue. But it is an urgent issue that deserves our attention.
Questions for Discussion:
The most highly visible passage in James involves the apparent tension between Paul and James on the question of faith and works. The most striking “contradiction” is between James 2:24 – “You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone” – and Romans 3:28: “For we hold that a person is justified by faith apart from works prescribed by the law.”