But that actually isn't the case. Though James is filled with very practical commands - rejoice in trials, ask for wisdom, boast in exultation- just to give a few examples from the first 18 verses- James' practice always flows out of theology. Many times it's explicit, sometimes it's implicit.
I had the opportunity yesterday to lead a group of guys through a study of the first 18 verses and one of the themes that came up over and over again was how important knowing the character and nature of God was to our obedience. It's hard to obey someone when we don't trust them or don't believe they have our best interests at heart, to obey when we know and have confidence that the commands are for our good is easy.
What follows below is not what we talked about per se, but some isolated thoughts on how theologically grounded James is.
Why do we rejoice in trials? (James 1:2-4) Is it because somehow those trials magically turn into endurance? And the endurance magically turns into completeness so we won't lack anything? Of course not, it is by God's gift (James 1:17) that these trials come, for our good. That's why they lead to such good things and that's why we can rejoice in it.
Likewise, why do we ask God for wisdom? (James 1:5) Is it not because we recognize God as the very source of wisdom and not a stingy one at that?
Who exalts the humble and humbles the exalted? (James 1:9-11) We cannot boast in what we have done for ourselves (gathering riches), but we must boast in what God has done for us. Our confidence is outside of this world and thus cannot be taken from us.
In realizing God is sovereign over such things, we cannot use that as an excuse to blame God for our sins, as if his sovereignty somehow made it not "sin" anymore. No, the end of sin is death (James 1:13-15)and we must cut it off at the roots in our desires. But why is death the result of sin? God is the one who condemns the sinner to judgment and everlasting perdition just the same as he rewards those who stand with a crown of life (James 1:12).
No, don't be deceived. God is good, a loving father that is immutable (never changes). And He's shown that He is for us and not against us by the gift of spiritual rebirth - which is a gift of the will of God, not of man (James 1:16-18).
So want to learn how to live out your faith better? Learn about the object of your faith better first.
To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood 6 and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.