The Epistle of
James, a slave of God and of Sovereign Jesus Christ,* to the twelve tribes that are in the Dispersion: Greetings.
Various exhortations
Count it all joy,§ my brothers, whenever you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance; but let that endurance have a complete work,* so that you may be perfect and complete, falling short in nothing.
About wisdom
But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask from the giving God, who gives to all liberally and does not reproach, and it will be given to him. However, let him ask in faith, with no doubting, because he who doubts is like a sea wave driven and tossed by the wind— such a man should not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
Now the lowly brother should glory in his high position,§ 10 but the rich brother in his humiliation,* because he will pass away like a flower of wild grass. 11 For the sun rises with its burning heat and withers the grass, and its flower falls off and the beauty of its face perishes. Just so the rich man will be withered in his undertakings.
About testings
12 A man who endures testing is blessed, because upon becoming approved§ he will receive the crown of the life that the Lord* has promised to those loving Him. 13 Let no one, upon being tempted, say, “I am being tempted by God,” because God is untemptable by evil, so He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted by his own craving, being taken in tow and enticed. 15 Then the craving, upon conceiving, gives birth to sin, and the sin, upon completion, delivers death.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers: 17 every good giving and every perfect gift is from Above,§ coming down from the Father of the lights,* with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. 18 Having willed it, He brought us forth by a word of truth, so that we might be a sort of firstfruits of His products.
19 So then,§ my beloved brothers, let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 because a man's anger does not achieve God's righteousness.*
About obeying the Word
21 Therefore, laying aside all filthiness and overflow of evil, receive with meekness the implanted Word which is able to save your souls. 22 Further, become word doers and not just hearers, deceiving yourselves. 23 Because if anyone is a law§ hearer and not a doer, the same is like a man observing his physical face in a mirror; 24 for he observes himself, then goes away and promptly forgets what he is like. 25 But he who looks carefully into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it,* he—not being a forgetful hearer but a work doer—he will be blessed in what he does.
26 If anyone among you thinks he is religious, not bridling his tongue but deceiving his heart, his religion is useless. 27 Pure and undefiled religion before God and Father§ is this: to care for orphans and widows in their adversity;* to keep oneself unspotted from the world.
* 1:1 There is no definite article with ‘Sovereign Jesus Christ’, so I treat the phrase like a proper noun. Note that James, half-brother of Jesus (same mother), declares himself to be His slave. Another half-brother, Jude, does the same (Jude 1). They make no special claim, based on that relationship. 1:1 If there are twelve, then none are ‘lost’. Evidently James is writing to Jewish Christians. If this letter was written around 45 AD, it was before the explosive increase of the Gentile Church resulting from Paul's ministry. It would also be around the time of the Jerusalem Council recorded in Acts 15 (see the footnote at Acts 15:19). 1:1 See 1 Peter 1:1. § 1:2 Joy, not happiness or pleasure. * 1:4 Since trials tend to be unpleasant, we tend to try to cut them short, but if they are lessons that need to be learned, we need to endure until the lesson is fully learned. I believe Paul Billheimer (Don't Waste Your Sorrows) has given us a handle on a basic truth—the only way a human being can learn αγαπη love is through suffering. And the mainspring of God's Kingdom is αγαπη love, and God wants to prepare His servants for their responsibilities in the next world. So the lessons God wants us to learn come wrapped in unpleasant circumstances; but if we refuse a given lesson our spiritual growth stops. Further, sooner or later that lesson will return, and will keep on returning until we learn, or die (which is why Billheimer says, “don't waste your sorrows”, because if we don't learn the first time we will have wasted that suffering). Notice verse 12 below. 1:5 One of God's characteristics is that He gives, and evidently wisdom is something that He especially enjoys giving. What better time to ask for wisdom than when we are in the middle of a test? 1:8 In verse 7 we have the generic term for man, but here the term refers to males. § 1:9 I assume that the reference is to his position in Christ, in spite of his low social standing. * 1:10 I take the point to be that he has already been humbled; otherwise he probably would not have trusted in Christ. 1:10 Presumably this is true of a lowly person as well, but they are usually less arrogant, more aware of their vulnerability. 1:11 Sovereign Jesus said that someone who trusts in riches cannot be saved (Mark 10:24); not infrequently God uses financial reverses to bring people to Himself. § 1:12 So what happens if we squirm out from under the testing and are not approved? * 1:12 The so-called ‘critical’ text (really ‘eclectic’) omits ‘the Lord’, following 2% of the Greek manuscripts, of objectively inferior quality. Curiously, versions like NIV, TEV and NASB, that usually follow the ‘critical’ text, here create their own Greek text, following 4% of the manuscripts in reading ‘God’. 1:12 The proof of our love is obedience (John 14:21). 1:13 The same Greek word can mean ‘test’ or ‘tempt’ (to tempt = to test in a moral context), the translator's choice being guided by the context. Here the context requires ‘tempt’. God ‘tests’, but does not ‘tempt’. § 1:17 Gifts coming from other sources may certainly strike us as pleasant and inviting, but will presumably have a negative effect upon our spiritual life. * 1:17 That is what the Text says, presumably referring to the sun, moon, etc. (shadows caused by those lights move and change). 1:18 For someone to be born again (born from Above) he must be exposed to a word of truth. In John 14:6 Sovereign Jesus said, “I am the Truth”. 1:18 Why “firstfruits”? Before the advent of refrigeration, food could be preserved by drying, smoking, salting, etc., but by the time of the next harvest, nothing would compare with a firstfruit, which would be something special. We are special! § 1:19 Instead of “so then”, some 4% of the Greek manuscripts, of objectively inferior quality, read “know!” (as in NIV, TEV, LB, NASB, etc.). * 1:20 “A man's anger”, not God's anger. We can and should be angry as a reflection of God's anger in the presence of evil and perversity. 1:21 Evidently James is not laboring under any exaggerated notions of their saintliness—he refers to rather gross manifestations of the old nature. 1:21 This sounds like a process—the Word has been implanted, but needs to be ‘received’ with meekness, and then must be practiced. § 1:23 I render “law”, instead of ‘word’, following some 30% of the Greek manuscripts including what is clearly the best line of transmission, in my opinion. Comparing verse 23 with 25, James is now talking about ‘law’, but copyists, having already written ‘word’ twice, in verses 21-22, could make the change (of ‘law’ to ‘word’) without thinking. * 1:25 This is reminiscent of John 8:31. 1:25 Notice the emphasis on doing. This same emphasis is found repeatedly in Paul's epistles. 1:26 This topic will be developed further in 3:1-12. § 1:27 The phrase “God and Father” works like a proper noun, referring to one being. * 1:27 James is writing to Jews, who tended to be quite religious, tithing being an important feature. But what is the point of tithing? You cannot send your money to heaven, and God does not need it anyway. I take it that the purpose of the tithe is to help the needy; produce would have to be distributed before it spoiled. 1:27 The importance of this is developed in 4:1-6.