Modern Bible Commentary on James 1:1-18

“James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes scattered among the nations–Greetings (James 1:1).”

The book of James was most likely written by James, the brother of Jesus around 50 AD. Each epistle usually begins with a greeting or salutation similar to the one stated here. James identifies himself as a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, the author is writing to Jewish believers in the Messiah who are scattered among the nations or “dispersed” throughout Israel.

“Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds,because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

This is the opposite of what the culture teaches us today. The world tells us to run from pain and embrace pleasure. However, Scripture teaches us that when we face trials or hardships, we will grow stronger. In fact, trials can strengthen our faith. At the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, “Blessed are those persecuted for righteousness sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven (Matt. 5:10).” Therefore, when you are struggling, rejoice that you are being sanctified and your reward is great in heaven.

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.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. That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do (James 1:5-8).”

Wisdom is defined as having experience, knowledge, and good judgment. This is a needed virtue today in our broken world, where proper judgment is lacking. For instance, we are in the middle of a pandemic and people are still refusing to wear a mask even though the CDC guidelines have shown that it limits the spread of the disease. People are more interested in conspiracy theories and political allegiance rather than scientific proof.

Nevertheless, true wisdom is more than just scientific knowledge or intellectual reasoning. Wisdom comes from God and it’s a prerequisite to have knowledge of God before wisdom can be firmly established. This is because wisdom comes from God, and we must ask God to give us wisdom just like Solomon did.

When you do ask for wisdom, you must believe and not doubt. This means that faith and wisdom are interrelated. They are contingent upon one another. If you have faith that can move mountains, you are grounded in wisdom (Matt. 17:20).

Furthermore, you don’t want to be a doubter because then wisdom can’t have a foundation to stand upon. You will be blown and tossed around by the wind, making poor choices and relying on your own understanding (Prov. 3:5) rather than God’s. This type of person is double-minded, meaning they go back and forth, changing their mind too many times. They are unstable. They are unpredictable, which demonstrates they are immature.

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 (James 1:9-11).”

As believers, we ought to humble ourselves and boast in the Lord. For He has given us all things, including our jobs and places of high position. The platform we have as Christians should not be taken for granted. If you have a position of authority, use it wisely and for the advancement of God’s kingdom.

The rich, however, should take pride in their humiliation since they will pass away like a wild flower. These are strong words of judgment toward the wealthy who neglect God. As you might be aware, people who have great wealth are tempted to be full of pride and boastful in their own achievements. But the Lord says the exact opposite and warns them that their pride will be turned into humiliation when they are condemned.

God uses metaphors to describe how He will judge the world. Just like the sun can scorch a plant in a matter of minutes, or a flower can be short-lived and then die, so will the rich fade away as they continue to go about their business. Scripture tells us we cannot serve two masters: People will either hate the one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other–you cannot serve both God and money (Matt. 6:24).

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).”

As an athlete, you can suffer physical and mental exhaustion by training on a daily basis. This is why it’s important to have a goal in mind when you are training. You want to be able to look forward to something in the future so that you can grit through the short-lived pain.

For example, I was a swimmer and loathed waking up early in the morning for a grueling practice. However, I knew that my training would ultimately lead to receiving a personal best time and so it made the pain worth it. This striving for human achievement pales in comparison to being obedient to the Lord because the crown of life that the Lord promises to those who love him is everlasting. Knowing God and spending our lives with Him in heaven is worth the temporary suffering we experience on earth, as Paul clearly states in Romans 8:18.

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 1:13-15).”

God is not the tempter. He is sovereign over our decisions and permits us to make bad decisions, but ultimately it is our evil desires that lure us into sin. As Scripture teaches, each person is tempted when their carnal nature entices them to disobey God’s righteous commands. Thus, it’s vital that we put off the old self and put on the new by the renewing of our mind in Christ Jesus (Eph. 4:22-23).

The Lord is faithful and will not tempt you beyond what you can bear, but will provide a way of escape (1 Cor.10:13). If you decide to ignore the narrow road that leads to life and choose the broad way that leads to destruction (Matt. 7:13), your evil desire will give birth to sin. And when you continue to feed sin by your lusts, it gets stronger and grows bigger until ultimately leading to your death.

Romans 6:23 tells us, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life.” You should always choose life. Do not allow your fleshy desires or the tempter Satan to snare you away from our heavenly Father. When you do sin, call upon the name of the Lord. If you confess your sins, the Lord is faithful and just to forgive you of all your sins, and cleanse you from all unrighteousness (1 John 1:9).

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 warns his Jewish Christian friends not to be deceived. This repeated warning in Scripture should sound the alarm for all of us that deception is a common foe. However, the good news is that our heavenly Father, who gives us every good and perfect gift, does not change. He is all-powerful, sovereign, and all-loving. There is nothing that can separate us from the love of God that is found through Jesus Christ our Lord (Rom. 8:39).

As believers, we can be confident that He will not change his plans but will work together for our good. He chose to give us birth, which demonstrates that there is a reason for our existence. Our purpose is to be a harvest for him to celebrate. We are children of the living God, and when we sing praises to Adonai, He rejoices and is exceedingly glad. For these reasons, we should be confident that our trials will soon be gone and ultimately lead to fellowshipping with God forevermore. Are you looking forward to this? I know I am. Let’s pray!

Dear heavenly Father,

Thank you for the epistle of James. This passage speaks to our hearts, minds, and souls so that we can be a beacon of light to a dark and broken world. Even though we experience brokenness ourselves, may we cling to your goodness and promises. Remind us to look forward to the day when you redeem, sanctify, and ultimately deliver us from pain and suffering. We know you are a good, good Father. Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to die on our behalf so that we can have this relationship with you. We give you all the praise, glory, and honor in Jesus name. Amen!

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