Christianity 201

May 30, 2015

The Book of James as a Poem

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:26 pm
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1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations:

I suspect that doing this would force you to delve more deeply into the text. Ray McClendon is on pastoral staff of a California church. Click the link below to read at source. (This really needs to be in a print publication somewhere; contact the author for details.)

P R O V E R B I A L – J A M E S

James has been referred to as the ‘Wisdom Literature of the New Testament’ by some theologians. The Psalms and the Proverbs are didactic poetry (among other things), and the Proverbs in particular are a collection of poetic yet practical statements about what Torah looks like when lived out in daily life and community. Since James ‘reads’ and ‘feels’ like Proverbs to some extent, (what the Gospel looks like when lived out in daily life and community), I wondered what James would look and sound like if rendered proverbially using modern English poetry. Perhaps the following result will make James a little more memorable for you and yield an insight or two. A word of caution. Poetry has its own rewards, but also its limitations. While poetry may be put to good use in a number of ways, this rendition is not meant to nor can it can ever replace James’ letter. What he meant by “God cannot be tempted neither does he tempt anyone” or “judges with evil motives” or “faith without works is dead” must be worked with carefully within his own letter and our larger understanding of God and his Story.

J A M E S – 1

When trials bring you hardship… fear…
Then count it joy and persevere.

When perseverance has its say,
You’ll be complete in every way.

Ask for wisdom and believe,
And from a generous God receive.

Ask in faith and do not doubt,
Like the waves, wind-tossed about.

The poor rejoice in exaltation,
The rich, in their humiliation.

The steadfast ones are blessed when down,
For when they rise they have their crown.

Don’t beat your own desire’s drums,
Then blame God when tempting comes.

Each good and perfect gift in sight,
Is given by the God of light.

Be slow to let your anger peak,
Be quick to hear and slow to speak.

Renounce all evil, be undeterred,
Receive with meekness the engrafted word.

Those casual hearers of the law,
Forget what they in mirrors saw.

Be doers of that word and never,
Just hearers who are lost forever.

Be steadfast in the law that frees,
In doing you’ll be blessed in these.

Are you a true, religious one?
Then guard your heart, control your tongue.

Pure religion and undefiled,
Serves widow and the orphan child.

Keep from the world, unstained and pure,
To show a faith sincere and sure.

J A M E S – 2

Brothers, show no preference for,
The wealthy rather than the poor.

An evil motive judges things,
Like shabby clothes and golden rings.

Dishonor not the poor God gave,
The kingdom to and faith to save.

The Law convicts us of our sin,
When we’re partial deep within.

A sin, by any other name,
Is still a sin and still a shame.

Live your life and have your say,
Knowing you’ll be judged someday.

A faith that will not share its bread,
Or other needed things… is dead.

If your faith is true indeed,
Your faith will work in time of need.

J A M E S – 3

Let not many aspire to teach,
It’s hard to practice what you preach.

We often stumble too and slip,
But they’re in control, who control their lip.

Like rudder and the bridle too,
The tongue will take control of you.

Though a flame of strife be small,
A fiery tongue can burn down all.

We bless our Father and our Lord,
Then curse our brethren with a word.

Church, these things should not be so.
What’s in your heart, the tongue will show.

Where selfishness and pride exist,
Every evil will persist.

Let conduct be informed by love,
And gentle wisdom from above.

Mercy and good fruit increase,
When righteousness is sown in peace.

J A M E S – 4

Arguing and fights the more,
Persist when passions go to war.

Hateful envy in all its strife,
Is rooted in the selfish life.

Friendship with the world is odd,
And creates hostility with God.

God jealously desires a heart of,
That Spirit whom he made us part of.

Resist the devil and he will flee,
Draw near to God, he’ll draw to thee.

Lament and mourn and shed a tear,
And let repentance be sincere.

Humility must fill your cup,
Then the Lord will lift you up.

Speak no evil of your brother,
For who are you to judge another?

When you make plans for living large,
Remember that the Lord’s in charge.

No matter what we’re aiming at,
By grace we will do this… or that…

To one who knows what’s right within,
But does it not, it is a sin.

J A M E S – 5

The faithless rich will weep one day,
For all their riches will decay.

The cries of those abused in fraud,
Will rise before Almighty God.

As farmers wait throughout the year,
Wait patient Church, the Lord is near.

Please, don’t murmur anymore,
The Lord is standing at the door.

The compassion of the Lord is sure,
He will help you to endure.

Remember Job, the prophets too.
For godly mercy covers you.

Let not judgment bring you low,
Let yes be yes and no be no.

Do you suffer much today?
Then bow before the Lord and pray.

Are you joyful? Count the ways
the Lord has blessed you. Sing His praise!

Are you sick? In need of care?
Call your elders for oil and prayer…

The anointing oil, the prayer of faith,
Will raise you up and keep you safe.

Confess your sins to one another,
Each praying for their sister… brother…

Pray for healing… rain or sun,
God always hears the righteous one.

Should any stray from Truth’s control,
Then turn them back and save their soul.

— James 1-5

© 2014 by Ray McClendon. All Rights Reserved.




  1. I would love to share these poems with my congregation——what do I need to do to make that possible?

    Comment by Judy Fiske — May 24, 2021 @ 12:33 pm | Reply

    • Hi Judy.
      No idea. There’s an about page on his website but it was never completed. I would try to contact through Westbow Press which published his children’s book, Angels Whisper. Here’s the bio they have:

      Ray McClendon is a Poet Theologian who is very grateful to God for the gracious gift of verse and thirty years of teaching ministry that has provided a few insights along the way. Ray’s desire is to combine faithfulness to the stories and principles found in God’s Word with lovely art and clever rhyme to retell these Bible stories in a way that will entertain as well as instruct the mind, touch the heart, and fire the imagination. More of Ray’s poetic work may be found at his website, Reflections of A Poet Theologian, at

      Comment by paulthinkingoutloud — May 24, 2021 @ 1:27 pm | Reply

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