“Matthew, Thomas, James son of Alphaeus, Simon who was called the Zealot…” (Luke 6:15, NIV)
The church has traditionally referred to James the Son of Alphaeus as “James the Less.” Not a favorable nickname by American standards. The reason for the name is the adjective used in Mark 16:1 to describe him: “micro”. Sometimes that Greek word means “small.” Sometimes it means “young.” In other words, his nickname was given to differentiate this James from the other James in the group of 12 disciples. That James, the son of Zebedee and brother of John, was one of the more important disciples and a part of Jesus’ inner circle. That was James the Leader. This was “little James” or “young James.”
In the four Gospels, “little James” doesn’t ask Jesus a question, doesn’t answer a question, doesn’t get into an argument with any of the others. He doesn’t do anything. He’s like an extra in the crowd scene of a movie. He’s there. You can find him as the camera pans the multitude…but you have to pause the show to get a glimpse of him. In other words, he’s easy to miss.
I can’t remember the first time I heard the phrase “flyover country.” The pejorative idiom made sense to me right away. The important people, the opinion-makers, the ones everyone should follow all live on the Eastern and Western seaboards. They are the politicians and lobbyists, the industrialists, the media, Wall Street and Madison Avenue, the Ivy League, the wealthy, the movie stars. Everything and everyone in between these important places and people is flyover country. It’s in the way. It just makes your flight longer.
The people that live in flyover country are quiet, steady workers. They are patriotic. They don’t crave the limelight. For years, political types have underestimated flyover people to their own detriment.
James the Less was one of these guys. We know next to nothing about him. He didn’t get headlines…his nickname is “Less!” Nevertheless, the Bible tells us that he was one of the foundational pillars of the church…and one of the foundation stones of the heavenly city New Jerusalem. Jesus was right: the first will be last and the last will be first. Less is more in a biblical economy!
In a similar way, the American church is predominantly “flyover”. The megachurches get the attention. We have our own “stars” we follow. There’s a group of 10 that supposedly speak for the rest of us on talk shows and news programs. But the majority of us quietly attend church weekly, give sacrificially, serve at VBS, live the gospel as best we can at home, work, and community. We pray together, worship together, work together. Like James the Less, the world may never hear of us…but heaven has.
I recently read a prophecy that spoke of a coming revival in America. It will start in flyover churches. May the Lord grant it…may we be prepared.
Don’t forget to join us for Father’s Day – we have some fun stuff planned and we’ll continue the discussion of James.
Keep up the good work!