James acknowledges that he no longer belongs to himself. He is owned by God; he is now the property of Jesus Christ, his new master. But this was not always the case. Even though James and his brothers daily witnessed the sinlessness of Jesus, as well as his miracles (such as turning water into wine, John 2:12), they did not believe in him as Messiah. It appears that none of them did until after Jesus was crucified, buried, and risen.
Name-dropping is a popular way to impress others—even among Christians. To casually mention our association or loose acquaintance with a prominent person may immediately enlarge our perceived worth or influence in the eyes of those whose respect we crave. But James, the half-brother of Jesus himself, doesn’t succumb to that temptation. Instead, he calls himself “a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”
James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Scripture informs us that James was one of at least six half-siblings of Jesus, the biological children of Joseph and Mary (Matt. 13:54-56). Though a half-brother, James was a blood relative of Jesus Christ just the same. Yet, never does James drop his half-brother’s name but instead introduces himself merely as “a servant of God.” He does not endorse himself as “James, the blood brother of Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah; chief leader and spokesperson of the church in Jerusalem; defender of the gospel of grace; called an apostle by Paul himself” even though all of that is true (Acts 15:13, 19; Gal. 1:19; 2:9). On the contrary, James works hard not to draw attention to himself.
The term servant is best translated “slave,” which is the literal meaning of the Greek word doulos and “indicates full subjection to the authority of another.” By referring to himself as such, James acknowledges that he no longer belongs to himself.