Guiding Innovation – An Approach from the Epistle of James

Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are New Testament names that Christians quickly recognize as authors of the four Gospels. Christians also clarify Paul as the most prolific writer to the new churches he established throughout the Mediterranean. However, there is a group of seven letters not addressed to individual churches. These letters, of the apostolic age, sometimes called catholic letters, testify to apostolic faith and constitute canonical scripture.

The Letter of James is one of these letters and appears first in the collection. Douglas Moo introduces the Letter of James as intensely functional. James provides guidance for Christian life in terms that encourage followers and, at the same time, admonishes. The Letter of James is direct. The encyclopedic New American Standard Version (NASV) of the Bible places James in the genre of parenesis or exhortation and in the style traditional Jewish wisdom. Although written as “very Jewish work” (NASB pg. 1201) it is in an excellent Greek style that is among the best in the New Testament.

James concentrates his letter “to the twelve tribes in dispersion” (1:1). Some Biblical texts use “distributed everywhere.” This greeting refers to Jews, followers of Jesus, living outside of Israel. To answer why James wrote this letter, an understanding of the Pentecost event is important. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49) and on Pentecost, the potential became fulfilled (Acts 2). The Jesus sect grew with the conversion of 3,000 Jews visiting Jerusalem from around the known world. Acts does not proportion that these newly converted returned to their home nations and cities to tell the tail of Jesus and His followers, however it is possible to infer that new converts did proportion the story.

The dominant message of his letter is ethical behavior among followers of the new faith. The Way introduces this letter with succinct words. “The book of James describes a tough sometimes painful kind of Christian living. James is functional, gutsy, and crystal clear in meaning – though we’d like to avoid its impact.”

already with the warning that the way may be rough (1:3), James provides a vision for followers who keep patient, “…you will be ready for anything, strong in character, complete and complete” (1:4).

James writes his letter at a time of persecution when many followers find adhering to the new teachings difficult. Many have fallen from the faith but James calls them to be patient, that deliverance comes by faith in God, and they can seek spiritual nourishment in prayer and good deeds. James’ letter tells the distributed Jewish Christians to be strong in faith in a way that echoes Matthew 5:11,12 “because great is your reward in heaven.”

James instructs Jewish Christians on many subjects. However, the theme is the importance of faith and good works in everything.

James and a Message of Contradiction

There are those who argue that James and Paul contradict one another in their writing. Paul wrote in Romans 3:28 that men are justified by faith without deeds of the law. Apparent contradiction exists in James 2:24 in that James includes that both works of men and faith justify us to God. Another apparent contradiction exists in Romans 4:1-3. Paul concludes that Abraham glorified himself to God by his faith. James 2:21-23 concludes Abraham glorified himself to God by both faith and works in offering his son, Isaac on an alter. Paul uses phraseology in Romans 1:5 and 16:26 to tell Romans they must be obedient to faith. In Galatians 6:7, Paul writes of sowing and reaping, sowing well returns good to the sower.

Seeking deeper understanding, both supplement the other in seeking justification in the sight of God. Man would condemn Abraham for offering Isaac to God. However, God glorified Abraham for his faith and good works. James wrote his letter to distributed Jewish Christians to teach that faith, although intangible will show itself in some fact. James was not trying to define faith; he wanted to set the criteria for behavior among those claiming to be of the faith.

James and Creativity

James 1:21-23 issues a command to be a doer of the work, not just a listener. Greek texts use the work poieesia. instead of doer, poieesia method the creative work of artists . James foresight in using this Greek information tells the Christian population to be artistic, get off the paths of predecessors and blaze new trails just as artists create new pictures in their art.

Robert Cummings Neville defines the meaning of doer as expressing God’s divine creativity “…not [by] what goes into you but [by] what comes out that counts.” It is God’s creativity inviting us to work. James teaches the distributed to grasp the gift of life given by God making something of it.

James sees making something of God’s gift and doing good works with a compound Greek information prosoopoleempsia. This information includes prosoopon, the front of anything, connected with lambanoo, to understand or comprehend. The moral ethical lesson from this compound information is people estimate us by our actions and our actions mirror our inner being. James provides wisdom to sustain outward actions with inward being. Chapter 2:1-4 James tells followers not to estimate others by turn up and admonishes them (2:8) to love their neighbors as they love themselves.

current Challenges

It is not drastic to state the world is undergoing dynamic changes; perhaps it is an understatement. current business and communication scholars liken the degree of change today to innovations of the past. Guttenberg’s printing press changed the strength of clergy by making the Bible obtainable to all who could read. Interrupting the Bible was no longer the vicinity of priests and religious leaders. additionally, books on any subject could be set in kind and printed for the literate masses.

With the invention of telegraph and later telephone, communication across great territories was possible. Business communication now occurred over wire with fewer time constraints, people interconnected with growing interdependencies . Proliferation of computers and Internet technology now link us over invisible connections at real-time speed. Global communication by telephony, email, and moment messaging connect workers in the next room to workers on the next continent. hypothesizedv by Camrass and Farncombe (2003), is that among 10,000 workers, they may have as many as five million points of contact .

Managing conversations across networks as great as five million people requires care. If the context of conversations is low, the consequence becomes one of every person for themselves with no sharing. The need for information on one side demands compensation for the information on the other side. However, if the context of conversations is high, helping and sharing occurs and people feel a sense of joint ownership together .

The Letter of James – Meet the Challenges

Printing presses and telephones merging into moment global communication causes stress on business as it adapts to meet the challenges of change; meeting the challenge is not easy. current global business is widely distributed, as were the early Christian Jews that James wrote to in dispersion. Leaders of global business have an opportunity to learn from the lessons James shares.

James wrote a very functional letter offering instructions and admonitions. Instructions and admonitions to Christians generally similar corporate policy and procedures. They offer evidence of leaders’ vision for an organization, provide samples of expected behavior, and offer warnings against violations of good order.

Successful organizations seek leaders and followers who are doers. James instructed Christians to be doers, be artistic in their creativity. Organizations need artistic creativity to solve problems and keep speed with change. In an unscientific study conducted on 14 people responded to “Would you rather take the path less traveled or stick to what you know.” Ten people chose the path less traveled. To another, 12 people responded to taking a sure thing or take a risk. Nine checked take a risk. Organizational leaders who seek the future also seek people willing to take risks and adventurous enough to take a new path.

In another way, James provides current organizations with skill sets for leaders and followers. Organizations, their leaders, and workers do not exist and work in a vacuum. External observers see organizations based on how organizational members behave among themselves and in the community. Moral behavior for early Christians is an example of the moral behavior expected in business. In another “Would You Rather,” question, ten people responded to “would you rather be right or morally right.” Seven replied be morally right.

James’ letter addresses Christian Jews advising them to be doers of their faith and be ethical and moral in behavior. The questions answered by anyone using the “Would you rather” subroutine indicates that between 70 and 75 percent would follow a path less taken, take risks, and, interestingly, prefer being morally right versus just being right. Without further scientific research, there is no claim to statistical accuracy of these numbers. However, there is an uncanny sense that the public is moral and risk taking.

Creative companies seek ideas from all in spite of their position in the company or outside it. James writes that Christians must accept one another in spite of of their place on society. This similar proposes that business may receive creative ideas from unexpected supplies. On the confront, a production worker might not have an accounting background; however, this worker might have ideas to simplify production and lower costs consequently having an affect on accounting.

In business, leaders are activists of knowledge; they are catalysts of knowledge, coordinators of knowledge, and merchants of foresight . There is little difference between current global leaders and the leadership of James as catalyst, coordinator, and foresight merchant. Although different times and different organizational needs, disciplined leadership aids keeping the vision alive.


The Epistle of James is not lengthy; however, the message is succinct providing insight into the early lives of Christian Jews distributed around the Mediterranean. It is a strong teaching tool reminding followers to focus on the vision. Further, it provides a glimpse into the procedures and policy followers must to pay attention to.

This center of this discussion relies on three spokes, 1 – creative doing, 2 – doing morally, and 3 – acceptance of others. James told early Christians to be active in their faith and do good works that creatively showed their faith. James taught them the importance of moral ethical behavior. Finally, he made it clear that social position does not make one person better than another in the faith.

The leadership lesson to draw from these three spokes is that all members of any organization are part of the whole in spite of of the position. Leaders must set the tone, establish vision and set policies in place that guide workers toward the vision. Equally, leaders must have in place procedures in place to correct behavior that strays. Finally, leaders need to accept input from all.

Whether it is Christian leadership or secular leadership, faith in and faithfulness to the vision motivates leaders who motivate followers, but then need guidance. James recognized this and his became the first of policy and procedure manuals for faith and faithfulness.


i. observe: Lower case catholic refers to the universality of Christianity instead of a reference to the Roman Catholic Church.

ii. Moo, Douglas J. (2000). The Letter of James. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company.

iii. Rev. Gollner, Lawrence A. (Censor Librorum) & Pursley, Leo A. (Imprimature) (1978). The Way: The Living Bible – Complete Catholic Edition. Wheaton: Tyndale House Publishers.

iv. Miller, Earl (2008). The Epistle of James: Part 1. Stewards Foundation. Retrieved February 8, 2008 from [].

v. Ibid.

vi. Neville, Robert Cummings (2003, August 3). Working before God: Twelfth Sunday after Pentecost. Boston University, Marsh Chapel. Retrieved on February 8, 2008 from [].

vii. Camrass, Roger & Farncombe, Martin (2003). Atomic: Reforming the Business scenery into the New Structure of Tomorrow. Oxford: Willey.Sproull, Lee & Kiesler, Sara (1998). Connections: New Ways of Working in the Networked Organization. Cambridge: The MIT Press.

viii. See vii.

ix. Von Krogh, Georg, Ichijo, Kazuo & Nonaka, Ikujiro (2000). Enabling Knowledge Creation: How to Unlock the Mystery of Tacit Knowledge and Release the strength of Innovation. New York: Oxford University Press.

x. Hoffman, Paul (2008). Facebook profile of Paul Hoffman: Would You Rather subprogram. Retrieved February 16, 2008 from

xi. See X.

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