James 1:2–18comment (0)
July 16, 2009
By Jay T. Robertson
Related Scripture: James 1:2–18
Explore the Bible
Assistant Professor of Christian Studies, School of Christian Studies, University of Mobile
WHEN COMMON SENSE ISN’T ENOUGH
James wrote as a concerned pastor to his scattered congregation. After Stephen’s martyrdom, a severe persecution broke out against the church in Jerusalem (Acts 8:1) and Christ-
followers fled the city. Under the pressures of persecution and poverty, some had become bitter, depressed and impatient. This letter provided comfort for their sorrows, rebuke for their worldliness and counsel for redirecting their lives.
To Endure Trials (2–8)
God offers believers wisdom so they can endure times of trial. Wisdom is a God-given and God-centered discernment regarding the practical issues of life. For the Jewish mind, it is practical righteousness in everyday living. God gives Christ-followers wisdom to be able to see that trials have a purpose and are designed to produce spiritual maturity. When trials, or faith challenges, occur, one should consider them a joy — not meaning mere worldly, temporal happiness but rather spiritual, enduring, complete joy in the Lord who is sovereign over all things, including trials.
As Jesus was tested in the wilderness, so believers are tested. The word “testing” in verse 3 denotes a positive test intended to make one’s faith genuine. The result is endurance, a life of faithful endurance amid troubles. Endurance produces a spiritual maturity that enables the Christ-follower to live for the glory of God even in difficult times.
Trials should engender prayer. As you encounter various trials, ask God for wisdom. Wisdom is learned on our knees. Proverbs 2:6 says, “For the Lord gives wisdom; from His mouth come knowledge and understanding.” But we must ask for wisdom in faith because a “two-souled” or indecisive person will not receive wisdom. A double-minded person has a sense of what is right but a love of what is wrong. The believer must trust God will grant the request according to His will. Faith unlocks the divine storehouse but unbelief bars its doors. We insult God by doubting Him and treating Him as unworthy of confidence.
To Put Wealth Into Perspective (9–11)
God gives the believer wisdom so He can put wealth in its proper perspective. Both poverty and riches pressure a person to focus on the world rather than on Christ. James exhorted the poor to boast in their high status in Christ. The lowly brother will be exalted by God. In contrast, James exhorted the rich to boast in their humiliation by realizing their wealth is temporary and brings no advantage before God. Given the context, James seems to be saying the challenges of poverty and wealth are often some of the greatest trials for Christians. Throughout history, the test of prosperity has been the harder of the two tests for the Christian to pass. The love of money has led more believers to abandon the faith than poverty ever has. Those who desire to be rich, a common goal even for many evangelicals today, fall into temptation, which oftentimes leads them to sacrifice their commitment to Christ for a bowl of stew (Gen. 25:34).
To Resist Temptations (13–15)
James then turned to the other side of trials, when testing becomes temptation. God tests His people to strengthen their character, but He never tempts them to sin. A temptation is an inward enticement to evil. There is a close connection between outward trials and inward temptation. When one does not stand successfully in the face of outward trials, the result is often a stirring up of evil desires, which lead to open transgression against God. Each person is tempted when he or she is enticed by his or her own evil desires. The pattern of sin begins with desire and moves to deception. It results in disobedience and ends in death. When a person surrenders his or her will to desire, conception takes place and desire gives birth to sin. The wages of sin is death.
To Acknowledge God’s Gifts (12, 16–18)
God rewards believers who remain steadfast under trial. He lavishes good gifts on His people. Included in these good gifts are wisdom and salvation. May the Lord grant us the wisdom to remember the Source of all the good gifts we receive.