Fuel4Thought (Page 2)

Journeying through James 1:13-18 – Every Good and Perfect Gift

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. James 1:15‑18 (NIV)

James is a master of metaphor. In verse 15, the Greek word for “conceived” literally means to ‘to seize or arrest someone’ (Luke 22:54, Acts 1:16) or ‘to catch something’ like fish (Luke 5:7, 5:9). In their culture the same word was also used figuratively for conception. The word described Elizabeth (Luke 1:24) and Mary (Luke 2:21). Mary gave birth to Jesus—that’s good; Elizabeth gave birth to John the Baptist—that’s good, but we give birth to sin! And if you follow the progression, when sin becomes full-grown it gives birth to death! All this sounds shocking enough, but I think it’s easy to miss the real profound point that James is making. The only way out of this progression is by a gift of God’s grace. For example, where does James say that “every good and perfect gift” comes from?

James says, “Don’t be deceived.” What’s the deception? He’s identifying something that blinds every human being, unless God opens their eyes. The deception is this: we can’t see that what is really good and perfect comes only from God, God alone and not us. Human beings naturally take offense at such a thought. Some might think, “That’s absurd! People do many good things.” Others might respond, “Certainly, God notices and appreciates all the good that people do!” Actually, people seem to blame God for not doing enough good Himself in that they get upset with all the injustice and suffering in the world.

Think about Jesus’ very first sermon recorded in Matthew, chapters 5—7. He systematically takes away any good reason that any good person might have to boast before God. If you haven’t read that section for a while, this might be a good opportunity to check it out.

Jesus used the pinnacle of righteousness in their day, the Pharisee. Yes, a bad word to us nowadays, but it wasn’t back then. The Pharisee was a great example, in the day, of doing what is good and right before God. Jesus goes after the heart. In another place in Scripture, He said, “It is what comes from inside that defiles you. 21 For from within, out of a person’s heart, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, wickedness, deceit, lustful desires, envy, slander, pride, and foolishness. 23 All these vile things come from within; they are what defile you” (Mark 7:20-23, NLT). This is what people don’t see.

So, returning to James, that’s why he says, “God, the Father, chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created” (v. 18). A new heart and the new mind, this is our only hope—a gift of righteousness that comes from God our Heavenly Father. James calls this the Word of Truth in verse 18, and in the next study, we’ll look at what that expression means.

Journeying through James 1:16-18

Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. James 1:16‑18 (NIV)

James want to impress on us that God is in no way responsible for human sin. He is a good and loving Father, who never changes. He is the source of all good. The picture that James gives is of the heavenly bodies wandering in the universe; while God is constant, faithful, unchanging.

At the same time, however, He warns us: “Don’t be deceived…” (v.16), and in the context, I immediately thought of astrology. When I was a kid, I had a friend whose mom practiced astrology; and people would pay her good money for a professional reading. Astrology is founded on the movements and relative positions of celestial bodies such as the sun, moon and planets.

God, who set the planets on their changing paths, wants us to appreciate that He never changes. People can be easily be led to put their faith and hope in an elaborate system created by human beings. To most, astrology seems like just a harmless curiosity, but beware of its subtle deception, astrology is a lie that draws us away from our loving Father God.

God’s purpose, for us who believe in Him, is that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He has created, a new creation in Christ. The word “firstfruits” in Hebrew referred to the first portions of grain and fruit harvested (bread, Ex 23:16; grapes, Num 13:20; figs, Nah 3:12). This portion was given to the Lord as a thank offering, and it was also given to support the priests (cf. Lev 2:14; Num:12–13).

God has created you in Christ to give Him thanks and praise, and He also wants our lives to be a blessing of love and service to one another.

Journeying through James 1:2-15 (an epilogue)

Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do. 9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. 12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:2‑15 (NIV)

Unless you’re a cattle farmer you’ve probably never heard of sweet clover poisoning. I hadn’t. When fresh, the plants are alright for grazing, but moldy clover in hay or silage can cause spontaneous and uncontrollable bleeding. Ironically, clinical tests in the 1950s showed that this same substance could save lives. The drug is called, warfarin, one of the most widely prescribed oral anticoagulant drugs today. *

James 1:2‑15, looks at one Greek word, “peirasmois” (πειρασμοῖς), which is translated into two different words, “trials”, and “temptations”, in English. He describes to us how trials can have two radically different results in us. You can’t get a greater contrast than “the crown of life” versus sin and death (v. 15). When we struggle to understand difficult passages in the Bible, it’s best to let Scripture interpret Scripture. That’s probably one of the best ways to apply what James says in 1:5, “If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking.”

I thought of a situation in Numbers 13-14 where the faith of some was strengthened, and the faith of others fell apart. “The LORD now said to Moses, 2 ‘Send out men to explore the land of Canaan, the land I am giving to the Israelites. Send one leader from each of the twelve ancestral tribes’” (Numbers 13:1-2, NLT). After forty days they returned; two of the twelve trusted God; ten of them doubted.

James warned, in verses 6-8, about how doubting can creep into us. In Numbers, you can see how that played out: “Caleb tried to quiet the people as they stood before Moses. ‘Let’s go at once to take the land,’ he said. ‘We can certainly conquer it!’ 31 But the other men who had explored the land with him disagreed. ‘We can’t go up against them! They are stronger than we are!’ 32 So they spread this bad report about the land among the Israelites” (Numbers 13:30–32, NLT).

The faith of Caleb and Joshua was strengthened, but ten of the twelve doubted. In the rest of Numbers 13-14, things continued to unravel: “the whole community began weeping aloud, and they cried all night. 2 Their voices rose in a great chorus of protest against Moses and Aaron. ‘If only we had died in Egypt, or even here in the wilderness!’ they complained. 3 ‘Why is the LORD taking us to this country only to have us die in battle?’” (Numbers 14:1-3, NLT).

Here’s how I would apply all of this to my daily life. It all starts with having a relationship with God—fall in love with the Lord Jesus Christ. “Grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter 3:18); that’s what James is sharing in verses 2-18:

  • Temptation has to do with sin. If is it smells like fish, it’s fish. Jesus said, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the first and greatest commandment. 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 22:37-40, NIV). If what you’re doing is against these two basic commandments, take care and ask God to lead you out of temptation (Matthew 6:13, Luke 11:4, 1 Corinthians 10:13). But as James points out, the way out can get much more complicated when a person’s “own evil desire leads them away and traps them” (v.14, NCV).
  • Trials have to do with maturity. Caleb and Joshua viewed God and His promises very differently than the others did. So it makes sense that James ends this section and begins the next with the following: “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (vv. 17-18, ESV).

James points us to God, to trust in the goodness of God who has given us new life in Christ. If we trust in what He has said, He’s able to lead us out of temptation. If we persevere in faith, He will use our trials to refine our faith, removing the dross and revealing true gold.

Journeying through James, 1:13-15

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:13‑15 (NIV)

Perhaps one of the best examples of what James is teaching about here would be the Israelites’ deliverance from slavery in Egypt, and subsequent journey under Moses through the wilderness, to the land that God has sworn to give them through His promise to Abraham.

Just as the people were on the verge of leaving Egypt, God gave them some very clear and helpful wisdom: “When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, ‘If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ 18 So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle” (Exodus 13:17‑18, NLT).

God had absolutely no intention of hurting the people by any means. God had a bigger picture in mind of developing their personal faith in Him, so that they could better work together to accomplish His will. God fully understands our weaknesses.

All of life is a potential threat to sin for the child of God. This is because we battle with our sinful nature which Paul helpfully points out:

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (Galatians 5:16‑17, NLT).

“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” (Romans 8:5‑6, NLT).

So, returning to our text from James, God is reminding you of a very real threat that all people face because of their sinful nature. James uses a vivid hunting metaphor in the Greek text. The expression “lured and enticed” refers to bait in a trap. Just as a hunter would set a trap with bait specific to the preferences of the game he wants to catch, there are many different things in life that could tempt us to sin. It is good for us to be aware of the desires we have which are most likely to lure us into sin, so that we can live life with sober caution. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our propensity to stumble and our need for Him:

  • He leads us away from temptation to sin (Matthew 6:13, Luke 11:4).
  • He has given us the gift of forgiveness in Christ (Ephesians 2:8‑10),
  • and He encourages us to rely on Him for help (Hebrew 4:14-16).
  • He has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead us and empower us to walk in His ways (Galatians 5:16-18, 5:25, Romans 8:13‑15 , 1 John 3:24).

If the way seems dark, or if you have fallen, here’s a great word from Joshua: “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5, NIV). I think this word is especially encouraging because it came at the end of their wilderness journey after so many had fallen. So, look up, rather than down; look forward, rather than back. God had a good plan and the horrible wilderness didn’t stop it. Rather, as James wrote previously in his epistle: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:2‑5, NIV).

Journeying through James, 1:12 (more to be said)

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 (NIV)

James says that “a person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him” (vs. 12) Loving God is not only possible for those in Christ, it’s required of us. “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Luke 10:27, NIV). And we know why we love: “There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. 19 We love because he first loved us” (1 John4:18‑19, NIV); “and so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them” (1 John 4:16, NIV)

Where people trip up in this relationship of love with Christ is in trying to work their way to heaven. Practically speaking James points out a number of areas in his epistle where believers will lay the law down on other believers, non-believers (and even themselves) when they should rather realize that “mercy triumphs over judgement” (James 2:13). Please note that sometimes people do this in a way that is very difficult to understand or perceive at first glance; so, as Dezi Arnez would say to Lucille Ball in I Love Lucy, “I gonna essplain you.”

It is not uncommon for churches to have favorite hymns or songs, liturgies or ways of doing things. Some churches say you should only use a certain Bible translation, and yet others sternly advise no drinking or smoking, and of course, there are very obvious, grievous sins such as immorality, pornography, gossip, rage, prejudice, lying, stealing, etc.

Now I’d like highlight that James will later say, “My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment” (James 3:1, NKJV). I think this means that God has uniquely placed some people in the body of Christ to make sound judgments on His behalf for the blessing, guidance, and direction of His people. In rare cases. like (Ananias and Sapphira, Acts 5:1‑11), we see the Holy Spirit moving quickly with summary judgement against corrupt behavior. In other exceptional situations, Paul, Peter, Jude, and John, for example, were tasked by God to warn Christians in regard to the sinful activity of people. Paul warned, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9, NKJV; see also 1 Corinthians 5:6–7).

Our first, best, and most powerful response to sin is also the most personally challenging: love. Loving God in Christ is supposed to give you great fear, not of punishment from God (c.f. 1 John 4:18‑19 above), but rather a sobering fear of the gravity of sin. You can glory in the immeasurable tolerance and love that God has demonstrated to you in Christ (Isaiah 53:10, 2 Corinthians 5:20–21). Really ponder the wonder of this amazing grace and graciously extend it to others. Does this mean that you approve of sin or the person needs to change before you love them? Christ didn’t; rather, His love changes us (1 John 4:18‑19 and 1 John 4:16 above). Sharing mercy over judgement reveals that you really believe that the grace of God in Christ conquers sin.

Our first and primary motivation in living life and serving others (not to mention serving our Lord Jesus) is love. The danger for you, as a believer, is to gauge how another believer is doing based on whether the person has kept some rule or regulation. You wouldn’t want God to evaluate you like that. So, you need to persevere in love, as James says later, in verse 19‑20, “My dear brothers and sisters, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 because human anger does not produce the righteousness that God desires” (NIV).

Returning to verse 12:

  • It’s a great encouragement to know that God will help you persevere under trial or temptation. Pray for one another to not only survive, but thrive by means of the grace of Jesus Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • The crown of life is something that God really intends to give us. If we concentrate on our failings (or focus on the failings of others), we may underestimate God’s ability to save. “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will reveal the counsels of the hearts; and then each one’s praise will come from God” (1 Corinthians 4:5, NKJV). “Mercy triumphs over judgment” (James 2:13) and “Love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Peter 4:9, Proverbs 10:12).
  • We should take sin very seriously, encouraging people to rely on the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:12-13) emphasizing that Christ fully paid our debt of sin (Hebrews 10:15-23).

God’s love for us took the form of Jesus, “being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross” Philippians 2:8 (NKJV). Let us then persevere in loving God and others—this is be the greatest challenge anyone could ever be called to. But Christ has called us to do just that. Consider how you can be an example of love to others. Ask God to make your life a testimony of Christ’s love. This is the highest and most noble cause—a beautiful crown of life!

Journeying through James, 1:12

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. James 1:12 (NIV)

Usually when people think of “perseverance” (v. 12) synonyms like persistence, resolve, grit, determination help amplify the meaning. Merriam-Webster defines perseverance as: “continued effort to do or achieve something despite difficulties, failure, or opposition,” * but I think we lose the meaning of this verse if we aren’t able understand how trials magnify the power and love of Christ.
Remember that Daniel was thrown into a lions’ den. The lions were very real, and hungry, but Daniel’s testimony to King Darius was, “My God sent his angel, and he shut the mouths of the lions. They have not hurt me, because I was found innocent in his sight. Nor have I ever done any wrong before you, Your Majesty” (Daniel 6:22, NIV).

The Greek word for “perseverance” * means something very different than the English word. It comes from a word that means ‘to remain’ or ‘abide’. Then, to this word ‘remain/abide’ is added a preposition which means ‘under’ even ‘under the control of’ in some cases. So, to use Daniel as an example of God’s grace, Daniel really wasn’t under the control of the lions. Rather, the lions were under God’s control and that was good news for Daniel and a powerful testimony to the king, Darius, and his kingdom. And if we think of Daniel getting a “crown of life” (v. 12), it’s hard to see how Daniel could take any credit for it at all.

There are times in life when you may feel like a trial has got control of you, but the Holy Spirit wants you to see that God’s control is greater. Daniel spent the whole night in the lions’ den. Imagine how he felt when the lions looked at him. Was he afraid to move? I wonder if he went to sleep at all that night. If he did, he must woke up amazed at the depth of peace God provided. God rescued him from the lions, and if that weren’t enough, God also overcame his fear. Whether he slept or whether he prayed through the night, Daniel’s faith in God was surely strengthened as a result of the trial he endured. This is really good news for you because God has no intention of dumping you in the midst of any trial and leaving you to fend for yourself. I think we need the Holy Spirit to remind us always of this. May we wait for God’s promised deliverance, and not give up, though the night be long, we will have joy in the morning.

Journeying through James, 1:11

Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1:12‑15 (NIV)

When we see children walk for the first time, there’s a certain joyous expectation that captures us. Even though the little ones almost always fall, we count their steps in anticipation and in joy to see them growing up. And the little ones get so excited that everybody is cheering them on. Let me try to relieve some stress for you regarding how God looks at you.

You’ve probably heard the story of Job in the Bible. Job gained a very interesting perspective on God. He came to the conclusion that “Surely then you will count my steps, but not keep track of my sin.” (Job 14:16, NIV). Job’s friends didn’t understand this.

James points to perseverance as a true sign of Christian faith. We are not exempt from trials. Jesus takes our hand as we walk through them. Job’s friends saw God as a judge making note of where they sinned. Job knew he was not perfect, yet he praised God because he knew that God was his hope no matter what. Doesn’t this define true perseverance? “Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ” (2 Thessalonians 3:5, NKJV)

Journeying through James, 1:10

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. James 1:9‑11 (NIV)

Why would James say “the rich in his humiliation?” Many rich people have money and power enough to avoid significant humiliation in this world. In Jesus’ and James’ day, most thought the rich were blessed, and today, many think the same.

Jesus gave us a great parable on this subject. Remember that James was Jesus’ brother, so I wonder if James heard Jesus say, “A rich man had a fertile farm that produced fine crops… 18 he said, ‘I’ll tear down my barns and build bigger ones. Then I’ll have room enough to store all my wheat and other goods. 19 And I’ll sit back and say to myself, “My friend, you have enough stored away for years to come. Now take it easy! Eat, drink, and be merry!”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘You fool! You will die this very night. Then who will get everything you worked for?’” (Luke 12:16, 18-20, NLT). Jesus brought the punchline: “Yes, a person is a fool to store up earthly wealth but not have a rich relationship with God” (Luke 12:21, NLT).

This is serious fuel for thought for everyone, because James says, “For no sooner has the sun risen with a burning heat than it withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beautiful appearance perishes” (v. 11, NKJV). James is not referring to crops, but to the human soul. Our earthly end may come sooner than we expect, and what we have cannot accompany us, but only the memory of how we used it. This is something that God keeps excellent records on, and, sadly enough, many are oblivious to that fact when they leave this world.

God doesn’t want anyone to be humiliated. He wants to exalt us—doesn’t that sound amazing, but it is true! Jesus told the story of a Pharisee and a tax collector—both of whom were typically wealthy in Jesus’ day: “The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like… like this tax collector. 12 I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ 13 But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ 14 I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.” (Luke 18:11‑14 NIV)

We are all poor in spirit, but the good news is that Christ has paid the debt that our sins have piled up, and now we are free, blessed, with only one debt remaining: “Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8, NIV). Whether you’re rich, or poor, or somewhere in-between, the call is to share the love of Christ. We can do that in a material way, but that’s not the only way. Let us give serious thought to how we can share the love of Jesus, with what God has given us, in the station of life that He has called us to.

Journeying through James, 1:9-11

Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position. 10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business. James 1:9‑11 (NIV)

James is not passing judgment on being either rich or poor. Consider the immediate context: just prior to these verses, he wrote, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds” (James 1:2). He made no distinction between being rich or poor in verse 2, so why now?

This passage is not saying the rich are bad, and it’s not saying that it’s bad to be poor. What it is saying is that whether someone is rich, or poor, or anywhere in-between, the “testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything” (James 1:3b‑4, NIV).

James is concerned about our spiritual life. A person’s economic and social standing presents unique challenges to his spiritual development. God is making us like Jesus Christ. The rich person wrestles with this with his own unique challenges, just a poor person does with the difficulties that he has to face.

Both poverty and prosperity present trials that test our faith. Either may result in spiritual disaster. The Christian who is poor materially can rejoice in his high spiritual position as a child of God. At the same time, the rich person can rejoice in new values. The apostle Paul described what those values look like for a wealthy Christian: “Command those who are rich in this present world not to be arrogant nor to put their hope in wealth, which is so uncertain, but to put their hope in God, who richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment. 18 Command them to do good, to be rich in good deeds, and to be generous and willing to share” (1 Timothy 6:17‑18, NIV). The circumstances of your life are an opportunity to ask God how you should live for Christ. On this point we are all the same. James will return to social responsibility to the poor later in his epistle, but what he’s arguing here is that poverty and riches have their unique challenges to living in Christian faith.

Rich or poor, Christians share the challenge to love all people regardless of social or economic status. Love others the way Jesus loves you. At the cross of Christ, where Jesus was crucified, and at the tomb, where His body was laid, rich and poor were united in their love for the Savior. My heart-felt prayer is that we would really ponder what James is teaching. How is the Kingdom of God (of which we are now citizens) different than this world? Where do you need to seek wisdom from God to live your life in a Christ-like way?

Journeying through James, 1:8

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. James 1:5‑8 (ESV)

Why should a person “suppose that he will not receive anything from the Lord?” That’s a really strong statement and seems so hard to understand. Isn’t God’s favor unearned and unmerited? James wrote in verse 5, that the same Lord “gives generously to all without reproach,” so how are we to understand this? James’ primary concern here is that we would ask God for wisdom and not doubt that the Lord will give it to us. He’s saying that doubting gets in the way of receiving the goodness and blessings that God has for us.

He knows that doubting makes our love for Jesus, and for His followers, grow cold. James was Jesus’ brother. John tells us about him: “But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, 3 and Jesus’ brothers said to him, “Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! 4 You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!” 5 For even his brothers didn’t believe in him” John 7:2‑5 (NLT). It’s hard to imagine that James went from such cold-hearted indifference to ardent belief. He knows firsthand that doubting makes us indifferent and even hostile to the kind and loving Jesus.

Doubting can lead to not seeing the amazing miracles that could happen in our lives. For example: “Coming to his hometown, he began teaching the people in their synagogue, and they were amazed. “Where did this man get this wisdom and these miraculous powers?” they asked. 55 “Isn’t this the carpenter’s son? Isn’t his mother’s name Mary, and aren’t his brothers James, Joseph, Simon and Judas? 56 Aren’t all his sisters with us? Where then did this man get all these things?” 57 And they took offense at him. But Jesus said to them, “A prophet is not without honor except in his own town and in his own home.” 58 And he did not do many miracles there because of their lack of faith” Matthew 13:54‑58 (NIV). Even today, everyone has an opinion about who Jesus is, but those who simply put their faith in Him will see Him do good things in their lives.

So, James really knows what he’s talking about. He’s come full circle in understanding and appreciating who Jesus is; and he doesn’t want anyone to miss that. It might not seem apparent upon first reading his epistle, but James is very understanding and compassionate toward others in their struggles to believe and follow Jesus.

68.17 ὑπομένω: to continue in an activity or state despite resistance and opposition—‘to continue, to remain, to endure.’ μακάριος ἀνὴρ ὃς ὑπομένει πειρασμόν ‘happy is the man who experiences temptation and still continues (to trust)’ Jas 1:12. For another interpretation of ὑπομένω in Jas 1:12, see 39.20 below.1

39.20 ὑπομένω: to resist by holding one’s ground—‘to resist, to hold one’s ground, to not be moved.’ μακάριος ἀνὴρ ὃς ὑπομένει πειρασμόν ‘happy is the man who holds his ground when he is tempted’ Jas 1:12.2


1. Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition., Vol. 1, p. 655). New York: United Bible Societies.

2. ibid. (p. 494).