A study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) shows that the lack of jobs, health care, and education, can contribute to antisocial behavior. While the vast majority of poor people never engage in criminal activities, hopeless youth often do. James, half-brother of Jesus, wrote his letter to people who were largely poor. Rich landowners were ripping them off, taking their homes, and refusing to pay them fair wages. Under conditions like these, people often turn on each other to relieve their frustration. James tells God’s people how to act under such trying conditions. In James 3 he writes, “If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind. But the wisdom from above is first of all pure, peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.” Later, James harshly criticizes those who oppress the poor, but here he counsels believers under stress to love one another and treat each other with kindness.
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