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Bible: What Does James 1 Teach Us About Wisdom and Trials?
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James 1: "Consider It All Joy"
God Uses Trials to Mature Us
James, the author of this epistle and a half-brother of Jesus, rightly designates himself “a bondservant (doulos, slave) of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ” (v. 1). He is writing this exhortation to the victims of the Diaspora: Hebrew Christians persecuted and scattered throughout the Roman Empire (v. 2).
After addressing these believers as “brethren,” James urges them to consider (count, reckon) the varieties of troubles (“trials”) that they were experiencing at that time as reasons to rejoice, knowing that God was using these tests of their faith to enable them to “remain under” (hupomone) the load and endure future pressure [v. 3].
Not only will a joyful attitude amid testing give them the strength of will to remain under the burden, but it will also eventually produce spiritual maturity (not sinless perfection) in them so that they will not sense a need for anything but God (v. 4).
Ask God for Wisdom
James encourages them to ask their generous and merciful God for wisdom while they weather hard times; he promises them that the Lord will give them ability to make righteous decisions (v. 5). However, he hastens to qualify this act of asking: it must proceed from a heart full of faith and not waver in unbelief, behaving haphazardly like a wind-tossed wave (v. 6). If those who ask for wisdom doubt God’s goodness, they have no right to expect the Lord to give them what they request (v. 7). People who act as if they have two minds—one mind loyal to one belief, and the other faithful to its opposite—exhibit instability in all their relationships and activities (v. 8).
James advises people with and without financial means how they should look at their life’s circumstances while undergoing trials (vv. 9-11). The poor Christian ought to revel in his elevated position in Christ (v. 9), while the wealthy believer, realizing his mortality, should acknowledge that he will not live long enough to be able to enjoy all he has. [Compare James’ counsel with the advice of Solomon in Ecclesiastes]. James compares the length of a rich man’s life to that of a flower of the field (v. 10). The years of his youthful beauty quickly pass, and soon he departs the world scene (v. 11). Whether rich or poor, the one who perseveres under God’s testing with the right attitude will experience great happiness, and afterwards receive “the crown of life” because of his love for the Lord (v. 12). [Ryrie points out that the noun form of the Greek word peirasmos means “test, trial” in verses two and twelve. God sends trials to “prove the quality of one’s character” (419)].
Solicitation to Do Evil
In verse thirteen, James uses the verb form of peirasmos; here the word carries the sense of “a solicitation to evil.”
He warns believers not to err in their thinking by saying that God is tempting them to do evil; since evil cannot tempt God, He cannot ask people to do what is wrong (v. 13).
James points his finger at the real culprit—mankind’s inner evil desire or lust—as the impulse that lures them away from safety into danger (v. 14).
Following through with that inordinate desire constitutes sin against God; if that sin persists, physical death will result (v. 15).
Addressing his Hebrew Christian readers now as “my beloved brethren,” James warns them not to let Satan deceive them into thinking that they can escape (v. 16).
Rather than solicit believers to do wrong, the immutable “Father of lights”—(Ryrie suggests that this designation means that He is the One who is “the source of all light” [New Testament Study Bible, 420])—showers upon them from heaven “every good gift and every perfect gift” (v. 17).
Causing them to become regenerate believers through their belief in the gospel (“He brought us forth by the word of truth”) stands as His chief gift; He decreed their salvation as first-fruits, guaranteeing that others would follow (v. 18).
In light of their salvation, believers (“my beloved brethren”) ought to approach their trials with a certain perspective:
(1) Listen patiently to godly counsel;
(2) Speak only after adequate consideration; and
(3) Exercise continual control over their temper (v. 19).
James concludes that mankind’s outbursts of anger never bring about what God would accept as right outcomes (v. 20).
What they also ought to do is excise all wicked thoughts and behavior from their lives (negative) and meekly accept the powerful gospel message that saves people from temporal and eternal destruction (positive) [v. 21].
The Perfect Law of Liberty
James argues that if people merely hear the message but do not practice what it says, they lie to themselves (v. 22).
He compares “a hearer only” to a careless male who forgets to repair the disarray he sees in the mirror (vv. 23-24).
On the contrary, God will surely bless the one who continually reads “the perfect law of liberty” (the OT) and does what it commands (“is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work”) [v. 25].
Professing religionists who cannot control their tongue deceive themselves; all their “good works” mean nothing to God (v. 26).
The Lord approves of a “pure and undefiled religion” that consists of
(1) showing compassionate concern for the truly abandoned in society and
(2) taking a resolute stand for holiness (v. 27).
© 2013 glynch1