When we gather as a group, these are some ways we ensure the best group discussion:
We make the circle safe by staying honest and transparent - leave the masks at the door.
We keep it inside the circle. Each person’s story is theirs alone to share.
We look to the Bible for wisdom and truth, and work together to let it shape how we see the world.
We don’t try to fix each other in front of each other or give unsolicited advice. We lovingly save hard conversations for private moments.
We respect each others’ time by starting and ending when we say we will.
We believe that in Jesus Christ, there is hope for everyone.
Life Hacks is all about taking the wisdom that we find in the book of James and applying it to our everyday lives. James was Jesus’ half-brother, and it wasn’t until Jesus’ death and resurrection that James believed that He was really God in the flesh - so it makes sense that we would listen to what he has to say!
James may not have believed Jesus was the savior of the world while he was alive, but he was always watching how he lived. James watched Jesus mix with people that were totally unlike him, care for people that no one thought deserved it, and walk alongside people who were… kind of a mess. James watched Jesus invite everyone in, because he saw the image of God in every person he met. So James could only come to one conclusion: no favoritism allowed.
Connect with each other
Growing up, did you family strive for fairness between siblings? How did that affect your relationship with your parents, or your siblings?
don’t speed past people’s history
If you want to get the inside scoop on someone’s current beliefs and behavior, how they grew up is the right place to start. Our childhood years are the most formative years we have - so the laws of the land in our family define much of how we live the rest of our lives, for better or worse.
Now that is NOT a permission slip or a free pass to stop growing and changing - but it’s an important backdrop that will help you understand your friends’ current struggles and potential spiritual next steps.
Connect with the Message
Mike talked about how in their house, they don’t do “fair” - as imperfect parents, they do what’s wise and best at that time. Fairness ended in the garden; now, we shouldn’t actually want God to treat us fairly - we want him to treat us gracefully.
Why is it better that God treats us gracefully instead of fairly?
When does fairness actually stand in the way you from doing what’s best for someone?
James is very clear that no follower of Jesus should show favoritism of any kind - meaning that no Christian should give unfair, preferential treatment to someone at the expense of another. Even when it’s not outwardly obvious, each of us is taught favoritism as we grow up - that there are people we should prefer and esteem, and people we should devalue.
Throughout your life, who have you been taught to prefer, esteem, and emulate? What about the people you’ve been taught to avoid or devalue?
How have you seen preferential treatment of one person come at the expense of another in your life or the world around you?
favoritism is usually subtle
No one goes around flaunting their favoritism. In fact, sometimes we don’t even truly understand the deep places that our favoritism reaches into.
So gently help people talk through the messages we are all constantly hearing about the “others” in our world. What are the left and right saying about each other? What are races saying about each other? What mixed messages are we hearing about gender, economic classes, and everything else?
And how have all those messages affected you?
James didn’t make all this up himself - he watched Jesus live radically different than anyone else in his day. In Mark 10:42, Jesus said “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”
Jesus flipped the idea of authority on its head - he said that the one in authority exists to serve, not to be served. And he lived this out by spending time with and caring for the outcasts of his day - children, other races, women, the irreligious and sinners, the untouchable sick, and widows.
How does this challenge what the world teaches us about those in influence or authority?
Why is this so hard for people to live out? What stands in the way of using our influence to serve others?
keep pushing past surface level
Don’t always settle for a response as it is. With this question, "Why is this so hard for people to live out? What stands in the way of using our influence to serve others?”, is challenging. And it’s easy to get stuck on the surface level.
The surface level is filled with generalizations and comments about culture and “people”. So don’t let it stop there - drive the conversation toward internal exploration, personal experiences, and real-life questions.
Mike said that the first step to living out a life without favoritism is to believe humility is the highest honor. As a follower of Jesus, it’s no longer all about us - God doesn’t exist to serve us. Instead we serve God and love others as ourselves.
What are some of the hardest moments in your life to live with humility? Where is it easy to make life about you and not about serving God and others?
This could get uncomfortable
Let’s be real. This is uncomfortable. There is a lot of talk in the world about the divisions that exist between classes and types of people - the problem is, most of it has become politicized, blaming, and inflammatory.
And honestly, none of that is helpful - because none of it encourages personal responsibility. And that’s exactly what James does.
So with this next question, don’t have a conversation about what’s wrong with the world or what those “other people” are doing to screw it all up. Instead, encourage each other to accept the broken world as it is and start BEING the change agents that God enables us to be.
“But what can YOU do about that?”
Lift others up
Christ followers go past making things even and intentionally look for ways to lift up those who they naturally tend to put down. Everyone lives on a side of the divisions in our world. Whether it’s race, money, status, neighborhood, personality type, gender, you name it - divisions are the norm in our world. But Jesus calls us to be the ones who bridge the gaps.
What sides of these natural divides do you find yourself on?
What do you find yourself thinking or believing about the other side of some of those divides?
How can you cross one of these divides to lift up people on the other side?
READ. PRAY. DO.
Read along during the series!
James’ letter is one of the most jam-packed 5 chapters of wisdom in the entire Bible. It’s full of big concepts about how God created the world and how we can live in it best. During this series, we’re going to work through this dense and important book in several different ways!
So far, we watched this video overview and read the book straight through to get the full picture of the letter!
THIS WEEK, we’re going to continue what we started last week!
Watch this video below and get an understanding of how much of the Bible is written as “Jewish Meditation Literature”. As many days as you can, quietly read James 3 out loud to yourself. Don’t worry about getting to the next part. Don’t worry about not making “progress”. Just slow down, soak it in, and see what happens as you focus in consistently on how God might be speaking to you through James’ words.
Pray this prayer on your own, or use it to kickstart your own personal prayer time.
(adapted from the song Reckless Love by Cory Asbury)
Father, Before I spoke a word, You were singing over me. Before I took a breath, You breathed Your life in me. You’ve been so good to me, so kind to me. Your love is overwhelming, never-ending, and it’s so scandalous it seems reckless. How could you love someone like me? You chase me down, you fight ‘til I’m found, and I’ll never understand why. But this overwhelming love doesn’t stop with me - somehow, you love every person on this earth with that same fierceness. No wall, mountain, shadow, or lie can stand in between You and each of your much loved children that you’re trying to bring home. And even at my best, I often just stand in the way. So please help me tear down the walls between me and your other much loved children, and help me see everyone I meet how YOU see them.
Make a “Wisdom Board”
This letter from James is FULL of one-liners and powerful statements about how we can live wisely in a broken world. In the book of Deuteronomy, in the Old Testament, the people of Israel received God’s commandments for the first time - and this is what he said to them:
These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:5-9)
So that’s kind of what we’re going to do! As you read through the book of James and listen to the messages in this series and different things stand out to you, write them down in little, memorable phrases. Keep them on the same page and put them up somewhere visible in your house. Keep coming back to them and start noticing just how often they’re VERY relevant to your everyday life.
Example from James 1:19: quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger