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Saturday, July 13th, 2024
the Week of Proper 9 / Ordinary 14
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Bible Commentaries
James 1

Smith's Bible CommentarySmith's Commentary

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Verses 1-27

Let's turn to James chapter one. James introduces himself as the bondslave of God and of Jesus Christ. It's a title that most of the apostles delighted to take. Renouncing any claim for any rights, turning their lives over totally to God and to the lordship of Jesus Christ, they did not consider their lives their own. They were bereft of ambitions in a personal way. They lived solely to serve the Lord and to please Him.

A bondslave was just that, one who lived completely for his master. He had no rights of ownership, could not hold title to anything, everything he had belonged to his master. He was there only to serve.

James, a bondslave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad ( James 1:1 ).

Not to the ten lost tribes for they were not and they have not been. They are the twelve tribes that are scattered abroad. This is before the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus. In fact, they think that James is probably one of the earliest epistles written. It pre-dates the Pauline epistles. And so there's some people who say, "Well, James wrote his epistle to counteract Paul's teaching on salvation through grace and all." Not so, James wrote his epistle before Paul wrote his. So if he wrote it to counteract Paul's epistles, it was a pretty interesting document in that he wrote his epistle probably five years before Paul wrote his first epistle; two years at least.

So, James addressing the twelve tribes scattered abroad. His greeting. He uses the typical Greek greeting here which actually is the same word for grace.

My brethren count it all joy when you fall into diverse temptations ( James 1:2 );

We are constantly faced with temptations. It's just a part of life. And in each temptation there has to be a decision on our part, whether or not we are going to walk in the flesh or to walk in the Spirit. For temptation is any situation that would draw me into the flesh and into a fleshly reaction. I have to choose. Will I walk after the flesh? Will I walk after the Spirit? And we realize that there are all kinds of temptation. They come from all directions.

As I shared this morning, driving I think can be one of the greatest temptations in the world to get in the flesh. It's interesting we were recently in Korea and these people are an extremely gracious, wonderful people. They were so kind and gracious to us. But when they get in a car, they're totally different. I mean, I owe a great deal of my spiritual development to riding in a car in Seoul, Korea. I really learned to pray. The temptation of responding or reacting in the flesh to the foolish moves of other drivers.

Temptations that come because of our possessions. Something happening to my possession because we try to possess our possessions. We so often find ourselves angered, responding in the flesh because something has happened to my prized possession.

Temptations that come because of interpersonal relationships. Temptations that come from so many areas. Divers temptations where I am prone to respond after the flesh. I want to respond after the flesh.

Now we are told to count it all joy, a strange response to temptations. Usually I don't like to be tested. I would rather that everything went very smoothly. I would rather that no one got in my way. I would rather that no one cross me. No one cut in front of me. That I would much rather see. But it doesn't happen that way. Life isn't that way. Life is filled with disappointments. There are always those that are going crosscurrent to you. There will always be those who will be irritants to you. An irritating situation. I cannot rule and order my life, as I would have it.

If I did, I would become so spoiled and rotten and pompous. Wanting everybody to bow. Wanting everybody to yield. Wanting everybody to submit. Doesn't happen that way. And so for my growth, for my development, temptation is necessary. It's a part of the testing and that's what we are told here.

the trying of our faith ( James 1:3 )

The another word for that is the proving of our faith. You say you believe God? Hey, big deal. Devils do, too. The proving of your faith.

Now the proving of the faith is never really for God's benefit. God knows the truth about you the whole while.

Someone told me the other day, "Oh, I'm afraid I've disappointed God." I said, "No, no, no, it's impossible to disappoint God. You've disappointed yourself. God knew it all the time. You didn't and so you disappointed yourself. You didn't disappoint God. He knew that was there. He knew that that would be your response. He wasn't at all disappointed."

We disappoint ourselves because we oftentimes think we are further down the road than we really are. I thought I was over that hump. I thought I had conquered that area. And here comes the situation where I'm tested and golly, I blow it. You know I'm so disappointed. Why did I say that? Why did I do that? But I shouldn't feel condemned like "Oh, I've let God down," or "I disappointed God." No, God knew it the whole while. But I needed to know it. And so God allowed the situation so I could find it out. And so temptation, something that is common to all men. Count it all joy because temptation is the testing of our faith and this testing of our faith develops patience, or

works patience ( James 1:3 ).

What a needed quality, patience. So often our failure is in waiting upon God. And that is true throughout the Bible. So many within the Scriptures got into trouble because they didn't wait upon God. They failed in the test of faith in areas of their life.

Abraham though he passed the test magnificently with Isaac, yet failed in the birth of Isaac. When God promised to give him a son. He wasn't patient. Sarah finally came and said, oh, come on, Abraham; it's not going to work. You take my handmaid and you have a son by her. And when the child is born, I'll take it on my lap and it will be as my child. But I'm just not going to be able to bear a child, Abraham. Now let's be reasonable about this. Failure of faith. They didn't wait upon God until God responded or answered. The testing of our faith develops patience.

But, like Abraham, whenever I do not wait upon God, I'm always botching things up. Creating problems for myself. And so it's important that I'm tested. That I learn to wait upon God. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith works patience.

But let patience have her complete work that you might be fully mature ( James 1:4 ),

And that's the whole purpose of God is to bring you into a maturity. That we quit acting and responding like little children to the disappointments of life. That we quit throwing our little tantrums at God, stomping our foot and walking away and saying, I'm not going to talk to you anymore. But that we grow up and become mature.

complete, wanting nothing. Now, if any of you lack in wisdom ( James 1:4 , James 1:5 ),

I don't suppose that's addressed to this crowd tonight. We always know exactly what to do, don't we? But if there happens to be one out there that lacks in wisdom,

let him ask of God, who gives to all men liberally ( James 1:5 ),

Or freely. What a glorious promise this is. How many times in coming to God do I come on the basis of this verse. I don't know what to do. There are so many things in life that I really don't know what is the right way. I lack wisdom. And it's wonderful to be able to come to God and ask God for wisdom and realize that He'll give to all men freely.

and He upbraids not ( James 1:5 );

He's not going to say, "Oh, come on, stupid thing, what's the matter with you? Can't you see this is what." You know He doesn't upbraid you when you come for wisdom. He doesn't give you a hassle or bad time. But He gives to us freely. Upbraids not

and it shall be given him ( James 1:5 ).

Glorious promise. If I need wisdom, I can ask of God. Now when I ask, it's important that I,

ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavers is like the wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed ( James 1:6 ).

A stormy sea. The waves seem to be rolling back and forth. Tossed by the wind. So is the man who doubts. Tossed to and fro, lacking stability.

For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. For he is a double minded man, unstable in all his ways ( James 1:7 , James 1:8 ).

My commitment to God needs to be a complete commitment. I'm not to hold things out and then pull them back. I'm not to offer God my life and then take it back. I'm not really to ask for wisdom and then do my own thing. It isn't asking for wisdom and then making up my mind whether or not I want to follow it. Asking God to reveal His will so I can determine whether or not I want to yield to it. I must make a decision. I must make a commitment. I must determine that I'm going to just commit my life to the Lord's keeping, and then just believe the Lord to keep it. And when things aren't going quite right, or I can't quite understand what's happening, don't say, "Oh, I better take over here now, you know, I don't know what the Lord is doing." And this is so common among us, this wavering bit. Not really for sure. Offering and then taking back. You become unstable in everything.

[Now] let the brother who is poor rejoice in that he is exalted: But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. For the sun no sooner is risen with a burning heat, but it withers the grass, and the flower thereof falls, and the grace of the fashion of it perishes: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways ( James 1:9-11 ).

So James has quite a few things to say concerning the rich. And that is, those who are possessed by their riches he rebukes in chapter two those people in the church who pay special respect to the rich people. Because a person has money, sort of giving them special favors. And that's a policy rebuked in chapter two.

Here in chapter one, he speaks out against those rich who would use their riches to oppress others, to gain a special position. He says, "Hey, you're going to fade like a flower in the field. You're going to pass away." A man of low degree better rejoice in that he's exalted. But the rich in that he is made low.

In the final chapter of the book, he says, "Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for the miseries that are come upon you. For you've laid up your gold and silver for the last days. But now it's worthless" ( James 5:1-3 ).

Blessed is the man [or happy is the man] that endures temptations ( James 1:12 ):

That has victory over temptations. What a glorious thing it is when I have been tempted and I'm victorious. I didn't respond after the flesh. I didn't get all upset and angry and say mean things that now I am sorry for. Have you ever noticed how miserable you are whenever you fail? Whenever you blow it? Whenever you just give over to the flesh and you say all these nasty things and you just you know yell and say mean things to people. Afterwards you ever notice how miserable you are? How you just sort of hate yourself and you're embarrassed to go around the people again. You know you've got to apologize for the things you said and all. And you just feel horrible, you feel miserable. I got in the flesh. Miserable experience.

But oh how blessed it is when you have victory and I didn't respond according to the flesh. When I responded after the Spirit, when I did the right thing. And you feel so good because you know that the Lord gave you the strength to respond in the Spirit. Happy is the man that endures temptations, for when he is tempted.

for when he is tried ( James 1:12 ),

Faith is tested; we turn out to be true. And it's important that the faith be tested because we are so prone to deceive ourselves. In the next chapter, actually in this chapter he's going to talk twice of self-deception. If you're a "hearer of the word only, you're deceiving yourself" ( James 1:22 ). If you think that you're a religious person and yet you don't bridle your own tongue, you're deceiving yourself. Your religion is vain. So it is important that faith be tested. It's important that I know where I am. That I know what God knows about me. That I not think more highly of myself than I ought to. That I am not deceived and living in a false sense of security. But that I know the truth. And God allows the temptations, the testing, in order that I might know the truth about myself.

God said to the children of Israel, "For forty years I suffered you in the wilderness, and I tempted you and I proved you, to see what was in your heart" ( Deuteronomy 8:2 ). Not that God would see what was in their heart, He knew it but they didn't know it. So He tested them so that they could see what was in their heart. "For the heart is deceitful, and desperately wicked" ( Jeremiah 17:9 ). It is deceitful and we are guilty so often of deceiving ourselves.

"Be not deceived," Paul said ( 1 Corinthians 6:9 ). Testing is a great way to learn the truth about me. It comes out in the time of trial. Again, when everything is going great, everything is running smooth; I don't know the truth about me. I don't know how I would respond in real adversity. God allows the adversity so that I can see the truth about myself and how I would respond in adversity. And when the adversity comes and I respond after the Spirit, Ah man, what a joyful delight. I often say, "Hey, that's not me. That's the Lord working in me because that isn't the way I would naturally respond." And it's a joy to see God's Spirit working in our lives, transforming us into the image of Jesus Christ.

When we've been tried,

[we] shall receive the crown of life ( James 1:12 ),

Now Jesus to the church of Smyrna in His letter to the church of Smyrna in book of Revelation 2 , He spoke about the trials that they were going to go through. But He said, "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give to thee a crown of life" ( Revelation 2:10 ). And so this glorious crown of life, that eternal life that we have through Jesus Christ.

which the Lord hath promised to those that love him. Now let no man when he is tempted say, I've been tempted by God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, and neither tempteth he any man ( James 1:12 , James 1:13 ):

Now this is temptation in a little different sense. This is temptation, which is a solicitation to evil. It isn't a testing that you can find out where you are. But this is actually a solicitation to evil. God doesn't solicit any man to evil. Satan solicits man to evil. Satan solicited Eve to evil.

You remember when there were the five thousand who had followed Jesus to a wilderness place and it was evening and Jesus said to Philip, "You better go in town and buy bread for this multitude" ( John 6:5 ). And John said, "This He said proving him" ( John 6:6 ). The word "prove" there is the same Greek word as "tempt." This He said tempting him because Jesus knew what He was going to do. He just wanted Philip to say, "Oh man, what do you mean, Lord, you know. Where can we buy enough bread for all these people?" And so Jesus said this testing him. Proving him. The Greek word is the same used for tempting him. But it wasn't a solicitation to evil. It is how are you going to respond; in the flesh or in the Spirit?

And so when our temptations come, if it is a solicitation to evil it isn't of God. It's from Satan. So when I am tempted, solicited to do something evil, I shouldn't say, "Oh God really tempted me today, you know. I saw a man drop his wallet and I could see a hundred-dollar bill in it. Boy, I was tempted by God to keep that money." No, no, no! You weren't tempted by God to keep it.

So "don't let any man say when he's tempted I've been tempted of God. God is not tempted with evil, nor does He tempt man with evil." God does put test before us that we might have the opportunity to respond in the flesh or in the Spirit. But God doesn't tempt us or solicit us to evil.

But every man is tempted [or solicited to evil], when he is drawn away of his own desires or lust, and enticed ( James 1:14 ).

Now there is deep within every man a great desire for fulfillment. There is deep within every man a thirst, which creates sort of a frustration with life. A awareness that there's got to be more to life than this. Jesus was referring to that in the seventh chapter of John in the great day of the feast when He said, "If any man thirst, let him come to me, and drink" ( John 7:37 ). He's talking about the spiritual thirst that man has. Not the physical. There is this desire, deep desire that I have for meaning, for fulfillment in life.

Now Satan comes along and he suggests to me that in order to have fulfillment I don't have to be patient and walk the path that God has set before me. But temptation usually involves the idea that I can have immediate fulfillment if I will just turn aside from God's path. Now when Satan came to Jesus, that was the whole idea behind the temptation.

You've come to redeem the world. You've come to bring the world back under the sphere and dominion of God. God has sent You for that purpose, to redeem the world. And God has purposed that you go to the cross and that you suffer and you die in order to redeem the world. Tell you what. You can escape the cross. You don't have to take God's path by way of the cross that's a painful way. You can have immediate fulfillment. Tell you how. If you'll just bow down and worship me, I'll just give you all the kingdoms of the world. You see, the idea was turn aside from God's path and you can find immediate fulfillment right here.

Now that is what Satan is always using, the concept of immediate fulfillment. And to different people he holds out different enticements. You don't have to take God's path. You don't have to follow the word of God. You see, God is restricting you. God is holding you back. That's what he said to Eve. God's keeping you from something good. Here you have fulfillment, it's right here. It's in this fruit, Eve, and God's trying to keep you from something good because He's afraid that you're going to be as wise as He is when you eat of it because this fruit contains the knowledge of good and evil. God doesn't want you to share this knowledge with Him. He's holding back from you. Now you can have immediate fulfillment, Eve, eat and you can have immediate fulfillment.

And so he holds to us forbidden fruit. Something that is contrary to the word of God. Oh, you don't have to take God's path. You can have immediate fulfillment. It lies in this relationship. Maybe fornication, maybe adultery. But oh, he holds it up and you know, here's immediate fulfillment. You don't have to follow God's path at the cross, denying yourself, denying the flesh. No, no, the it lies in turning aside from God's path and indulging the flesh. You can have the fulfillment now. This is what you're really desiring. And he holds out the enticement of immediate fulfillment.

Paul said something quite interesting in his letter to the Ephesians. He said, "Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be ye filled with the Spirit" ( Ephesians 5:18 ). Now those seem like two very unlikely things to relate together. The alcoholic to the Spirit-filled man. And they seem a very unlikely combination to put together. But if you look at it carefully, it isn't. The man who turns to alcohol, what is he looking for? An immediate fulfillment. And Satan has deceived him and said, Hey, here it is. Here's the way to get happy. Here's the way to forget your problems. Here's the way to cope with life. Just enjoy a few drinks till your mind gets fuzzy and you don't have to think about these things. You know, it will just relax you and it will just release the tensions and you can have immediate fulfillment. You don't have to follow God's path.

But what happens to the man who is filled with the Spirit? He has that fulfillment. He has that sense of well being. He has that peace. He is a relaxed person. So the one is searching for it in alcohol, the other has found it in the fullness of the Spirit. And that man who is joyful in the fullness of the Spirit has exactly what the other man is really looking for and searching for. But he's turned aside from God's path and he's searching in the wrong place.

So every man when he is tempted is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. There's a great desire inside. Satan is pointing to this path and saying, "Hey, hey, don't have to go the way of the cross. You don't have to deny yourself. You don't have to take up the cross and follow Jesus. Tell you what, you just follow my path and I'll give it to you instantly. You don't have to wait; you can have it right now."

Now when this desire has conceived, it brings forth sin ( James 1:15 ):

The sin isn't in the temptation. We all of us experience temptation. Even Jesus was tempted of the devil. The sin doesn't lie in the temptation. The sin is there when I give into my desire of my flesh and I turn after the path that Satan suggests. That when the lust is conceived, it gives birth to sin. That's the beginning of sin.

and sin, when it is finished, brings death ( James 1:15 ).

Spiritual death; ultimately, physical death.

Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift ( James 1:16 , James 1:17 )

Now the Greek word here is different from the second Greek word for gift, this is "dosis" and the other one comes from "didomi." And one refers to the giver and the other refers to the gift. The first one here refers to the giver. The act of giving. Every good gift that is given and every or every good giver in a sense.

and every perfect gift is from above ( James 1:17 ),

The gift of God to us. His goodness, His grace, His love, comes from above,

comes down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning ( James 1:17 ).

The immutability of God. He said, "Behold, I am the Lord God, I change not" ( Malachi 3:6 ). What does that mean? It means that He doesn't alter the rules for you. You're no special exception and you have no special case.

It's interesting how Satan so often seeks to lie to people and say, "Hey, hey, that doesn't apply to you. You know, this is special. I mean, this is real love. And so the rules don't apply to you. You've got a special dispensation of indulgence that God has granted." No way. God does not change the rules for anybody. There is neither shadow, nor variableness of turning with Him.

Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth ( James 1:18 ),

Interesting. In John chapter one, the gospel, it says, "Who were born," talking about being born again, "not by the will of man, nor by the will of the flesh, but by the will of God" ( John 1:13 ). Have you been born again? How is it that you were born again? Because you chose to be born again? Not really. Because God chose that you should be born again. You were born again "not of the will of man, nor of the will of the flesh but of the will of God."

Jesus said, "You didn't choose me, I chose you, and ordained that you should be my disciples and that you should bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain" ( John 15:16 ). That to me is a glorious glorious truth that God chose me. That thrills me that God would choose me. It thrills me because God chose me on the basis of His foreknowledge. "Whom he did foreknow, he did also predestinate" ( Romans 8:29 ). And on the basis of His foreknowledge, He chose me and I have been begotten again by the will of God. I've been born again by the will of God. You've been born "not by the will of man, nor the will of flesh, but by the will of God."

I love it that God should choose me. I love it! I love it especially because He chose me on the basis of His foreknowledge, which means He knew the end from the beginning. And He chose me on the basis of what He knew would be the end of my walk and fellowship with Him. You see, God wouldn't be so foolish as to choose losers. If you had the power of foreknowledge, you wouldn't choose the losers. That'd be ridiculous, wouldn't it? Think of what you can do if you could make all of your choices with the advantage of foreknowledge. You knew exactly what would be the result of this choice.

I knew exactly which horse was going to win every race. I knew the results. You know, win place or show, or whatever they do. Now if you had that kind of knowledge, if you knew in advance that as God does, and you'd go to Santa Anita, would you pick a bunch of losers? You'd be foolish if you did. Of course you wouldn't. You'd pick winners. Now God has that kind of knowledge and He chose you. Hey, hey, hey, what's it mean? Means you're a winner. Means you can't lose. Who have been born again of God.

Peter in his first epistle said, "Thanks be unto God who has begotten us again" ( 1 Peter 1:3 ). But you know that that's but how would you say, Who has borned us again. But that's literally what it is, who has borned us again. My being born again is a work of God, God has chosen me and I was born again by a work of God's Spirit, not by even my own will. "Not the will of man nor the will of the flesh but by the will of God."

So here again, Of his own will, He begat us with His word of truth.

that we should be kind of firstfruits of his creation ( James 1:18 ).

New creatures in Christ.

Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath ( James 1:19 ):

Now if you've done much counseling with Romaine, you know that he informs you that God gave you two ears and one mouth. Now think about that. It means that He wants you to hear twice as much as what you speak. Don't be so quick to speak. Be quick to hear, but slow to speak, slow to wrath. Oh, if I'd only been slower to speak. If I just kept my mouth shut, how much easier things could have been. But when we are quick to speak, so often we are wrong. And we have to then later take back what we said. So slow to wrath:

For the wrath of man does not work the righteousness of God. Wherefore set aside all the filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness ( James 1:20-21 ),

Whatever that is. Superfluid. Another good word would be overflowing. Fluid flows, super is over, so the overflowing of wickedness. Or the abounding of wickedness. So "set apart all filthiness, overflowing of wickedness,"

and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your soul ( James 1:21 ).

Set aside our pride, set aside our wicked ways, and let's just hear the word of God because it is by the word of God that we are born again. It is the seed planted that brings the new birth. The word of God sown in our hearts brings new life, new birth. And so "receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls."

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourself. For if any man is a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: For he beholds himself, and then he goes away, and immediately he forgets what manner of man he was ( James 1:22-24 ).

It's so easy to get sort of an exalted opinion of ourselves. Nothing like little granddaughters to keep you honest, you know. I mean, you look in the mirror and you say, "Umm, you know, look at that flaw. Oh my," you know. Then you go away and you forget. So my little granddaughter says, "Grandpa, your teeth are yellow." Well, I'm prone to forget that. "Grandpa, you got crinkles on your face."

And so the man who is a hearer of the word. You begin to get a false concept of yourself. "Well, after all, I go to Bible studies and I'm really studying the word of God. I really know the Scriptures. I've memorized the book of John and I really know the Scriptures." Yeah, but are you doing it? You see, if you're just a hearer and not a doer of the word, then you are deceiving yourself. You think that you're in better shape than you really are. You're not acknowledging the truth about yourself. And so we need to be the doers of the word. It's "not those that have the law that are justified, but those that do the law," Paul said ( Romans 2:13 ). And that was the mistake that the Jewish people were making. They thought, well, we have the law of Moses. Paul said, No, no, that isn't enough. You've got to keep the law of Moses.

James said, Well you say you have the word of God; that isn't enough. You've got to be doing the word of God. There's got to be the practical application. There's got to be obedience to the commands. Be ye doers of the word and not hearers only because you'll deceive yourself.

But whoso looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed ( James 1:25 ).

In the work, in the deeds that he does.

Now if any man among you seems to be religious, and doesn't bridle his tongue, he is deceiving his own heart, and this man's religion is vain ( James 1:26 ).

It's empty.

But pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, Visit the orphans and the widows in their affliction, and keep yourself unspotted from the world ( James 1:27 ).

That's what it's really all about. Doing good for those that are in need. Reaching out to help those. That's what it is to be a doer of the word. It's translated into positive actions of reaching out to help those in need. And to just keep yourself unspotted from the world.


Bibliographical Information
Smith, Charles Ward. "Commentary on James 1". "Smith's Bible Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/csc/james-1.html. 2014.
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