James and the Sermon on the Mount

The connection between James and the Sermon on the Mount is striking in that there are so many that James could almost be a commentary. Maybe it’s just me, but I think that another curious feature of this connection is that while there are more direct correlations between James and Matthew than there are with Luke, James’ language is actually quite similar to Luke in its phrasing.

While it seems unlikely that he had those Gospels at his fingertips, it is highly likely that the teachings of Jesus on that occasion were treasured and protected by the early church, and James would surely have been at the forefront of such an effort. In a letter that serves the purpose as the primary New Testament document of moral instruction, what better source to draw from than the Sermon on the Mount, the highest and most exacting moral teaching of all history? The chart below shows how James and the Sermon are connected:

James’ Topic Sermon on the Mount Reference
Trial 1:2-4 MT 5:10-12,48; LK 6;23
Asking  1:5-8 MT 7:7-8; LK 11:9-10
Riches  1:9-11 MT 6:19-21
God’s Gifts  1:12-18 MT 7:11; LK 11:13
Listening  1:19-27 MT 5:22; 7:21-27; LK 6:46-49
Judging  2:1-13 MT 5:3,5,7,19-22; 7:1-5; LK 6:20
Faith and Works  2:14-26 MT 7:21-23
The Tongue  3:1-12 MT 7:16; LK 6:44-45
Wisdom  3:13-18 MT 5:5-9
Word of God  4:1-10 MT 5:4,8; 6:7-8; 24; 7:7-8; LK 6:25
Slander 4:11-12 MT 5:21-22; 7:1; LK 6:37
Tomorrow 4:13-17 MT 6:25-34
The Rich  5:1-6 MT 6:19-21; LK 6:24-25; 12:33
Patience 5:7-11 MT 5:11-12; 7:1; LK 6:22-23
Swearing  5:12 MT 5:33-37
Prayer  5:13-18 MT 6:12-15; 7:7-11

In case you didn’t look all that closely at the chart, the entire book of James is mapped out here, and what really strikes me is how clear it is when you look at this that James is making direct application of the teachings of Jesus to the daily lives of the members of the early church. Even more interesting is that he isn’t doing so in the legalistic way that so many people would do in later centuries, including our own, but in a way that preserves liberty while exhorting the people to hold high the standard of Jesus Christ in their love for one another.

To me, this makes James all the more useful and important a guide for every one of us.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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8 Responses to James and the Sermon on the Mount

  1. sullivanspin says:

    Amazing! I’d never heard of the connection between the book of James and the Sermon on the Mount. Thank you for sharing this.

  2. Reblogged this on Inspirations By Katheryn and commented:
    Very interesting. I wonder if James, Jesus’ half-brother, sneaked over and listened to some of Jesus’ teachings before going back home and harrassing Jesus for being a show-off. James was certainly a non-believer before Jesus came back to life.

  3. Brother, this is excellent. Never saw that before. Love it.


  4. Wally Fry says:

    Don, that is awesome. You know James is about my favorite book, and I have spent a lot of time in it. Yet, I have never seen that book to book comparison made. Thanks for that. That would make a great series in and of itself, to breakdown the parallels between the Sermon on the Mount and James.

  5. Pingback: James and the Sermon on the Mount – Truth in Palmyra

  6. photojaq says:

    Reblogged this on Morning Meditations and commented:
    A wonderful comparison of the book of James and Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount in Matthew & Luke. Read the verses and be amazed once again with the continuity of the Scriptures.

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