BIBLE STUDY


by Greg Williamson © 2015, 2019 Featuring the text of the New American Standard Bible*

INTRO / THE MATURE CHRISTIAN: IS PATIENT IN TESTING (1:1-11 | 1:12-27) ... PRACTICES THE TRUTH (2:1-13 | 2:14-26) ... HAS POWER OVER HIS TONGUE (3:1-12 | 3:13-18) ... IS A PEACEMAKER, NOT A TROUBLEMAKER (4:1-10 | 4:11-17) ... IS PRAYERFUL IN TROUBLES (5:1-6 | 5:7-11 | 5:12-20)** / SOURCES
THE MATURE CHRISTIAN IS PATIENT IN TESTING - JAMES 1
James 1:1-11 v.1 / vv.2-4 / vv.5-8 / vv.9-11^

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THE MESSAGE OF JAMES
Chapter 1 of this letter functions like an overture to a great piece of music. Themes are introduced to which the writer will return later in the letter. There are four main themes in the first chapter.
  1. Joyful living requires self-control and contentment. Even in trials, joy should be our chosen response. Joy allows us to endure the test until it has accomplished its purpose. So, contentment leads to self-control, which clears the way for further contentment. Understanding the purposes of trials and the importance of joy will require wisdom, which comes from God. Are you content?
  2. Wisdom combines what we know with what we must do. God is our source of wisdom. He is willing to give complete wisdom to all those who ask him in faith. God's wisdom is not just a certain way of knowing or thinking. Like faith, it is practical and active. Have you asked for it?
  3. Hypocrisy occurs whenever belief and action are separated. For the Christian, hypocrisy is unacceptable. God's wisdom leads us away from hypocrisy and toward a life of hearing and doing God's commands. Are you listening to and doing what God has said?
  4. Christians must live their faith, not just talk about it. Real Christianity is ethics at the very core. Are you doing what you say you believe?

- Bruce B. Barton, David R. Veerman, and Neil Wilson


JAMES 1:1
NYSTROM: "James writes in the knowledge that he has been given authority in the church. But he also knows that this authority has the character and tenor of service: service to God and service to others. For this reason he calls the recipients of this letter "brothers." James addresses his letter to the multiracial church, but the native thought world of the letter is Judaism, the multiform Judaism of the first century, and more particularly messianic Judaism. Finally, James writes with a sensitivity to Jewish monotheism, but desires to make the case that loyalty is due to Jesus Christ, and that this loyalty does not endanger loyalty to God." [ref]

Time to Grow Up (James 1:1)

1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings. (James 1:1)


When we face various trials, we should ask God to help us view these painful experiences as opportunities to become more mature in our spiritual walk with Jesus Christ.


James was writing to Jewish Christians who lived in Greek or Roman countries away from their Judean homeland. One of his purposes was to encourage them to stand firm in the midst of persecution. They had been God-fearing Jews and then had become believers in Jesus Christ as the Messiah and crucified Savior. We can only imagine the hostility they faced from their Jewish brethren. James challenged these believers to "consider it a great joy" when they faced these trials (Jms 1:2).

This joy was not merely some kind of emotional elation, but a deep-seated sense of confidence and well-being that enabled these believers to look beyond the difficulties and see the opportunity to become more like Jesus Christ.

As James wrote this letter, perhaps he was reflecting on the children of Israel as they faced God's tests in the wilderness. Those painful experiences revealed whether their faith in God was sincere and whether they could handle the blessings that God wanted to give them. [ref]


(click on image for Gene Getz teaching video)

James 1:1 - Greetings
KISTEMAKER: "The Epistle of James belongs to the category of biblical writings called general Epistles -- Hebrews, James, I Peter, II Peter, I John, II John, III John, and Jude. Some of these epistles, however, lack an address; in the case of Hebrews and I John, the name of the author is also missing. James gives us his name, the names of the addressees, and his greeting. Compared with the other canonical letters, the Epistle of James, too, appears to be a genuine epistle." [ref]

James (James 1:1). DAVIDS: "There was only one James so well known in the early church that he would need no other form of identification, and that was James the Just, brother of Jesus, leader of the church in Jerusalem. The readers are expected to recognize the name." [ref]

James (Hebrew = Jacob [ref]) fails to mention the fact that he is the brother of Jesus. GAEBELEIN: "His humility shines forth in this omission; others called him by that title, but he avoided it." [ref] While Jesus calls us "brethren" (Hebrews 2:11), we do well to follow James's example "and call ourselves servants of God and of our Lord Jesus Christ." [ref]

Likewise James fails to assert his apostleship (cf. Philippians 1:1; 1 Thessalonians 1:1; 2 Thessalonians 1:1; Philemon 1:1; Hebrews 1:1; 1 John 1:1; 2 John 1:1; 3 John 1:1; Jude 1:1; Revelation 1:1 [ref]). BLUE: "[This] lack of title suggests that he was well known and had the authority to send a letter of this kind." [ref] What's more, all the accolades in the world cannot make up for a failure to know Jesus as Lord and Savior. [ref]

bond-servant (James 1:1). LENSKI: "[This] states in what capacity and in what manner James intends to address his readers, namely as a slave." [ref] James is content to be thought of as one who is completely sold out to "God and ... the Lord Jesus Christ" -- LENSKI: "one whose whole will is wholly subservient to their will, who never questions it, never deviates from it." [ref] Writing to fellow servants of God and Christ [ref], the main theme of James's letter can be described as how to live as faithful "servants of the Lord Jesus Christ." [ref]

William Barclay notes how, as a title, "bond-servant" (Greek doulos) carries with it a number of vitally important implications:

 
BARCLAY:
  1. It implies absolute obedience. The slave knows no law but his master's word; he has no rights of his own; he is the absolute possession of his master; and he is bound to give his master unquestioning obedience.
  2. It implies absolute humility. It is the word of a man who thinks not of his privileges but of his duties, not of his rights but of his obligations. It is the word of the man who has lost his self in the service of God.
  3. It implies absolute loyalty. It is the word of the man who has no interests of his own, because what he does, he does for God. His own profit and his own preference do not enter into his calculations; his loyalty is to him.
  4. Yet, at the back of it, this word implies a certain pride. So far from being a title of dishonour it was the title by which the greatest ones of the Old Testament were known. Moses was the doulos of God (1 Ki 8:53; Dan 9:11; Mal 4:4); so were Joshua and Caleb (Josh 24:29; Num 14:24); so were the great patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Deut 9:27); so was Job (Job 1:8); so was Isaiah (Isa 20:3); and doulos is distinctively the title by which the prophets were known (Am 3:7; Zech 1:6; Jer 7:25). By taking the title doulos James sets himself in the great succession of those who found their freedom and their peace and their glory in perfect submission to the will of God. The only greatness to which the Christian can ever aspire is that of being the slave of God. [ref]
 

GLOAG: "['Bond-servant' actually applies] to all Christians (1 Peter 2:16). We are all the servants of Jesus Christ, bound to obey His commands, and to devote ourselves to His service." [ref] As one commentator puts it: BARTON: "If Jesus actually is our Lord, our actions must be obedient to him, our attitude must be humble before him, and our life must be loyal to him." [ref]

God and ... the Lord Jesus Christ (James 1:1). MCKNIGHT: "James is a servant of both (the one) God and the Lord Jesus Christ." [ref] {note}

James affirms Jesus' deity by placing him on the same level with God. [ref] BARTON: "The three names that make up this title refer to the unique character of Jesus. He is the heavenly, exalted Lord who will one day return in glory to this world. He is Jesus, God come to earth as a human being. He is Christ, the anointed one who fulfilled God's purposes by dying for us." [ref] Just as in James's day, so in our own it is a life-changing event to call Jesus "Lord" (and truly mean it): it means nothing less than "giving Christ control over life, career, and ultimate destiny." [ref]

twelve tribes (James 1:1). James is writing to Christian Jews. However, this phrase applies to "the people of God, the true Israel, whether they were Jews or Gentiles (so also Gal. 6:16; 1 Pet. 2:9)." [ref]

dispersed abroad (James 1:1). BARNES: "[This] refers properly to those [Jews] who lived out of Palestine, or who were scattered among the Gentiles." [ref] {note}

JAMIESON: "The dispersion of the Israelites, and their connection with Jerusalem as a center of religion, was a divinely ordered means of propagating Christianity." [ref] As William Barclay explains: BARCLAY: "This dispersal of the Jews throughout the world was of the very greatest importance for the spread of Christianity, because it meant that all over the world there were synagogues, from which the Christian preachers could take their start; and it meant that all over the world there were groups of men and women who themselves already knew the Old Testament, and who had persuaded others among the Gentiles, at least to be interested in their faith." [ref] And so: BARTON: "What history records as the splintering of the nation of Israel was used by God to facilitate the spread of his Word." [ref] {note}

BURDICK: "[It is very possible] that the recipients [of James's letter] were the members of the Jerusalem church who had been driven out of Jerusalem at the time of Stephen's martyrdom (Acts 8:1, 4; 11:19-20). If this identification is correct, James had formerly been their spiritual leader. As such, he wrote to them with rightful spiritual authority and with full knowledge of their needs." [ref]

If the scattering and persecution associated with Stephen's martyrdom is indeed the immediate context of James's letter:

 
STULAC: Young Christians of Jewish upbringing had become the objects of "a great persecution" by the very ones who had been their leaders in Judaism. Stephen, a loved and respected leader of this Christian movement, had been stoned to death for his faith in Christ. The church "mourned deeply for him." Meanwhile, Saul was determined to destroy the church and so was "going from house to house" forcibly taking men and women to prison. With "all except the apostles" being driven from Jerusalem, James now writes from there to believers scattered among the nations. Certainly among James's readers are people experiencing confusion, fear, sorrow, injustice, loneliness, poverty, sickness, loss of home and family members and livelihood -- in fact, "trials of many kinds," as he acknowledges right away in James 1:2. [ref]
 

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THE RIGHT ATTITUDE TOWARD SUFFERING
Look squarely now at the issue those Christians were facing as they received James's letter. Would these times of suffering and uncertainty be an interruption in their servant-Lord relationship with Jesus Christ? For example, is any trial a reason not to be joyful (James 1:2)? Are the differences in poverty and wealth to cause favoritism (James 2:1-13)? Even in trials, shall we be cursing other people (James 3:9) or grumbling against each other (James 5:9)? Is loss of anything a reason to fight with each other (James 4:1-2)? Is sickness or other trouble a cause to cease praying or trusting in God (James 5:13-14)? Even in these "trials of many kinds," the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ is to continue living the life that James will describe. His burden in writing is this: "Don't put off your life of faith until times get better. Right now, in the midst of your suffering, is the very time to be putting your servanthood toward Christ into practice."

The message is clearly applicable for Christians today. When we encounter trials, what do we experience? In most of us there is probably a mixture or succession of reactions: fear ("what will become of me?"), anger ("how can they do that to me?"), self-pity ("won't somebody feel sorry for me?"), envy of others ("why aren't they suffering like I am?") and confusion ("why is this happening?"). With these reactions, we often fall into precisely the problems James addresses for his original readers: a jealous focus on material wealth, a selfish neglect of others' needs, a judgmental spirit and hurtful speech, and a bitter fighting with one another.

The church needs a sound theology of suffering. Philip Yancey points out that Helmut Thielicke was asked once what he saw as the greatest defect among American Christians (1977:15). Thielicke's surprising reply was "They have an inadequate view of suffering." We would be helped by a more adequate study of James. His message is this: Your trial is not the time to rejoice less. Your sickness is not the time to pray less. Your loss is not the time to love others less. Rather, now is the very time to practice the joy, peace and love that we know theoretically to be the Christian life. For the Christian life is not mere theory; it is the life of the servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ.

- George M. Stulac


Better than any other description could, the twelve tribes places the church firmly within the pressures and persecutions of this life. We can think of our ancestral tribes in the storm and stress of Egyptian slavery (Ex. 2:23), redeemed by the blood of the lamb (Ex. 12:13), on pilgrimage with God through ‘the great and terrible wilderness’ (Dt. 8:15; cf. Ex. 15:22), battling to enter into what the Lord had promised (Jos. 1:2) and struggling ever after to live in holiness amid the enticements of a pagan environment. These are the experiences through which James would have his readers understand their pilgrim path. They are the Lord’s twelve tribes and they are dispersed throughout a menacing and testing world. Their homeland is elsewhere and they have not yet come to take up their abode there. Their present lot is to feel the weight of life’s pressures, the lure of this world’s temptations and an insidious, ever-present encouragement to conform to the standards of their pagan environment. They are the Lord’s people indeed, redeemed by the blood of the Lamb himself -- but not yet home.

- J. Alec Motyer

Greetings (James 1:1). This is the standard Greek salutation, somewhat equivalent to "Hello" or "Welcome." [ref]

VINCENT: "Lit., rejoice. The ordinary Greek salutation, hail! welcome! Also used at parting: joy be with you. Compare the same expression in the letter from the church at Jerusalem (Acts 15:23), one of the very few peculiarities of style which connect this epistle with the James of the Acts. It does not occur in the address of any other of the Apostolic Epistles." [ref]

There is a connection between "greetings" (chairō) in James 1:1 and "joy" (chara) in James 1:2. [ref] James's readers are exhorted to have joy "amidst their existing distresses from poverty and consequent oppression. Compare Romans 15:26, which alludes to their poverty." [ref]

Alternate translations/versions of James 1:1 include:

SPURGEON: "Happy is that man who serves the Lord, whose whole life is not that of an independent master of himself, but of one who is fully submissive to the divine command." [ref]


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JAMES 1:2-11
NYSTROM: "James follows his introduction and greeting with a passage pregnant with practical questions and answers rich in theological content. He makes his case here in two broad strokes. In the first (James 1:2-8) James addresses the question of trials: What is the source of misfortune? Why does God allow difficulties in our lives? How are we to respond to them? To these questions James answers that prayer, and specifically the wisdom of God, are the tools necessary to negotiate successfully the minefield of trials and the questions they spur in our minds. In the second broad stroke (James 1:9-11) James discusses poverty and wealth and the effects these conditions can have on spiritual life. He urges his readers to remember that wealth is fleeting and that God elevates the poor." [ref] {note}

Turning Trials Into Triumphs (James 1:2-12)

2 Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, 3 knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)

James 1:2-4 - Testing of Faith
KISTEMAKER: "Pressures in our technological age are too great for many people. They cannot cope with the difficulties they meet from day to day. They seek to escape from the treadmill of trying incidents that confront them. Escape in many instances is impossible, especially when people cannot control these incidents. Thus the sacred writer, addressing persecuted Jewish Christians, reaches out to all people throughout the centuries." [ref]

KISTEMAKER: "James writes his epistle to Jewish Christians who have been driven from their homes and possessions. He addresses people who suffer because they are exploited by the rich, dragged into court, and slandered for believing in the noble name of Jesus (James 2:6-7). To these people James directs a pastoral letter in which his first admonition is to rejoice." [ref]

As with the remainder of his letter, James gets directly to the point. No preamble, no prayer, no information about his readers. LENSKI: "This directness we consider part of the character of James. It is a mark of the entire epistle. Sentence after sentence is short and direct; and when the last admonition is reached, he stops as he has begun. In all of this James resembles the old prophets, whose spirit fills him to a marked degree." [ref]

Consider it all joy (James 1:2). Meaning: BARNES: "Regard it as a thing to rejoice in; a matter which should afford you happiness. You are not to consider it as a punishment, a curse, or a calamity, but as a fit subject of felicitation." [ref] VINCENT: "Joy follows up the rejoice of the greeting. The all has the sense of wholly. Count it a thing wholly joyful, without admixture of sorrow." [ref]

MCKNIGHT: "To 'consider' trials as an occasion of joy involves an act of faith, for instead of looking at the trial, the messianic Jewish community is instead encouraged to look through the trial to its potential outcome." [ref]

BARTON: "[It is important to note that here] James is not encouraging believers to pretend to be happy. Rejoicing goes beyond happiness. Happiness centers on earthly circumstances and how well things are going here. Joy is God-oriented rather than event-oriented because it centers on God and his presence in our experience." [ref] BAKER: "[This] joy is a deep, inner confidence in God to work all things together for good (Rom. 8:28) ... Seeing God work in trials is the purest form of joy, as anyone who has suffered can testify." [ref]

As one Bible commentator aptly explains:

 
WIERSBE: Our values determine our evaluations. If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us. If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to “count it all joy.” If we live only for the present and forget the future, then trials will make us bitter, not better. Job had the right outlook when he said, “But He knoweth the way that I take: when He hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold” (Job 23:10).

So, when trials come, immediately give thanks to the Lord and adopt a joyful attitude. Do not pretend; do not try self-hypnosis; simply look at trials through the eyes of faith. Outlook determines outcome; to end with joy, begin with joy. [ref]
 

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CHOOSING JOY
J
oy is a deep sense of well-being that may at the same time embrace sorrow, tears, laughter, anger, pain. Joy is more a decision than a feeling. It is choosing to live above feelings but not deny them. It is not intense happiness, although choosing joy sometimes produces happiness. Joy is a particularly Christian response to life since it depends on faith in God's sovereignty. It is quiet and grateful, and it inwardly delights in the goodness of God. Joy can be understood in the context of the two other main responses to life:
  1. Drifting. Some float in the ebb and flow of life's experiences, hoping one moment and despairing the next. This response leaves the person entirely at the mercy of the events of life.
  2. Pretending. Some pretend to be happy, determined to put up a good front, no matter what the circumstances.

In comparison with these two, joy is more honest. It admits to hurts. It recognizes suffering and willingly participates in it. Joy is a contentment that comes from realizing that nothing can "separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 8:39).

- Bruce B. Barton, David R. Veerman, and Neil Wilson


James says we are to count it all joy, but do we ever do so? If we are to line ourselves up with Scripture a whole revolution in thinking is called for. And this revolution touches not only our appraisal of life’s experiences, but of our spiritual expectations also. So often we are encouraged to think of holiness, sanctification, perfection, victory over sin (or whatever way the ultimate glory of the likeness of Christ may be expressed) as the result of an inner transaction with God, a total commitment, a self-abandonment to him; sometimes even we hear those who promise these benefits as instantaneous results, open to us now. How very far this is from the teaching of James and the expectations he encourages! By comparison, James’ road is both uphill and thorny; the benefits he promises are hard won, and progress painfully made can be consolidated only by repetition of the same costly effort.

- J. Alec Motyer

brethren (James 1:2). This word, "marking community of nation and of faith" [ref], is used by James a total of 19x. It places James "on the same level as that of the readers. He is one of them and one with them." [ref] LENSKI: "As a brother [James] asks his brethren to accept his admonition; as a brother he is concerned about his brethren and the trials with which they are beset." [ref]

While James's letter includes a number of criticisms and commands, he identified with his readers and addressed them warmly. [ref] [ref] GLOAG: "[James's] readers were his brethren, both on account of their nationality and of their Christian faith; both in the flesh and in the Lord." [ref]

when you encounter (James 1:2). VINCENT: "['When' could/should be 'whenever' since] it implies that temptation may be expected all along the Christian course." [ref] "Encounter" carries the idea of "falling into something which surrounds." [ref] GLOAG: "The idea of surprise is here to be taken into account. Trials are not to be sought for or rushed into; believers fall into them." [ref] What's more, we are called to maintain an attitude of joy in and through our trials, not to be joyful for them. [ref] We can/should/must rejoice because of the good work God is doing in our lives -- even when our immediate circumstances include pain or difficulty.

various trials (James 1:2). WIERSBE: "Because we are God’s 'scattered people' and not God’s 'sheltered people,' we must experience trials. We cannot always expect everything to go our way. Some trials come simply because we are human -- sickness, accidents, disappointments, even seeming tragedies. Other trials come because we are Christians. ... Satan fights us, the world opposes us, and this makes for a life of battle." [ref]

"Various" refers to the different types of trials, including "sickness, poverty, bereavement, persecution, etc." [ref], although here James may especially have in mind "those trials to which, in the form of persecution, the Jewish Christians were exposed from their unbelieving countrymen." [ref] In which case: DAVIDS: "These trials were not severe persecution, but rather low-level persecution such as social rejection and economic boycotts. This was happening simply because they were Christians." [ref] {note} ICE: "Many were becoming restive because they were suffering because of Christ; and their unbelieving countrymen were saying that the suffering proved God was angry with them because they had accepted Christ." [ref]

That said, James's counsel applies with equal force to any of

 
DAVIDS: the testing and refining situations in life, hard situations in which faith is sorely tried, such as persecution, a difficult moral choice, or a tragic experience. James does not gloss over the reality of the suffering involved -- the tears, the pain, the sweat. Instead he points to a transformed perspective of those trials. If one looks at the difficult situation not merely from the perspective of the immediate problem but also from the perspective of the end result God is producing, one can have a deep joy. This is not a surface happiness, but an anticipation of future reward in the end-times (eschatological joy). It is not only possible, but necessary (thus James commands it), for without it one may become so bogged down in present problems as to abandon the faith and give up the struggle altogether. Only with God’s perspective, thus considering oneself already fortunate in anticipation of God’s future reward, can the faith be maintained against the pressures of life. [ref]
 

BARCLAY: "['Trials' (Greek peirasmos)] is trial or testing directed towards an end, and the end is that he who is tested should emerge stronger and purer from the testing." [ref] Trials and difficulties force us to draw closer to God. Our faith -- "our personal persuasion of the truth of the Gospel" [ref] -- is strengtehened as we experience God's presence and power in a way not possible otherwise.

Charles Spurgeon captured this truth well: SPURGEON: "I have looked back to times of trial with a kind of longing, not to have them return, but to feel the strength of God as I have felt it then; to feel the power of faith, as I have felt it then; to hang upon God’s powerful arm as I hung upon it then; and to see God at work as I saw him then. I think the mariner at home must sometimes feel a kind of longing once more to enjoy a storm on the ocean, and to see how the good ship rides on the billows’ crest. Life gets flat sometimes while all goes smoothly, and we need even the variety of a trial to bring us to close dealing with our God. [ref]

Depending on how it is used, the word for "trials" (Greek peirasmos) can also mean "temptations." BAKER: "The context determines which is the case. What the two have in common is that in both trials and temptations there is a temptation not to trust God. In trials we are tempted not to trust God for the outcome, while in temptations we are tempted not to wait for God to meet the need the temptation may represent." [ref]

Alternate translations/versions of James 1:2 include:


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knowing (James 1:3). MCKNIGHT: "The capacity to see through a test to character formation at the hand of God's grace is based on knowledge." [ref]

"Knowing" refers to knowledge gained through personal experience. [ref] (also: [ref]) BLUE: "Everyone has experienced both the pain of problems and the ensuing profit of persistence. There is no gain in endurance without some investment in trials." [ref]

the testing of your faith produces endurance - (James 1:3). MCKNIGHT: "James finds the silver lining in what trials accomplish in moral formation and character." [ref]

The end result of tested and proved faith is a growth or increase in our ability to endure (see GNB; NLT). BURDICK: "The question answered by the testing of faith is whether or not faith will persevere. If it is genuine faith, testing serves to develop its persistence." [ref] BAKER: "When faith is tested, we are faced with trying some solution of our own or simply trusting God. If we trust God, the experience leads to greater ability to repeat the experience when other tests come." [ref]

BARTON: "The person being tested should become stronger and purer through the testing. In this case, the trials do not determine whether or not believers have faith; rather, the trials strengthen believers by adding perseverance to the faith that is already present." [ref] {note}

"Endurance" (Greek hupomonē) is nothing less than "a heroic virtue." [ref] It BARCLAY: "is not simply the ability to bear things; it is the ability to turn them to greatness and to glory. The thing which amazed the heathen in the centuries of persecution was that the martyrs did not die grimly, they died singing. One smiled in the flames; they asked him what he found to smile at there. 'I saw the glory of God,' he said, 'and was glad.' Hupomonē is the quality which makes a man able, not simply to suffer things, but to vanquish them. The effect of testing rightly borne is strength to bear still more and to conquer in still harder battles." [ref]

Endurance is

MOTYER: "The road is ... hard and long, and the task is unremitting: to endure the first onset of the startling, unexpected trial, and to endure again while it persists, and then to go on enduring." [ref]

The believer who possesses this invaluable virtue "clings to God in faith, persists in doing God's will, and cannot be diverted from his avowed purpose to serve his God." [ref]

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ENDURING TOGETHER
Young couples in the first excitement of their attraction to each other readily believe that theirs will be a life-long partnership: they are meant for each other. At this point in their relationship it is, of course, no more than a matter of opinion, and much more tentative than they are in a position to realize or willing to admit. Soon, however, their belief will face tests: the counter-attraction of other possible partners, a growing experience of individual likes and dislikes which will not harmonize without serious adjustment, maybe the cool or antagonistic reaction of one or both sets of parents, and so forth. It is as testings are endured that the relationship itself becomes more durable, and along the line of this process the incipient belief that they are meant to marry becomes a settled conviction. The same process goes on into their marriage. They have pledged themselves to forsake all other partnerships for life, and in the course of their life together -- maybe by the experience of fighting off temptations or of gritty determination to save their marriage in a period of coolness, or just the shoulder-to-shoulder facing and bearing of the vicissitudes of life -- their minds become irrevocably weaned away from the thought of infidelity. What began as a tentative belief ends as a fixed, unchangeable constancy of life.

- J. Alec Motyer


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THE BENEFITS OF TRIALS
A person who is accepted by the admission office of a college or university can say, "I am a student." But until that person takes tests and examinations, no one can actually affirm that he is a student worthy of that name. The only way to determine the worth of a student's work is to see his performance on his examination. Dispensing with examinations would hinder the professors and the school administration in determining the student's ability.

- Simon J. Kistemaker


My wife and I once visited a world-famous weaver and watched his men and women work on the looms. I noticed that the undersides of the rugs were not very beautiful: the patterns were obscure and the loose ends of yarn dangled. “Don’t judge the worker or the work by looking at the wrong side,” our guide told us. In the same way, we are looking at the wrong side of life; only the Lord sees the finished pattern. Let’s not judge Him or His work from what we see today. His work is not finished yet!

- Warren Wiersbe


Quickly James gets to his message. He begins by telling us to count it unalloyed joy when we face various kinds of trials. This does not mean James advocates the kind of unrealistic happy-mask Christianity we sometimes encounter today. Rather, James tells us that, in spite of trials that can be severe and painful, we can see God’s mercy through our tears and realize that his intention is for our good. The eyes of faith look through the pain to see each trial as an opportunity to grow in perseverance, helping to make us mature and complete believers.

Three kinds of tribulations are spoken of in the New Testament, and James comments on them all. Persecution, poverty, and sickness are the divine crucibles by which our faith is purified. Because we know this, we can rejoice even as we weep, that we can share in Christ’s suffering and grow to be more like him.

What enables a person to persevere is integrity. Integrity means that we are able to live without compromising what God has made us to be. Integrity enables us to stay on course, instead of panicking and bailing out. Integrity is strengthened through repeated tests. The trials God sends purge us of sin and enable us to mature in integrity.

- R. C. Sproul


It is not just being tested that is good for us but passing the test. The testing is not just to see if you made the team, but to prepare you for higher service. It is like being proven in practice so you will be prepared for tougher competition.

What makes trials so difficult to endure? It is not our nature to endure. When it comes to trials, we would rather escape, explain, or exit the difficulty. In fact, we will tend to do almost anything to avoid enduring a trial.

- Bruce B. Barton, David R. Veerman, and Neil Wilson


James's earnestness needs to be heard, with the very direct questions this raises. Don't you desire this quality of faith in yourself? Isn't it the desire of your heart to learn to live by faith and to be "a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" in a patient, disciplined, steadfast, faithful way? Now you have the reason to rejoice in the midst of trials! These trials provide the opportunity for the testing that will develop this quality of faith. To stop trusting and start worrying, to cease ministering and start withdrawing, to interrupt godliness and start selfishness, just because of one's anxiety over the current trials, would be precisely the wrong course to take. The spiritual realities call for joy in the opportunity to learn perseverance.

- George M. Stulac


God wants to make us patient because that is the key to every other blessing. The little child who does not learn patience will not learn much of anything else. When the believer learns to wait on the Lord, then God can do great things for him. Abraham ran ahead of the Lord, married Hagar, and brought great sorrow into his home (Gen. 16). Moses ran ahead of God, murdered a man, and had to spend forty years with the sheep to learn patience (Ex. 2:11ff). Peter almost killed a man in his impatience (John 18:10–11).

The only way the Lord can develop patience and character in our lives is through trials. Endurance cannot be attained by reading a book (even this one), listening to a sermon, or even praying a prayer. We must go through the difficulties of life, trust God, and obey Him. The result will be patience and character. Knowing this, we can face trials joyfully. We know what trials will do in us and for us, and we know that the end result will bring glory to God.

This fact explains why studying the Bible helps us grow in patience (Rom. 15:4). As we read about Abraham, Joseph, Moses, David, and even our Lord, we realize that God has a purpose in trials. God fulfills His purposes as we trust Him. There is no substitute for an understanding mind. Satan can defeat the ignorant believer, but he cannot overcome the Christian who knows his Bible and understands the purposes of God.

- Warren Wiersbe

Alternate translations/versions of James 1:3 include:

SPURGEON: "Do not sorrow over your trials, do not look upon them as misfortunes and calamities; they are black vessels, but they are loaded with gold. Your choicest mercies come to you disguised as your sharpest trials. Welcome them; do not sorrow over them, but rejoice in them." [ref]


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In reference to James 1:4: BARTON: "What faithful perseverance generates is a whole person, recognized by three significant characteristics: mature[/perfect] - seasoned, experienced, well-developed, fit for the tasks God sent us into the world to do. ... complete - fully trained ... mature in many areas of life ... not lacking anything - the basic life skills are there, ready to be used; the obvious weaknesses or blind spots of the past have been corrected; more and more clearly we mirror Christ himself!" [ref]

perfect result ... perfect and complete (James 1:4). Rather than some form of sinless perfection, here James is referring to: GAEBELEIN: "the perfect work of patience, enduring to the end, when self will is subdued and the will of God is fully accepted. The result is that there is no deficiency in the practical life of the believer. Faith is power to suffer and to endure trials and testings." [ref] BARTON: "Perfection, as the Bible defines it for believers, is a right relationship with God expressed in a life of obedience." [ref] What's more, while our spiritual maturity [ref] is God's ultimate goal, that can/will happen only to the extent that we cooperate with him by refraining from "murmurings, complaining, or rebellion." [ref]

BARCLAY: "This constancy born of testing well met [= endurance] makes a man [perfect] in the sense of being fit for the task he was sent into the world to do. Here is a great thought. By the way in which we meet every experience in life we are either fitting or unfitting ourselves for the task which God meant us to do." [ref]

complete (James 1:4). MCKNIGHT: "To be 'complete' means to be intact, undefiled, undamaged -- like a stone that has not been chiseled (Deuteronomy 27:6), 'complete justice' (Wisdom 15:3), or a healthy body (Acts 3:16)." [ref] BAKER: "[To be 'complete' is to be] prepared better to endure further trials consistently by trusting God implicitly." [ref]

BARCLAY: "Gradually this unswerving constancy [= endurance] removes the weaknesses and the imperfections from a man's character. Daily it enables him to conquer old sins, to shed old blemishes and to gain new virtues, until in the end he becomes entirely fit for the service of God and of his fellow-men." [ref]

lacking in nothing (James 1:4). BURDICK: "[P]erseverance in facing trials develops maturity of character and a balance of all the graces and strengths needed for the Christian life." [ref]

Here and throughout his letter, James pairs up positive and negative: "complete, lacking in nothing" (James 1:4); "generously and without reproach" (James 1:5); "faith without any doubting" (James 1:6). [ref]

Alternate translations/versions of James 1:4 include:

SPURGEON: "Endure everything; suffer everything that God sends you. Bathe yourself in this rough sea, till, by God’s blessing, it hath strengthened you and cleansed you, for to that end he sends it, and that it may perfect you by discipline, educating all your spiritual faculties, and bringing out all your powers for his glory." [ref]

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A MATURING PROCESS
The terms James uses in this last clause of James 1:4 give a picture of wholeness and completeness. Moo's good paraphrase of James's term teleios is "perfection and wholeness of Christian character" (1985:61). Laws describes it as being "a complete person, having integrity, unlike the divided man of James 1:6-8" (1980:54). In other words, James is holding before his readers a vision for becoming everything the Lord desires them to become.

James invites you to envision yourself in the state of spiritual maturity, rid of the jealousy or laziness or impulsiveness or impatience or bitterness or self-pity or selfishness that now mars the wholeness of your fellowship with God and the completeness of your spirituality. Do you hunger and thirst for righteousness? Do you long to be fully the person God desires you to be? If so, then you now have the full reason for considering it pure joy whenever you face trials of many kinds. The trials can be opportunities for testing to develop in you the perseverance which, when it finishes its work, will leave you mature in Christ! For those who have set their hearts on becoming Christlike, this is wonderful reason for pure joy.

... If one's goal is to become mature in Christ, and if that is a goal far higher and more valuable than merely avoiding hardships, then indeed consider it joy when you meet the trials by which you attain that treasured goal. We are called to joy!

- George M. Stulac


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5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8 being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways. (James 1:5-8)


To face trials with a proper perspective, we must seek God's wisdom through faith and prayer.


Clearly, we need divine wisdom to view various trials as opportunities to grow spiritually. The source of this wisdom is God, who is always ready to give it to His children. The means of receiving it is prayer and faith (Mt 21:22; Mk 11:24). Doubt, the opposite of faith, means questioning whether God is loving and generous. It is impossible to request a favor or a gift from God with integrity and confidence if we question His goodness. We must decisively determine that we are going to trust God completely, without wavering back and forth from day to day.

As we'll see later, the wisdom James was writing about is inseparably linked to Christian character and is identified as "wisdom from above" (Jms 3:17-18). Divine wisdom gives the believer a divine perspective on trials. The true Christian can then better comprehend the promised blessing for perseverance, which in turn provides motivation for endurance and spiritual growth. [ref]


(click on image for Gene Getz teaching video)


OT IN THE NT: James 1:5 >> Proverbs 2:3-6

James 1:5-8 - Asking for Wisdom
KISTEMAKER:"Characteristically, James introduces a topic rather briefly and then returns to it later. In this particular section, he speaks about the need for wisdom; in chapter 3 he delineates two kinds of wisdom -- one from heaven and the other from earth." [ref]

James 1:5-8 is often interpreted in one of two ways which are not mutually exclusive and so both of which James may have in mind: MCKNIGHT: "First, [it] is taken as expressing a mode of enduring tests and trials: that is, gaining wisdom will empower the messianic community to understand and endure its trials. Or second, [it] is taken as a mode of attaining perfection: that is, seeking wisdom is how a person becomes 'perfect' or 'mature.'" [ref] {note}

lacks wisdom (James 1:5). ROBERTSON: "['Lacks' is a] banking figure ... [here meaning] to have a shortage of wisdom (not just knowledge, but wisdom, the practical use of knowledge)." [ref] The lack of wisdom is a trial in and of itself [ref], as well as an added burden when facing many and various trials and difficultues. LENSKI: "The great need of the believer is wisdom to understand all God’s purposes in placing us amid these continuous trials." [ref]

"Lacks" (James 1:5) ties in with "lacking" (James 1:4),

 
BURDICK: show[ing] that James is still discussing the subject of trials. In [James 1:4] he assures his readers that when perseverance has finished its work, the believer will lack none of the needed virtues and strengths. In [James 1:5], however, James speaks of the period of testing before perseverance has completed its work. During such testing, if anyone "lacks wisdom," he may have it by asking. The type of Greek conditional sentence found here assumes that people facing trials do lack wisdom. ... In this context wisdom is understanding the nature and purpose of trials and knowing how to meet them victoriously. Such wisdom is available to the one who will "ask God" for it, not once only, but repeatedly (Gr., present tense). [ref]
 

Another commentator describes James's thought process:

 
MOTYER: Look forward, then, to the day when you will stand complete, lacking in nothing. But just at present I am pretty certain there is one thing you know yourself to lack. It may be that you cannot quite see life as I have portrayed it. You are in the thick of such a tangle of circumstances that there is no way in which it can seem other than a purposeless mess. There is no stretch of the imagination by which it even begins to look like a stepping-stone to maturity. In a word, you need wisdom: the wisdom that sees all life as serving the purposes of the Lord. Or your situation may be somewhat different: you accept that your circumstances are designed by the Lord to exert those pressures and impose those tests which, in due time, will bear the fruit of increasing maturity. But you find that seeing life like that does not make it either easy or plain which way to turn. There is more than one path opening ahead. Prepared as you are to persevere, you do not know which to choose as the divinely appointed way forward. Again, you need wisdom. [ref]
 

Rather than reacting to a trial or difficulty with guilt, confusion, fear, and/or anger [ref], we need the wisdom to trust God. BAKER: "[I]n the case of the classic trial of Job, no solutions or explanations were given to Job regarding his trial. Instead, God taught him why it was wise to trust Him without knowing why his suffering was taking place. God will help the individual know what course of action is the most 'trusting,' if indeed some decision to act is required. However, trusting God often means doing nothing at all -- simply waiting on God." [ref]

As another Bible commentator explains well: WIERSBE: "Why do we need wisdom when we are going through trials? Why not ask for strength, or grace, or even deliverance? For this reason: we need wisdom so we will not waste the opportunities God is giving us to mature. Wisdom helps us understand how to use these circumstances for our good and God’s glory." [ref]

let him ask (James 1:5). ROBERTSON: "[Literally:] let him keep on asking." [ref] The thought here is to pray continually.

of God, who gives (James 1:5). VINCENT: "The Greek puts it so that giving is emphasized as an attribute of God. Lit., 'Ask of the giving God,' or of 'God the giver.'" [ref] As one source explains well:

 
MOTYER: No one attribute expresses all that is true about God, but each expresses something about him that is true all the time. If we speak of him as ‘gracious’ there are very many other things to say before the divine nature is fully described. Yet there is never a time when we could come to him and find that he was no longer gracious. So it is, also, when he is described as ‘the giving God’. His attributes are as infinite as he himself is, but there is no war among them: they are as perfectly one as he himself is. When we come with our prayers, he never replies, ‘Come back tomorrow. Perhaps I will then be able to be “the giving God” again, but today I must occupy myself with being something else.’ ‘Giving’ is not the whole truth, but it is ceaselessly true. He is more than ‘giving’, but he is always ‘giving’. [ref]
 

generously and without reproach (James 1:5). BARCLAY: "There is a kind of giver who gives only with a view to getting more than he gives; who gives only to gratify his vanity and his sense of power by putting the recipient under an obligation which he will never be allowed to forget; who gives and then continuously casts up the gift that he has given." [ref] That is not the way God gives. MCKNIGHT: "Humans may give grudgingly, either wishing they had not or only because they feel obliged, but God's grace flows in one direction. There is no backtracking or second-guessing in God, nor is there any criticism or backstabbing after giving." [ref]

The literal thought of "generously" is simply, and it: GLOAG: "intimates either that God gives from the pure love of giving, or without exacting any conditions. God does not give as man does, grudgingly and restricting His gifts, but simply, that is, freely and graciously." [ref] {note} VINCENT: "[God's giving] is pure, simple giving of good, without admixture of evil or bitterness. ... Men often complicate and mar their giving with reproach, or by an assumption of superiority." [ref]

As one source notes, God

 
JAMIESON: gives to the humble suppliant without upbraiding him with his past sin and ingratitude, or his future abuse of God’s goodness. The Jews pray, “Let me not have need of the gifts of men, whose gifts are few, but their upbraidings manifold; but give me out of Thy large and full hand.” Compare Solomon’s prayer for “wisdom,” and God’s gift above what he asked, though God foresaw his future abuse of His goodness would deserve very differently. James has before his eye the Sermon on the Mount. God hears every true prayer and grants either the thing asked, or else something better than it; as a good physician consults for his patient’s good better by denying something which the latter asks not for his good, than by conceding a temporary gratification to his hurt. [ref]
 

it will be given to him (James 1:5). While many of the things we ask for would not promote our ultimate welfare or be to our ultimate benefit and so it is doubtful God would grant our request, "there can be no such doubt about wisdom. That is always for our good; and we may be sure, therefore, that we shall obtain that, if the request be made with a right spirit." [ref]

The purpose of God's wisdom is to help us obey him. BARTON: "Decisions still will have to be made, and actions will have to be taken. The wisdom is God's guidance, not his removal of our participation. ... This verse is not permitting us to ask God for wisdom to bring about our will. Instead, we should humbly ask him for wisdom to remain in his will." [ref]

We must search the Scriptures in order to find God's answer to our prayer for wisdom. LENSKI: "God has his means for giving the great gift of additional wisdom. This is his Word. Wisdom does not come down out of the sky. God’s Spirit instructs, enlightens, makes us wise by means of his Word. This angle of the matter James takes up in [James 1:21], etc." [ref]

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ACQUIRING WISDOM
After we are told to rejoice when we fall into trials, realizing that tribulation develops perseverance and maturity, James makes what seems an abrupt detour. He tells us that if we lack wisdom we should ask God for it. Think about this and see if you do not see the connection: If ever we need wisdom, it is when we are going through rough times and are tempted to sin.

The beginning of wisdom is the fear of God, says Proverbs 1:7. In Greek-influenced first-century culture, not many people saw it that way. For the Greeks, philosophy (“love of wisdom”) meant speculation and doubt. The Bible founds true philosophy in firm knowledge -- the knowledge of God. Moreover, wisdom is obtained less through meditation and contemplation than in prayer. “He should ask God,” writes James. We grow wise as we pursue a relationship with God.

James’s words can be misinterpreted to mean that all we have to do is ask and we shall receive instant wisdom. James assumes we know about scriptural wisdom, especially the book of Proverbs. That book repeatedly exhorts us to study to know wisdom, to seek it diligently, to take every opportunity to learn it, and to desire it above all else. James is saying that God will give wisdom to those who prayerfully and diligently seek it.

Wisdom comes from two sources. The first is careful study of God’s Word, pursuing the twins of doctrine and law. The second is knowledge gained from the experience of putting God’s ways into practice. Often this involves tribulation. Wisdom grows with trials, if in the midst of trials we lean on God’s Word.

Verse 6 goes on to say that prayer for wisdom must be made in faith, not doubt. One heretical interpretation of this verse is that a “prayer of faith” means we ask God for something, assume he has given it, and act accordingly. We ask God for a million dollars, then act in faith by charging up our credit cards. That is belief in magic, not faith. James means that we ask God with a trusting attitude, whether his answer is yes or no.

- R. C. Sproul


[W]e experience the same disabling effects that James's original readers must have been experiencing.

  1. Guilt. I remember an agonizing time of division in our church. I struggled with self-blame. "If only I had said this...or done that...or acted differently." I kept wondering what to do. I needed wisdom desperately.
  2. Confusion. Suffering easily pushes us into the confusion of self-doubt, in which we question our actions, motives and capabilities. Such self-doubt can be devastating, for example, for parents who lose a child in a tragedy or find their child alienated in rebellion. "Why did this happen to me? Where did I go wrong? Is God punishing me? Does God love me?" We don't know what to do in the midst of that intense internal questioning, and our need for wisdom is urgent.
  3. Fear. Suffering awakens the fear that things are out of control and that whatever we hold dear might be lost. As a result, people commonly withdraw to protect what they still have. This is, in part, why a wife or child may keep submitting to an abusive home situation; there is the fear that the abuse will get worse. "Maybe, if I submit, my abuser will stop." In the midst of a trial, the fear can be absolutely crippling, so that you do not know what to do. You need wisdom.
  4. Anger. Trials can produce a great deal of anger, but intense anger often receives insufficient satisfaction. Yet the intensity of anger cannot be sustained. When the anger subsides without being resolved, it is replaced by hopelessness. That is why counselors often regard depression as the other side of anger. The result is a loss of motivation and, again, an inability to know what to do. If you are angry or depressed because of trials, you need wisdom to get your life going again as a servant of the Lord Jesus Christ.

James is concerned to address one central need from which the other needs in these complex situations can be unraveled. In the face of such trials, what shall the "servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ" do? He should ask God for the wisdom that is lacking.

- George M. Stulac

Alternate translations/versions of James 1:5 include:

SPURGEON: "Wisdom is a gift. The best wisdom is not that which we acquire by study, but that which is the distinct gift of God in answer to prayer." [ref]


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MOTYER: [James 1:5] holds before us the unquestioned sincerity of God who desires our progress to maturity and who, therefore, as far as he is concerned, will not withhold from us the wisdom we need. But [James 1:6–8] raise[s] the question of our sincerity. Do we want to go forward with God? Are we whole-heartedly committed to his way of seeing things and his ambitions for our future? Or are we keeping a door open for the world? Are we trying to have a foot in each camp? God’s mind is clear; but are we double-minded? Faith is our absolute confidence that he will give what we ask; doubting is our own inner uncertainty about whether we really want him to give or not. [ref]
 

But he must ask (James 1:6). James lays out several conditions for receiving wisdom from God. While God is willing and waiting to grant wisdom, we are able to receive it from him only to the extent that we: "ask in faith without any doubting" (James 1:6); have our priorities in proper order -- namely, by valuing the spiritual/immaterial/eternal more than the material/temporal (James 1:9-11); and by having true, persevering love for God (James 1:12).

faith without any doubting (James 1:6). Faith in God means commitment to God, and to doubt is to be double-minded, to not be wholly committed to God, to play it safe by playing both sides. [ref] While "doubting" is not exactly the same as unbelief, it does lean or incline toward it. [ref] (also [ref]) WIERSBE: "Faith says, 'Yes!' but unbelief says, 'No!' Then doubt comes along and says 'Yes!' one minute and 'No!' the next." [ref]

BAKER: "[T]he request for wisdom must itself be made in faith, for the whole process is a test of faith, and tests of faith require the exercise of faith." [ref] Contrary to the false teachers who promote the spiritual snake oil known as the prosperity gospel, James is not saying we must have faith in our faith. Rather, asking "in faith" means asking in connection with our faith. This means not only that his prayer for wisdom must spring from true Christian faith, but also that it must be offered wholly in the interest of this faith, its complete constancy and our own becoming complete. [ref]

The right attitude is crucial. GAEBELEIN: "If we doubt [God's] faithfulness or question His answer we cannot receive anything from Him. Hesitance about God, a double-mindedness, depending upon something else besides God is in reality unbelief." [ref] As another commentator explains: MCKNIGHT: "If God is one who simply gives and does not upbraid, then the community is to be one that simply trusts, 'never doubting.' ... As God would regard humans as an object of scorn if he gave to them and then criticized them, so humans would heap scorn on God by trusting in God and doubting at the same time. To doubt here would mean ... to find oneself unable to trust God simply and with integrity as one endures the testing of faith (internal doubt)." [ref]

the surf ... driven ...tossed by the wind (James 1:6). ROBERTSON: "[This combines] a vivid picture of the sea whipped into white-caps by the winds ... [with] the restless swaying to and fro of the surface of the water, blown upon by shifting breezes." [ref] Application: LENSKI: "A thought strikes the unstable mind from one direction and then from another, and the mind has no resistance, no [hupomonē], constancy, it just yields. Yet even so it is inconstant, for it sinks and falls, sinks and falls. It takes up a thought and then drops it again; it rises in enthusiasm with a thought and then lets go of it in discouragement. Pitiful indeed!" [ref]

KISTEMAKER: "[James paints a vivid picture of] instability and restlessness. So James portrays the man who doubts. That man is like the heaving waves of the sea, unsettled and unstable. He lacks the wisdom that he desperately needs to give direction to his life. But because the man doubts, God withholds wisdom from him. God expects his people to come to him in faith; then he rewards them for seeking him. If man doubts, however, he will not receive the Lord's blessing." [ref]

Alternate translations/versions of James 1:6 include:

SPURGEON: "[This] is not the kind of faith we ought to have in God: a faith that is very brilliant on the Sunday, and very dull on the Monday; a faith that is triumphant after a sermon, but which seems to be defeated when we get into actual trouble." [ref]


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ought not to expect that he will receive anything (James 1:7). BARNES: "[God] sees the heart; and if he sees that there is ... no real trust in him -- no reliance on his promises, his wisdom, his grace -- it cannot be proper that he should grant an answer to our petitions." [ref] Why should God answer the double-minded man's prayer? Being unable to recognize God's goodness, let alone appreciate it, he is just as likely to attribute answered prayer to "good luck" as to God.

Lord (James 1:7). Rather than Christ, this refers to God the Father. GLOAG: "James, as the Septuagint does, here uses the term as equivalent to Jehovah. This is the usual meaning of the term in this Epistle; it is applied to Christ only in James 5:7, 14-15. In the Epistles of the other apostles the term ‘Lord’ generally denotes Christ." [ref]

On the other hand, one commentator believes James uses "Lord" (Greek Kurios) almost always in reference to Jesus Christ (the one exception being James 5:4). James uses "Lord" (Greek Kurios) 14x in 13 verses: James 1:1, 7; 2:1; 3:9; 4:10, 15; 5:4, 7, 8, 10, 11, 11, 14, 15.

Alternate translations/versions of James 1:7 include:


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a double-minded man (James 1:8). {note} The double-minded man is "[n]ot deceitful, but dubious and undecided" [ref]; not a hypocrite, but fickle. [ref] (also: [ref]) BARNES: "[This is the type of person] who has no settled principles; who is controlled by passion; who is influenced by popular feeling; who is now inclined to one opinion or course of conduct, and now to another." [refGLOAG: "[This person's] affections are divided between God and the world, or between faith and unbelief." [ref] BARCLAY: "[Such a] man is a walking civil war in which trust and distrust of God wage a continual battle against each other." [ref]

BARNES: "[The opposite of the double-minded man is the man] who takes hold of the promises of God with firmness; who feels the deepest assurance when he prays that God will hear prayer; who always goes to him without hesitation in his perplexities and trials, never wavering ... [and as a consequence] is firm in his principles, steady in his integrity, settled in his determinations, and steadfast in his plans of life." [ref

unstable (James 1:8). "Unstable" refers to someone who is "unsteady, fickle, staggering, reeling like a drunken man." [ref] BSP: "[The double-minded man's] attention is divided between God and other things, and as a consequence he is unstable and therefore unable to receive from God." [ref]

in all his ways (James 1:8). BURDICK: "In his personal life, his business life, his social life, as well as in his spiritual life, indecisiveness negates his effectiveness." [ref] {note}

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SINGLE-MINDED STABILITY
Instability is revealed not only in individuals' prayers, but in all they do. Our prayers reveal our view of God. But they also reveal our view of life. Life is made up of different areas -- physical, mental, social, and spiritual -- but it cannot be lived that way. Living comes at us as a whole. When indecisiveness marks our relationship with God, that instability will affect all of life.

We can live a single-minded life of trust in God where every experience, including the trials we fall into, is another step in the process of becoming mature and complete persons. The single-minded person will still be capable of doubt. In fact, doubts may be some of the trials that person faces. These doubts fall into the category of the man who wisely confessed when he stood before Jesus, "I believe; help my unbelief!" (Mark 9:24 NKJV). Single-minded persons do not dwell on whether they can find a shred of doubt in themselves; rather, they concentrate on wholehearted commitment to God.

- Bruce B. Barton, David R. Veerman, and Neil Wilson


One of the frightening features of the present day is the widespread dependence on sedatives to cope with situations which our grandparents would not have seen as a problem -- ordinary factors like bringing up children, facing a tomorrow which is essentially the same as today; problems of feeling trapped and bored; problems of having time and not knowing how to fill it. The cynic would say that the problem whether there is a life after death has been replaced with the problem whether there is a life before death. But essentially it is the problem of finding meaning: which James says can be answered by a gift of wisdom from God given to those whose personalities are integrated around him. Or again, widespread in society, there are breakdowns brought on by the really sharp problems of our day. People find themselves no longer able to face the grind of making ends meet, or they are dealt peculiarly savage blows by the onset of disease in themselves or their family, and they have no resource by which to find their way effectively through such hazards. But again, there is the wisdom of God, which, however, is granted to those whose hearts confess a sole loyalty to him. James’ diagnosis does not find expression in many consulting rooms, but that does not affect its truth as an acute diagnosis. People astray from God are ‘troubled’; they have no inner or outer restfulness.

The truth also bears upon those who do acknowledge God as Father, Jesus as Saviour and the Holy Spirit as Comforter. For we too know the pressures of the day; we too imbibe easily the spirit of the age and find ourselves ‘fraying at the edges’ in the changes and chances of life. James says that our first thought should be to look at our relationship to God. If ‘life’ is getting through to us, if the ability to cope, to absorb our own ‘hassles’ and those of others, is a diminishing quantity, then this is the crucial question. Is our heart one with God (not ‘right with God’, for that has been eternally secured for us by Christ), without any division of loyalty? And a second question follows: are we proving the reality of that sole allegiance to God in the place of prayer -- not in the public place of confrontation with the world (that will come later), but in the secret place of prayer? For out of this will emerge that wisdom which unifies the personality and holds us on a steady course in the storm.

- J. Alec Motyer

Alternate translations/versions of James 1:8 include:

SPURGEON: "[A double-minded man] sees double; he runs after two objects; and therefore he staggers across the street. [He is a] man with two minds, a mind to the religious and another mind to enjoy the pleasures of the world." [ref]


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9 But the brother of humble circumstances is to glory in his high position; 10 and the rich man is to glory in his humiliation, because like flowering grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with a scorching wind and withers the grass; and its flower falls off and the beauty of its appearance is destroyed; so too the rich man in the midst of his pursuits will fade away. (James 1:9-11)


Regardless of our earthly possessions, we are to remember that what ultimately matters is our eternal inheritance.


In this paragraph, James focused on a specific issue that reflected "an indecisive man" (Jms 1:8) who was "driven and tossed by the wind" (Jms 1:6). Materialistic believers were building "treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal" (Mt 6:19). They were attempting to serve two masters.

Jesus stated categorically that we cannot "be slaves of God and of money" (Mt 6:24). This is being "double-minded" (Jms 4:8). Instead, poor people should focus on the fact that their inheritance is in heaven (Jms 1:9), and rich people should know that, even though what they have on earth will disappear (Jms 1:10-11), they too will have an eternal inheritance that will endure forever (Jms 1:12). Furthermore, rich people should be using their wealth to lay up "treasures in heaven" (Mt 6:20). [ref]


(click on image for Gene Getz teaching video)

OT IN THE NT: James 1:10-11 >> Psalm 102:4, 11; Isaiah 40:6-7

James 1:9-11 - Taking Pride
[ref] KISTEMAKER: "As he does in other passages of this first chapter of his epistle, James mentions a topic in a sentence or two. Then in a later section or chapter he elaborates. Here he introduces the subject pride."

LENSKI: "As the poor brother forgets all his earthly poverty, so the rich brother forgets all his earthly riches. The two are equals by faith in Christ." [ref]

Still dealing with the topic of trials and testings, James

 
BAKER: add[s] another reason for considering it all joy when we enter various trials. This reason involves the way we look at our material possessions. Indeed, our view of material possessions is a barometer of our spiritual vitality. This may appear a bit subtle, but the point seems to be that if the brother of humble means realizes his spiritual wealth and the brother of material wealth appreciates the humility that brought him to repentance and faith -- and thus the same spiritual wealth -- both have genuine reason to rejoice in trials. There is common ground now between both classes due to the gospel and a freedom from worldly concern that might stifle the exercise of faith. [ref]
 

The poor believer can rejoice in his high spiritual position, while the rich believer should remember that his greatest and most lasting wealth is spiritual, not material. [ref] Against the world's value system, James warns that money provides neither personal worth nor real security. [ref]

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THE ALMIGHTY DOLLAR
[M]oney is the context for some of our most common and spiritually significant trials. Because of money we are beset with fears -- troubling anxieties about how financial needs will be met. Because of money we are attacked with a sense of guilt and failure. We struggle to make ends meet, and we feel internal accusations about inability to manage finances and about mistakes we must have made in financial choices. Because of money we fall into crippling self-pity, chronic complaining and envy of others who can buy and do things which we lack. These can produce a terrible bitterness of spirit that makes a desert of our personal fellowship with God. Because of money we become trapped in attitudes of greed, practices of injustice and a lifestyle of materialism. No wonder Scripture says that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil!

Look still more deeply into the matter. Why does money evoke such destructive reactions in us? Don't we fall into these reactions especially because of the particular functions money plays in our lives? First, money functions as verification of personal worth. When we are conscious of lacking wealth (which is relative -- lacking in comparison to anyone who has more, or in comparison to anything we cannot afford), the implication is that we are worth less than others and that we are less worthy for God to bless. On the other hand, if we are conscious of having wealth (again, relative to anyone else or relative to anything we want), the prideful comparisons come easily to us. The implication is that we are more successful because we are worth more. Second, money functions as security. That is why a loss of job or a financial setback is so frightening. It is also why some choices can be so attractive when they are financially helpful even though they will harm our well-being. A friend admitted to me that he hates going to work because of the evil atmosphere there, but that he took the job because of the financial security it offered. Third, money functions as power or advantage over other people. It gives power for people to perform injustices against others; when we lack wealth compared to others, we feel our vulnerability.

The effect of these dynamics is to focus our lives on the pursuit of money. Financial gain becomes the increasingly decisive factor in our attention, choices and lifestyle. It becomes urgent to recognize, therefore, that these three functions of money are worldly functions -- violations of the ways of Christ's kingdom. Jesus called his followers to choose between treasures on earth and treasures in heaven, for he said, "You cannot serve both God and Money" (Mt 6:19-24). He warned that material wealth is dangerous to spiritual health; in fact, "it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God" (Mt 19:24). James's purpose here is to encourage Christians in material hardship not to become caught in the pursuit of wealth.

- George M. Stulac

But the brother of humble circumstances (James 1:9). ROBERTSON: "In the LXX [= Septuagint] tapeinos [= of humble circumstances] was used for either the poor in goods or the poor in spirit." [ref] VINCENT: "The brother of humble circumstances" is literally "the brother, the lowly one" and refers to the "poor and afflicted, as contrasted with the rich." [ref]

GLOAG: "The majority of the early Christians were from among the poor; and it is probable that the unbelieving Jews by fines and extortions deprived their believing brethren of their goods. Poverty was a frequent form of persecution for conscience’ sake." [ref] (also: [ref])

is to glory in his high position (James 1:9). BURDICK: "The 'high position' in which this brother is to take pride has reference first of all to his position in Christ. In saving him, God lifts him up and gives him new dignity and worth. In this context, however, it seems most likely that James also has in mind the privilege of 'suffering disgrace for the Name [Jesus]' (Acts 5:41). To endure persecution for Christ's sake lifts the believer to a position of honor that more than offsets his poverty." [ref] {note}

As long as the believer does so with the right attitude, enduring persecution for Christ's sake can be a truly "transformative experience." [ref]

Alternate translations/versions of James 1:9 include:


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(The following comments on James 1:10 assume that "the rich man" is a brother in Christ. See this {note} for the view that he is not.)

and the rich man (is to glory) in his humiliation (James 1:10). MOTYER: "[T]he Bible never teaches that wealth is wrong -- did not the Lord give Solomon, as an intended blessing, riches as well as wisdom (1 Kings 3:12–13)? Everything depends on how it has been acquired (e.g. Jeremiah 17:11), how it is used (e.g. Luke 12:19–20) and what place it holds in the heart of its possessor (e.g. 1 John 2:15)." [ref]

GLOAG: "Although most of the early Christians were poor, yet there were several among them who were rich; and to them there were addressed special exhortations; as when St. Paul says: ‘Charge them that are rich not to trust in uncertain riches’ (1 Timothy 6:17)." [ref]

BURDICK: "Since the context deals with trials, the low position [= 'humiliation'] may be a description of the humbling experience of suffering persecution for Christ's sake. The very same treatment that exalts the poor man and gives him a new sense of worth also humbles the rich man. Suffering shows him that, instead of having a lasting lease on life, his life on this earth is no more permanent than 'a wild flower' (cf. Isa 40:6-8.)." [ref] {note}

ROBERTSON: "The Cross of Christ lifts up the poor and brings down the high. It is the great leveller of men." [ref] It declares unto all the world that every human being -- whether rich or poor or somewhere in-between -- is spiritually destitute and thus equally in need of God's mercy and grace.

When it comes to wealth and status, we too easily get it wrong: KISTEMAKER: "In today's world we praise the rich who have gained positions of authority, and we pity the poor for living in deplorable conditions. The Bible says that the position of the rich who live without God is deplorable (Luke 12:20-21). But 'the brother in humble circumstances' is exalted." [ref]

BARTON: "[Material wealth] can create a barrier between us and God. If we are rich, or even if we live what we modestly call a 'comfortable' life-style, James reminds us that our only lasting security is in a relationship with Christ. We must not trust what money and power seem to guarantee; instead, we must humbly trust in God and his eternal riches." [ref]

like flowering grass he will pass away (James 1:10). GLOAG: "[This is a] common figure in the O.T., expressive of the instability of earthly blessings." [ref] ROBERTSON: "[Meaning: he] shall pass completely away from earth." [ref]

BLUE: "Social prominence passes away, wealth withers away like a wild flower in the hot sun, and fame will fade. Hope in the eternal is evidence of believing faith." [ref]

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WORDS TO RICH & POOR
Remember that James begins by discussing suffering and tribulation. James 1:2–8 teach us that we need wisdom as we undergo trials, and that God generously gives it to us if we will only ask. Now James gets more specific. Many Jewish Christians had lost their property or had been driven from Jerusalem. They had even seen friends and loved ones killed for the sake of the gospel. Others had suffered at the hands of the Romans who occupied Palestine. James speaks to people who have been impoverished as a result of such trials, or who simply are poor. He tells them that in Christ they have all riches. Thus, they should rejoice in their wealth.

When James tells us to ask for wisdom (v. 5), he is telling us that we are all to be like Solomon (1 Kings 3:9–10). If we ask for wisdom, as Solomon did, God will give us far greater things than we have requested (1 Kings 3:11–14). Thus, the poor brother or sister who asks for wisdom in this midst of trial may find spiritual and even physical blessings from among God’s infinite riches. The secret is to truly seek wisdom and not wealth for its own sake.

James 1:10–11 addresses the rich. For some reason James does not call them “brothers.” Perhaps the use of the word brother in verse 9 is to carry over here; or perhaps by “rich” James means those Jews who have not yet taken up the cross and joined the humble throng of despised Christians. These would not be true brothers.

Clearly James 2:1–7 and 5:1–6 address rich Jews who are not behaving as brothers, for they oppress poor Christians. He warns them to humble themselves under Christ, because their riches will soon fade away. If unconverted Jews are being addressed here, their riches evaporated in the Jewish War of A.D. 66–70.

Other poor should count themselves rich and not be resentful. The rich should count themselves poor, and not be proud. The number of the wealthy includes most Western believers of today, for the poorest of us are wealthy compared with other times and cultures.

- R. C. Sproul

Alternate translations/versions of James 1:10 include:

SPURGEON: "Let [the rich man] not therefore reckon upon his wealth as though it were anything but a trust and a burden laid upon him, for he will have to leave it, and he himself, “as the flower of the grass, shall pass away” Let him rejoice to get down to the Rock of ages, let him lay hold of eternal things as if he had nothing else in which he could trust." [ref]


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a scorching wind (James 1:11). Wealth is temporary at best and can be lost as quickly as "a scorching wind ... withers the grass." BARNES: "A scorching wind" (Greek kausōn) refers "not so much to the sun itself, as to the hot and fiery wind called the simoon, which often rises with the sun, and which consumes the green herbage of the fields."  [ref] BARCLAY: "[This wind] came straight from the deserts and burst on Palestine like a blast of hot air when an oven door is opened. In an hour it could wipe out all vegetation." [ref]

That said, kausōn primarily means "a scorching heat" ([ref] [ref] [ref]), and so here it may simply "refer it to the heat of the sun, which in Palestine is very scorching." [ref] (also: [ref])

Alternate translations/versions include:

ROBERTSON: "Grass and flowers are often used to picture the transitoriness of human life." [ref] The fleeting nature both of wealth and of life itself serves as a constant reminder that we must ever and always be ready for what comes next -- that is, God's judgment. If the rich man is trusting in his riches, or even in his own life, he is not prepared for Heaven. [ref]

so too the rich man (James 1:11). GLOAG: "[This refers not to] the rich brother, that is the Christian, but the rich man generally: St. James is here speaking of the transient nature of the earthly riches. He who trusts in earthly riches shall fade away like the flower of the field." [ref]

in the midst of his pursuits (James 1:11). MCKNIGHT: "James has in mind the overall lifestyle of the rich man, who plans and plots how to increase riches instead of living each day before God. The characterization is damning, and so also is the rich person's future." [ref]

will fade away (James 1:11). ROBERTSON: "The rich man’s travels will come to 'journey’s end.'" [ref]

BARCLAY: "James' point is this. If life is so uncertain and man so vulnerable, calamity and disaster may come at any moment. Since that is so, a man is a fool to put all his trust in things -- like wealth -- which he may lose at any moment. He is only wise if he puts his trust in things which he cannot lose." [ref]

BARTON: "The poor should be glad that riches mean nothing to God; otherwise poor people would be considered unworthy. The rich should be glad that wealth means nothing to God, because wealth is easily lost. We find true wealth by developing our spiritual life, not financial assets." [ref]

Alternate translations/versions of James 1:11 include:

SPURGEON: "No matter how luxurious may be his mode of living, no matter how admirable may be his taste, [the rich man] shall certainly fade, and all that he has will fade, too; and if this be all that can be said of him, that he is a rich man, he is a very poor creature indeed." [ref]


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*Scripture taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, © Copyright 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org) | **This outline is from The Bible Exposition Commentary, by Warren W. Wiersbe | ^Except where indicated otherwise, paragraph formatting follows that of the NASB.