James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the dispersion:
1. “servant” (or “slave”): This is surprising. Traditionally, James is one of the brothers of Jesus (I’ve tried, but I just can’t follow Catholicism in its beliefs of Mary’s perpetual virginity and these being Jesus’ “cousins”). The Gospels tell us that Jesus’ brothers denied Christ as Messiah. They thought he was crazy. What must have happened to James to change his view to be a “slave” of his brother? How easy would it be for any of us to so quickly start seeing our brother or sister as the Son of God through which all things we were created, by which all things are sustained?
2. “dispersion”: All Jews living outside Judea. We can find ourselves in this. God’s people far from where God has promised us to be, trying to figure out how to do this whole “Christianity” thing. This is what the rest of James is about. This whole earth is ours and we wait expectantly for the enemies to be cleared out so we can receive our inheritance. So what does life look like in the tension of awaiting promises for a new home, knowing it’s not yet time, but it will come? What is the first characteristic of this life that James brings up? What does life here look like? The answer is probably in verses 2-4: a life of suffering for the purposes that God has laid out for us.