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Wisdom for Christians with trials

April 26, 2017

James 1:2 calls for Christian brothers and sisters to count it all joy when they suffer various trials. James adds that as one suffers, this tests one’s faith, and can lead to remaining patient and faithful servants of God (1:2-3). Such trials can thus be tests–yet could also be temptations.

In 1:12-14 James speaks of both trials and being tempted. The temptations are especially connected with selfish desires (1:14-15). These desires can lead to sin. The preceding context of 1:11 would link evil desires with the pursuits of the rich. The problem is that much religious wisdom of the world thinks God wants to bless them by giving them the desires of their heart, desires such as escaping the trials of poverty and humiliation from the rich.

Presently, poor Christians face humiliation (from the rich); but James says their future will be exaltation from God, the crown of life (if they remain faithful until death) (1:9-11). As for the rich that now thrive on earth, they and their exalted status on earth will pass away like the flowers that bloom and then wilt under the bright sun. They will be brought down and humiliated in the end (by God).

Poor Christians who have this wisdom, can accept their present humble status on earth with joy. If they lack wisdom, they should pray and God will give them wisdom from above (1:5-6). And God will generously give them “without reproaching” (1:5). God’s gift does not include words of humiliation about lazy or undeserving recipients, in contrast to the miserly gifts of the rich.

Asking in faith means asking without doubting (1:6), without being “double-minded” (1:7-8). The pure in heart seek faithfulness to the mind of God. The double-minded are driven by strong “waves” and “winds,” seeking to follow the wisdom of the world as well as the wisdom of God. Even much of the religious wisdom of the world asks God to remove trials, to give them the (greedy) desires of their heart, to help them succeed in the world.

But such ambitions and desires are temptations, and do not come from God (1:13); they come from one’s own greed (1:14). While the old covenant of Moses promised prosperity if Israel would be faithful, Jesus–like the later prophets of Israel–exposed the greed and oppression of Israel’s rich and powerful. A true prophet is a poor prophet who speaks truth to wealth and power, and suffers the consequences.

So James is calling his readers to join him in being a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ (1:1). James and his brothers and sisters are a new family, with one Father, God, and with one Lord, Jesus Christ. While the ruling fathers and lords of earth pursue their selfish interests, at the expense of much of the rest of the earth, poor and persecuted Christians can pray for and receive wisdom from their Father and Lord that enables them to overcome temptations to pursue their own selfish interests and to remain joyfully faithful to the one true Lord.

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From → Book of James

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