James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:
James 1:1

I am always struck by how the writers of the epistles begin their letters. In twenty-first century America, we typically begin our letters by addressing the person to whom it is written. In the early days of Christiandom, the culture was to first identify the writer of the letter, then to identify the receiver. Hence, we have greetings similar to that of James 1:1, as quoted above.

The greetings are not fly-over country, folks. They tells us something about both the author and the audience. Both are significant pieces of information if we are to properly understand the message the writer intends the readers to take away from his letter.

What always strikes me is the humility of the greeting. In this case, James identifies himself as “a servent of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.” Although there are three James’ identified in the New Testament, scholars are fairly certainly that the book was written by James, the half-brother of Jesus. So James could have written “James, brother of our Lord Jesus .” Instead he wrote “A servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

It challenges me to consider how I would begin such letters – how would I describe myself? I’m not sure taking the humble approach would be my first thought. I’d be more tempted to mention my credentials to establish my authority – to let you know why you should listen to me. But the truth is, James’ greeting provides those credentials – you should listen to him because he is a servant of the Lord and because that is the credential he considers most important to use in his greeting. That is the identity he embraces above all others.

How about you? Is your identity that of “servant of God?” Lord, keeps us in the mindset that we are Your servants. You are the master, you are the King. We are the servants.

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