We break away for the next two readings from the book of the Acts of the Apostles to the book of James. The majority of scholars believe that this epistle was written by James, the Lord’s brother – rather than John’s brother, who was the first of the apostles to be martyred (likely beheaded) in Acts 12:1-2 about 14 years after Jesus’ resurrection. According to the historian Josephus (“Antiquities of the Jews“, Book 20, Chapter 9, 1), James the Lord’s brother was stoned; and the historical accounts surrounding that event allow his death to be reliably dated around 62 A.D. The book is only 5 chapters long, but its wisdom and encouragement of faith has been written about in many volumes (James is often called the “Proverbs of the New Testament”).
Verses 2-4 are a perfect example of the way that James so beautifully reminds of the teachings of Jesus (Matthew 5:11-12). The trials to which James refers are both the temptations of sin, and the adversities that one faces in this world due to hardship, persecution, and sometimes even tragedy. Macarthur noted that it is these trials “which Satan persistently uses to try to make Christians doubt they are indeed God’s children and fellow heirs with Jesus Christ.” As verses 13-15 remind us, God does not bring misfortune or temptation upon us.
The phrase “let steadfastness have its full effect” recognizes that we have a choice. We can “throw in the towel,” giving in to temptation or deciding that there is no point – no hope – in our faith. But if we face even the afflictions that bring pain into our lives with the determination to persevere and remain faithful to the Lord, we gain strength and the patience of courageous endurance that brings us closer to the perfection that Jesus taught us in Matthew 5:48.
The wisdom to bear these burdens and to know how to persevere is available simply for the asking. But one must have faith, and this means learning to trust in the Lord, and not in the world or in our own capability. That does not mean that there is no need for action on our part. Neither does it mean that God will instruct us specifically on every decision we make it life. It means that He will give us what we need to know in order to bear our burdens, escape from temptation, and learn the divine truth of the way to our salvation.
Satan uses the “double-mindedness” that James refers to in verse 8 in other ways as well. Verses 9-11 refer to different mind-sets of Christians in regard to wealth or the lack of same. Those in humble circumstances are not forsaken by God, and the wealthy are not blessed by God. Barclay noted that “…the great peril of riches is that they tend to bring to a man a false sense of security. He feels that he is safe; he feels that he has the resources to cope with anything; he feels that he can buy anything he wants, and buy himself out of any situation which he may wish to escape or to avoid.” We are reminded in Luke 12:15-21 of the brevity of life, and the poverty of a different sort that awaits those who value the wrong things in life. Conversely, verse 17 assures us that “every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” So we must never neglect giving thanks to Him for any good thing that comes to us.
The chapter concludes in verses 19-27 with the admonition that hearing (or reading, for that matter) is not enough if one does not do as the word of God says. One must stay unstained from the world, and a big emphasis is placed on keeping the tongue bridled. Verses 19-20 (be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger) remind us of Ecclesiastes 5:2, Proverbs 10:19 and Proverbs 14:29.
some images © V. Gilbert & Arlisle F. Beers
Please note: I did not design the reading plan that I am following in my blog. All of my comments in this blog, however, are solely my responsibility. When reading ANY commentary, you should ALWAYS refer first to the scripture, which is God’s unchanging and unfailing word. Reading schedules, as well as a link to the site where you can get the reading plan that I’m currently following for yourself can be found on the “Bible Reading Schedules” page of my website at http://graceofourlord.com. For questions and help, please see the “FAQ” and “Summaries” pages there.