Answer to Question 1
Why does James tell us that we should "count it a joy" to be tempted?
James opens his "letter" with a salutation, or greeting. First he tells who the letter is from, James, "the Slave of God and the Lord Jesus Christ". The early church fathers often refer to themselves as the slaves of God because this showed their absolute devotion to God and his word.
It is addressed to the "twelve tribes who are scattered throughout the world." The early church thought of itself as the next step in Judaism. The Jewish Messiah had come. Thus their "people" were co-extensive with the Jewish people. This was primarilly in the days before Paul began to evangelize the Gentiles. Thus we have James addressing the "twelve tribes". Even so, the number 12 is also the number of apostles - it is thought that James might also be addressing the believers converted by the work of these men.
The fact that the Jews were spread over the civilized world is important to note because the diaspora aided in the spread of Christianity. The Synagogue was the first place a Christian Preacher went went teaching the Gospel in a new town.
In verse 2 James tells us to count it a joy to be tested. He understands that we are put through many trials, calamities and temptations (in the case of young people this might even include peer pressure). Sometimes these trials are because of our religion, and sometimes they come simply because we are alive. James knows that by facing these problems with courage we become stronger in our faith. Epictetus, a Roman Stoic Philosopher and favorite of Christian theologians, equated such testing with an Olympic wrestler who chooses tough opponents in his practice matches because they make him stronger than weak opponents do. This is why we should be happy to meet trials, because they will, in the end, make us better people, able to wrestle with the problems of life and salvation.
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