James 1:2-18 (CEB)
2 My brothers and sisters, think of the various tests you encounter as occasions for joy. 3 After all, you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance. 4 Let this endurance complete its work so that you may be fully mature, complete, and lacking in nothing. 5 But anyone who needs wisdom should ask God, whose very nature is to give to everyone without a second thought, without keeping score. Wisdom will certainly be given to those who ask. 6 Whoever asks should not hesitate. They should ask in faith, without doubting. Whoever doubts is like the surf of the sea, tossed and turned by the wind. 7 People like that should never imagine that they will receive anything from the Lord. 8 They are double-minded, unstable in all their ways.
9 Brothers and sisters who are poor should find satisfaction in their high status. 10 Those who are wealthy should find satisfaction in their low status, because they will die off like wildflowers. 11 The sun rises with its scorching heat and dries up the grass so that its flowers fall and its beauty is lost. Just like that, in the midst of their daily lives, the wealthy will waste away. 12 Those who stand firm during testing are blessed. They are tried and true. They will receive the life God has promised to those who love him as their reward.
13 No one who is tested should say, “God is tempting me!” This is because God is not tempted by any form of evil, nor does he tempt anyone. 14 Everyone is tempted by their own cravings; they are lured away and enticed by them. 15 Once those cravings conceive, they give birth to sin; and when sin grows up, it gives birth to death.
16 Don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all. 18 He chose to give us birth by his true word, and here is the result: we are like the first crop from the harvest of everything he created.
I am always energized when I see God at work in my life. I felt that when I first saw the most recent pastor’s letter and then heard Pastor Joe’s message on September 3rd. Why? Because I recently signed up for a short two week study on biblical interpretation at https://beadisciple.com/, a great resource if you are looking to learn more about Wesleyan theology. In part, this course delves into the ways that our upbringing, education, environment, nationality, and ethnicity can color our interpretation of scripture and how we see God. Pastor Joe saying that we cannot expect to know God in full and preparing for a study that goes deeper into the “whys” seems to be more than coincidence especially since I have been considering this for months.
In today’s scripture, James begins to develop the principle that we can trust God to provide for us. In James 1:5 he says if you lack in wisdom, ask God, because he gives to all generously. Note that wisdom can be about anything in our life. Sometimes we can think that biblical wisdom is just a church thing. God is saying that his wisdom is for all aspects of our lives including ordinary work—making decisions, assessing opportunities, trusting colleagues or customers, etc.. James tells us to ask in faith, never doubting that God will give us the wisdom we need for all aspects of life.
If we doubt that God is the source of all we need, then we are what James calls “double-minded.” He is referring not simply to someone who experiences personal doubts, but to someone who is unstable in their prayer life. The essence of prayer is to turn over our minds fully to God. James’ second use of the term is set in an encouragement to draw near to God. The answer to the double mind with its wavering loyalties and indecision was the rededication of the whole personality to Christ. In other words, applying God’s word to all areas of our life.
Trying to understand the text regarding the wealthy I found Matthew Henry’s commentary helpful as paraphrased here. Observe what reason rich people have, notwithstanding their riches, to be humble and low in their own eyes, because both they and their riches are passing away: As the flower of the grass he shall pass away. He, and his wealth with him, James 1,11. For the sun has no sooner risen with a burning heat than it withered the grass. Worldly wealth is a withering thing. Riches are too uncertain, too inconsequential, to make any great or justifiable alteration in our minds.
With regard to the poor, we can catch the importance of caring for the poor by looking at the outset of Jesus’ ministry when he says his goal is “to preach good news to the poor.” Jesus has in mind those who are humble, contrite in spirit, the person who in the midst of oppression turns to God for deliverance.
by Clarence Beverage
For Pondering & Prayer
I think that the more we trust God to provide for us the more that we see God reflected in our lives. What is your perspective on that? Trusting can be hard when you are used to being independent. What would motivate you to try that more this fall?
Prayer: Holy Lord God, Fall is often a season of change and thinking about doing something new. Please touch each of our lives, through the power of your Holy Spirit, to be empowered with desire to feel and see your presence more fully in our lives. Amen.