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Learn From Jesus’ Younger Brother

Learn From Jesus’ Younger Brother

“James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”​—JAS. 1:1.

SONG 88 Make Me Know Your Ways


1. How would you describe James’ family?

 JAMES, the brother of Jesus, was raised in a spiritually strong family. * His parents, Joseph and Mary, loved Jehovah very much and did their best to serve Him. James had an added blessing​—his older brother would grow up to be the promised Messiah. What a fine privilege James had to be part of that family!

During the time that he spent growing up with Jesus, James got to know his older brother very well (See paragraph 2)

2. What reasons did James have to look up to his older brother?

2 James had many reasons to look up to his older brother. (Matt. 13:55) For example, Jesus knew the Scriptures so well that by the age of 12, he amazed the well-educated elders in Jerusalem. (Luke 2:46, 47) James may have worked in the carpentry trade with Jesus. In that case, he would have come to know his brother very well. Nathan H. Knorr often said, “You learn a lot about a person when you work with him.” * James could also not help but notice how “Jesus went on progressing in wisdom and in physical growth and in favor with God and men.” (Luke 2:52) So we might assume that James would have been among the first to become a disciple of Jesus. But that is not what happened.

3. How did James respond when Jesus began his ministry?

3 During Jesus’ ministry on earth, James did not become one of his disciples. (John 7:3-5) In fact, James may have been one of the relatives who thought that Jesus had “gone out of his mind.” (Mark 3:21) And there is no indication that James was with their mother, Mary, when Jesus was put to death on the torture stake.​—John 19:25-27.

4. What lessons will we consider?

4 Later, James put faith in Jesus and became a respected member of the Christian congregation. In this article, we will consider two lessons that we can learn from James: (1) why we must remain humble and (2) how we can be effective teachers.


James humbled himself when Jesus appeared to him, and from then on he faithfully served as Christ’s disciple (See paragraphs 5-7)

5. How did James respond when the resurrected Jesus appeared to him?

5 When did James become a loyal follower of Jesus? After Jesus was raised from the dead, “he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.” (1 Cor. 15:7) That meeting with Jesus marked a turning point in James’ life. He was present when the apostles awaited the promised holy spirit in an upper room in Jerusalem. (Acts 1:13, 14) Later, James had the joy of serving as a member of the first-century governing body. (Acts 15:6, 13-22; Gal. 2:9) And sometime before 62 C.E., he was inspired to write a letter to anointed Christians. That letter is of benefit to us today, whether our hope is heavenly or earthly. (Jas. 1:1) According to the first-century historian Josephus, James was executed at the order of the Jewish High Priest Ananias the Younger. James remained faithful to Jehovah until he finished his earthly course.

6. In what way was James different from the religious leaders of his day?

6 James was humble. Why can we say that? Consider the contrast between the way James eventually responded to Jesus and the way that many of the religious leaders reacted. When James was confronted by irrefutable evidence that Jesus is the Son of God, he humbly accepted it. That was not the case with the chief priests in Jerusalem. For example, they could not deny that Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Instead of acknowledging that Jesus was Jehovah’s representative, they endeavored to kill both Jesus and Lazarus. (John 11:53; 12:9-11) Later when Jesus himself was resurrected from the dead, they conspired to hide that fact from the people. (Matt. 28:11-15) The pride of those religious leaders caused them to reject the Messiah.

7. Why must we avoid pride?

7 The lesson: Avoid pride, and remain teachable. Just as disease can harden the arteries of a literal heart and restrict its ability to beat, pride can harden our figurative heart and prevent us from responding to Jehovah’s direction. The Pharisees allowed their heart to become so hard that they refused to recognize the clear evidence being presented to them by God’s spirit. (John 12:37-40) That was a dangerous course because it affected their everlasting future. (Matt. 23:13, 33) How important it is that we continue to allow God’s Word and spirit to mold our personality and influence our thinking and our decisions! (Jas. 3:17) Because James was humble, he allowed himself to be taught by Jehovah. And, as we will see, it was because of his humility that he became a skillful teacher.


8. What will help us to become good teachers?

8 James did not have an impressive secular education. The religious leaders of his day no doubt viewed him in the same way they viewed the apostles Peter and John​—as “uneducated and ordinary.” (Acts 4:13) But James learned to be an effective teacher, as is evident when we read the book that bears his name. Like James, we may have limited secular education. Even so, with the help of Jehovah’s spirit and practical training from his organization, we too can become good teachers. Let us consider the example James set as a teacher and see what lessons we can learn.

9. How would you describe James’ way of teaching?

9 James did not use big words or complicated reasoning. As a result, his audience knew what they needed to do and how to do it. Consider, for example, the simple way James taught that Christians must be willing to suffer injustice without becoming resentful. He wrote: “We consider happy those who have endured. You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome Jehovah gave, that Jehovah is very tender in affection and merciful.” (Jas. 5:11) Note that James relied on the Scriptures as his authority. He used God’s Word to help his audience to see that Jehovah always rewards those who, like Job, are loyal to Him. James got his point across by using simple words and logic. In that way, he drew attention, not to himself, but to Jehovah.

10. What is one way that we can imitate James when teaching?

10 The lesson: Keep your message simple, and teach from God’s Word. Our goal should be, not to impress others with how much we know, but to impress them with how much Jehovah knows and how much he cares about them. (Rom. 11:33) We can reach that goal by always basing what we say on the Scriptures. For example, rather than tell our Bible students what we would do in their place, we should help them to reason on Bible examples and to perceive Jehovah’s thinking and feelings. Then they will be motivated by a desire to please Jehovah, not us.

11. What challenges were some Christians dealing with in James’ day, and what counsel did he give them? (James 5:13-15)

11 James was realistic. From his letter, it is obvious that James was aware of the challenges his fellow believers were struggling with, and he gave them clear direction on how to overcome these. For example, some Christians were slow to apply counsel. (Jas. 1:22) Others showed partiality toward the rich. (Jas. 2:1-3) Still others had a hard time controlling their tongue. (Jas. 3:8-10) Those Christians had serious problems, but James did not give up on them. He presented his counsel in a kind but straightforward way and encouraged those who were struggling spiritually to seek additional help from the elders.​—Read James 5:13-15.

12. How can we remain positive when helping our Bible students?

12 The lesson: Be realistic, but keep a positive view of others. Many with whom we study the Bible may struggle to apply its counsel. (Jas. 4:1-4) It may take them some time to root out bad traits and replace them with Christlike qualities. In imitation of James, we must have the courage to tell our students where they need to improve. We also need to remain positive, trusting that Jehovah will draw humble people to him and will give them the strength to make changes in their life.​—Jas. 4:10.

13. As indicated at James 3:2 and footnote, what did James recognize?

13 James kept the right view of himself. James did not feel that his family background or his privileged assignments made him special or placed him above his brothers and sisters. He referred to his fellow worshippers as “my beloved brothers.” (Jas. 1:16, 19; 2:5) He did not give the impression that he was perfect. Rather, he included himself in the statement: “We all make mistakes many times.”​—Read James 3:2 and footnote.

14. Why must we be willing to admit our mistakes?

14 The lesson: Remember that we are all sinners. We must not think that we are somehow superior to those whom we teach. Why not? If we give our student the impression that we are flawless, he may conclude that he could never measure up to God’s requirements. But when we honestly admit that it has not always been easy for us to follow Scriptural principles and we explain how Jehovah has helped us to overcome our challenges, we will help our student to see that he too can serve Jehovah.

James’ illustrations were simple, clear, and effective (See paragraphs 15-16) *

15. How would you describe the illustrations James used? (James 3:2-6, 10-12)

15 James used illustrations that reached the heart. No doubt he was helped by holy spirit, but he likely also learned a great deal about how to teach by studying the illustrations that his older brother, Jesus, had used. The illustrations James used in his letter are simple, and the application is clear.​—Read James 3:2-6, 10-12.

16. Why should we use effective illustrations?

16 The lesson: Use effective illustrations. When you use appropriate illustrations, you turn ears into eyes. You paint pictures in the minds of people. These pictures help your audience to remember key Bible truths. Jesus was a master at using effective illustrations, and his brother James followed his example. Let us examine one of James’ illustrations and consider why it is so effective.

17. Why is the illustration recorded at James 1:22-25 so effective?

17 Read James 1:22-25. James’ illustration of the mirror is effective for a number of reasons. He had a specific point in mind, namely, that to benefit from God’s Word, we must do more than read it; we must act on what we read. James chose an illustration that his audience could quickly relate to​—a man looking in a mirror. His point? It would be foolish if a man were to look in a mirror, see a flaw he can correct, and do nothing about it. Similarly, it would be foolish if we were to read God’s Word, see something that we need to change about our personality, and do nothing about it.

18. What three things must we do when using an illustration?

18 When using an illustration, you can imitate James’ example by doing three things: (1) Make sure that the illustration is appropriate to the point you are discussing. (2) Use an illustration that your audience can easily relate to. (3) Make the application of the illustration clear. If you find it difficult to think of appropriate illustrations, consult the Watch Tower Publications Index. Under the heading “Illustrations,” you will find dozens of examples that you can use. Remember, though, that illustrations are like a microphone​—they will amplify the point you are making. So be sure to illustrate only the key points that you want to teach. Of course, our ultimate reason for wanting to improve our teaching skills is, not to draw attention to ourselves, but to help as many as possible to be part of Jehovah’s happy family.

19. How do we show that we appreciate our spiritual family?

19 We have not had the privilege of growing up with a perfect older brother, but we have had the honor of serving Jehovah along with a large family of Christian brothers and sisters. We show our love for them by associating with them, by learning from them, and by loyally serving side by side with them in the preaching and teaching work. When we strive to imitate James’ example in our attitude, conduct, and method of teaching, we bring honor to Jehovah and we help honesthearted people to draw close to our loving heavenly Father.

SONG 114 “Exercise Patience”

^ par. 5 James grew up in the same household as Jesus did. James knew the perfect Son of God better than most people at that time. In this article, we will examine what we can learn from the life and teachings of Jesus’ younger brother who became a pillar in the first-century Christian congregation.

^ par. 1 For the sake of simplicity, we will refer to James as Jesus’ brother. He was actually Jesus’ half brother and evidently the one who wrote the letter bearing his name.

^ par. 2 Nathan H. Knorr was a member of the Governing Body. He finished his earthly course in 1977.

^ par. 61 PICTURE DESCRIPTION: James used the example of a small fire​—something people could easily understand—​to illustrate the danger of misusing the tongue.