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James 1:5

James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” — NIV

James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” — KJV

James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” — ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:5 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
ei [1487] if, whether, that (conditional participle) de [1161] and, but, now… (conjunction) tis [5100] anyone, anything, someone, something, somewhat humon [5216] you, your, yourselves leipo [3007] leave, fail, absent, lack, destitute sophia [4678] wisdom aiteo [0154] ask, beg, crave, desire, require para [3844] near ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) didomi [1325] give theos [2316] God pas [3956] all, whole haplos [0574] bountifully kai [2532] and, also, even, so then, too me [3361] not, no, none, never oneidizo [3679] reproach, chide, defame, taunt, revile, upbraid kai [2532] and, also, even, so then, too didomi [1325] give autos [0846] her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun)

1.5.0 Introduction to James 1:5

Verse 5 launches a new stream of ideas beginning with wisdom and ending with foolishness. James often uses stark comparisons to make vivid points. This passage is one of many examples. Verse 5 starts with a recommendation to seek wisdom by asking it of God. James assures us God will be generous in his answer to such a request. Verse 5 does not stand alone, however. Verse 6 establishes a specific requirement directed to us. In our study of Verse 5 we will explore wisdom, asking God for things, the nature of prayer and answers to prayer, and giving.

1.5.1 What is wisdom?

The word translated as wisdom in this passage is the Greek word “sophia.”

According to an online Greek Lexicon, “sophia” is found 49 times in the New Testament. According to this lexicon it means: wisdom, broad and full of intelligence; used of the knowledge of very diverse matters

1. the wisdom which belongs to men: a) spec. the varied knowledge of things human and divine, acquired by acuteness and experience, and summed up in maxims and proverbs b) the science and learning c) the act of interpreting dreams and always giving the sagest advice d) the intelligence evinced in discovering the meaning of some mysterious number or vision e) skill in the management of affairs f) devout and proper prudence in intercourse with men not disciples of Christ, skill and discretion in imparting Christian truth, the knowledge and practice of the requisites for godly and upright living

2. supreme intelligence, such as belongs to God a) to Christ b) the wisdom of God as evinced in forming and executing counsels in the formation and government of the world and the scriptures

From an online dictionary, the word “wisdom”:

1. The ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting; insight.

2. Common sense; good judgment: “It is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things” (Henry David Thoreau).

3a) The sum of learning through the ages; knowledge: “In those homely sayings was couched the collective wisdom of generations” (Maya Angelou).

3b) Wise teachings of the ancient sages.

4. A wise outlook, plan, or course of action.

5. Wisdom - Bible. Wisdom of Solomon.

1.5.2 How valuable is wisdom?

Prov 3:13-18 Blessed is the one who finds wisdom, and the one who gets understanding, for the gain from her is better than gain from silver and her profit better than gold. She is more precious than jewels, and nothing you desire can compare with her. Long life is in her right hand; in her left hand are riches and honor. Her ways are ways of pleasantness, and all her paths are peace. She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her; those who hold her fast are called blessed. There can be little doubt that wisdom is highly prized, a thing of great value to God, which is why God gives it freely and generously to those who ask.

Prov 9:10 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is insight. If the “fear of the Lord” is the beginning of wisdom, then this “fear” must be even more valuable that the wisdom itself. The word translated fear has additional meanings which include reverence, respect, and piety. This verse is much more well known than understood. It is central to the understanding of salvation and salvation is certainly of greater value than wisdom. I say it is central because, if you consider Jesus’ encounter with Nicodemus (Jn 3) and again with the woman at the well (Jn 4), in both cases the point Jesus made was that he was in fact Lord. The woman didn’t fully comprehend it in theological terms, but she quickly grasped the concept that the man she encountered had both power and authority and, as a benevolent power, she was more than happy to submit to Jesus’ authority. With regard to Nicodemus, Jesus’ dialog with him was according to what he understood. There was no mistake in either his or the woman’s mind who Jesus claimed to be, nor was there any doubt that Jesus required acknowledgment and submission to that authority.

1.5.3 How do we get wisdom?

Jn 14:14 “If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it.” Method 1: Ask for it. As if our feature verse wasn’t enough. Read the context of Jn 14:14 for a full understanding.

Dan 1:17 “As for these four youths, God gave them learning and skill in all literature and wisdom, and Daniel had understanding in all visions and dreams.” Method 2: God knows you need it, so He imparts it whether you seek it or not. In this case, those who received were called by God for a specific purpose and the giving of special insight was necessary for them to carry out the assigned task. I think there are many great examples of this in scripture. Noah comes to mind as another good example. Information was certainly thrust upon all sort of people in the bible. Of course, they were almost always people God was using, people who were seeking God. They found him, all right.

Gen 3:6 “So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise1, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate.” {(1) or to give insight} Method 3: We get it for ourselves, from sources not intended by God. That’s pretty common. In fact, there’s a lot in the bible about false teachers and false prophets and such. Satan is the father of lies. You don’t have to encounter Satan in person to encounter lies. Of course the tree of knowledge had God’s good fruit on it, but the wisdom Eve came by was the result of listening to a lie. She wasn’t supposed to have it. But when we seek and accept knowledge from sources other than God, we will find lies in place of God’s true wisdom. When we find truth through unintended sources, it’s usually referred to as losing innocence.

Ps 111:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom; all those who practice it have a good understanding. His praise endures forever!” Method 4: Seek God and you will start the process of obtaining wisdom. Remember Prov 3:18 from the previous question? The key part was “She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her.” Certainly wisdom, at least a form of wisdom, is imparted with true salvation. Wisdom is part of the package deal with the indwelling Holy Spirit. The ultimate fruit? Eternal life.

1.5.4 How much wisdom can we get?

1 Ki 4:29 “And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure, and breadth of mind like the sand on the seashore.” This verse illustrates what is available. The passage in context goes on at length to describe a few areas of Solomon’s expanded wisdom, but suffice it to say God is God, and he can give as much as he sees fit to whom and when he sees fit.

We know there are various ways to acquire wisdom. Since we know there’s plenty to be had, then ask yourself, how much wisdom do you need? Consider Solomon’s life. He enjoy a great gift from God. Still, in his latter years he grew headstrong with his gift, taking about 1000 women as wives and concubines and such, and drifted further and further from the Lord. He was morose and depressed, and his writings expressed these sentiments. As for me, I seek to know what the Lord wants me to know. I seek discernment. I seek to know and to the degree possible understand his will. I seek to share what knowledge and wisdom I receive. I seek to give him the glory for what I receive, and for being that much wiser to know what not to give me. The free gift most valuable of all is the gift of eternal life, and that comes by faith, not wisdom. Wisdom comes from God, to those with faith, and it is not the other way around (Jas 1:6-7).

1.5.5 What do we do with wisdom?

Phil 4:13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me. Imagination is probably the biggest limitation. That said, some things are more worthwhile than others. Here’s a few I’d suggest:

Mt 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Certainly the most important work we can do in service to our Lord is to share the good news of his gift with other so that they too might share.

1 Pe 3:15 but in your hearts regard Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; This is where the rubber hits the road, so to speak. Every person is unique and every situation is different. Wisdom in necessary in order to adapt to situations and people, to communicate with them in a way they understand, and to demonstrate love in the most meaningful way possible to that individual so that they will open their hearts to receive the good news. For us as individuals this means being prepared with the armor of God and being skilled like a surgeon with your sword, which is the Word of God.

1 Jn 4:1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (Read v1-6 for the full context.) While service to others is the most noble endeavor, and being prepared for the task of sharing the gospel is the most useful application, discernment is also essential for each of us as individuals. We must be able to discern Truth so that we cannot be fooled and lead astray, lost to temptation, or drawn into arguments of circular logic or otherwise drawn away from telling the complete and accurate message of the good news.

I would summarize discernment as a type of wisdom specific to dealing with incoming information, regardless of the form of sensory perception used.

1.5.6 What kind of responsibility does wisdom entail?

Jas 4:17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin. It seems one could define wisdom as the opposite of sin. Maybe that’s why wisdom is so important.

1.5.7 To whom is wisdom available?

Referencing our focus verse, the answer seems to lie within. Speaking to the believers scattered about, James says “if any of you…” From this we know at a minimum, believers can receive divine wisdom because that is to whom his letter was addressed. James then instructs us to ask God. So, perhaps it is only to the believers who ask. Well, we know from one of our earlier questions that divine wisdom comes from God for various reasons and in various ways. Requesting it, however, does ensure availability. Next, James says God “gives generously to all.” You might jump on this and say God’s wisdom is then available to anyone, whether they believer or not, only for the asking. I’ve got three problems with such a thought. First, the word “all” modifies the “him” who is asking. “All” does not stand on its own in this sentence. My second problem is derived from the passage in Jn 14:13-14 where Jesus assures the believer that requests made “in his name” would be granted. Third, and most important, is to continue reading James 1:6 and beyond for the full context of these few words we are concentrating on today. James 1:6 says, But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea blown and tossed by the wind. This definitely places a bit of a restriction on availability. In fact, it clearly confirms and conforms to the first two issues I brought up.

When we ask God for something, we are communicating with Him. Prayer takes a lot of forms. Making requests is one of those forms. We are given plenty of instructions about how to pray. Jesus said to worship in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:24). Jesus also proclaimed he was Truth (Jn14:6). Mt

But that’s not all, folks. James goes on to say “gives generously to all without reproach.” KJV uses the words “giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not.” Knowing the limitations of “all,” you also need to remember divine wisdom is a gift. Like salvation, it cannot be earned, only requested. The request is valid only when made in true faith. When the request is made in true faith, God does promise to answer in the affirmative such a request. In fact, more than answer yes, we are promised a generous (liberal) share. So, the news only gets better!

The phrase “without reproach” or “upbraideth not” says to me that God not only will say yes, but he is seeking us to make this request. He longs to provide us with divine wisdom, if only we will ask. Certainly, the act of physically making the request is not always required, but the only sure way to get the gift is to ask.

Finally, will notice a subtle change in this lesson. I’ve been referring to “divine wisdom” rather than simply wisdom. I think there are different kinds of wisdom. All have value. Divine wisdom, unlike worldly wisdom or simply acquired information (knowledge), is special because it isn’t something we can lay hold of without supernatural involvement. I wanted to make this very clear because it is easy to be confused.

1.5.8 How does wisdom differ from knowledge?

Knowledge (as defined by

1.      The state or fact of knowing.

2.      Familiarity, awareness, or understanding gained through experience or study.

3.      The sum or range of what has been perceived, discovered, or learned.

4.      Learning; erudition: teachers of great knowledge.

5.      Specific information about something.

6.      Carnal knowledge.

To me, knowledge means to have a certainty about information.

To me, wisdom is essentially putting information to work by discerning and making the best possible choices based on available information (certain or otherwise).

Prov 1:20-22 Wisdom cries aloud in the street, in the markets she raises her voice; at the head of the noisy streets she cries out; at the entrance of the city gates she speaks: “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? Godly wisdom cries out for the lost. It begs for the lost to come and know the Lord. If you know the Lord, if you understand salvation, of what value is it if you do not stretch out your hand with your information as a gift to those who need it? They may resist, longing to remain carnal, but the wise will cry out, weeping for the lost, seeking to teach them about the Lord and Savior.

Prov 8:12 I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion. Wisdom is seeking. Wisdom not only seeks to share itself with the lost, but to grow and increase itself along the way. There is no way to fully know everything there is to know about God. But, that does not excuse us from making the effort to grow in our knowledge, love and obedient service of him every day.

We’ve looked at wisdom many ways and could surely write a book exploring it, but to what avail? Would it be wise to use so much time learning about wisdom rather than growing our wisdom? I think not.

James 1:6

James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” — NIV

James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” — KJV

James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” — ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:6 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
aiteo ask, beg, crave, desire, require de [1161] and, but, now… (conjunction) en [1722] preposition denoting place: such as in, at, of, through… pistis [4102] credence, moral conviction, reliance on Christ, belief, faith, fidelity medeis [3367] none, not, nothing diakrino [1252] withdraw from, oppose, discriminate, contend, discern, doubt, judge, be partial ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) gar [1063] verily, therefore, yet, no doubt, as, because that diakrino [1252] withdraw from, oppose, discriminate, contend, discern, doubt, judge, be partial eiko [1503] resemble, be like kludon [2830] rush or surge of the sea, raging wave thaddaios [2281] Thaddaeus (one of the Apostles) anemizo [0416] toss or drive with the wind kai [2532] and, also, even, so then, too rhipizo [4494] breeze up, agitate waves, toss

1.6.0 Introduction to James 1:6

Verse 6 adds a critical clause to verse 5 by stating in effect that doubt voids the promise in verse 5. One could think of this as a technicality or loop hole, but the simple fact is that faith in our Lord is required for salvation and our eternal hope, so it only seems reasonable to require faith for anything we seek from our Heavenly Father. James also paints a wonderful picture with words here as he describes the nature of one whose faith is insecure. Verse 6 explores faith and how to makes request of God.

1.6.1 What is faith?

Heb 11:1 Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.

“Faith” — from

1.      Confident belief in the truth, value, or trustworthiness of a person, idea, or thing.

2.      Belief that does not rest on logical proof or material evidence. See Synonyms at belief. See Synonyms at trust.

3.      Loyalty to a person or thing; allegiance: keeping faith with one’s supporters.

4.      often Faith Christianity. The theological virtue defined as secure belief in God and a trusting acceptance of God’s will.

5.      The body of dogma of a religion: the Muslim faith.

6.      A set of principles or beliefs.

It is pretty obvious from this passage James is instructing us to ask with faith in God. Not ourselves. Not others. Certainly not Satan. We are asking God for wisdom, it is in God we should have our faith. James goes on to proclaim that God doles out wisdom generously and will not be unhappy with such a request, nor will he be picky about who he gives this gift to. One of my personal favorite verses is 1 Thess 5:24, which states “He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it.”

1.6.2 Faith: Sell, Tell, or Do?

Gen 25:29-34 Once when Jacob was cooking stew, Esau came in from the field, and he was exhausted. And Esau said to Jacob, “Let me eat some of that red stew, for I am exhausted!” (Therefore his name was called Edom.) Jacob said, “Sell me your birthright now.” Esau said, “I am about to die; of what use is a birthright to me?” Jacob said, “Swear to me now.” So he swore to him and sold his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau bread and lentil stew, and he ate and drank and rose and went his way. Thus Esau despised his birthright. Faith can be sold. I agree it’s not a good idea, though.

Mt 7:21 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Do tell of your faith, but live your convictions else your words will not be heard by man or God.

Heb 11:8-9 By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. Faith isn’t to be sold or told. It is to be lived. By living, I mean doing. By doing, I mean acting upon your convictions. To say you believe something (to tell) means nothing if you aren’t living the life of which you speak. Of course the great commission commands us to go forth and spread the good news, but even in the going we are acting in faith. The act of telling is an act, I admit. Even so, the telling presupposes a lifestyle of action, living out the articles of what you believe. Else the telling is just wind rustling the leaves.

1.6.3 Have you asked for wisdom or something else you thought God should honor and not received it? Why Not?

There could be more than one answer. Everyone is unique, and God treats us all as such. These are some answers I found. If you know of others, please add them to the list…

Ps 69:13 But as for me, my prayer is to you, O Lord. At an acceptable time, O God, in the abundance of your steadfast love answer me in your saving faithfulness. Sometimes it’s a matter of timing.

Ro 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Sometimes God knows our request isn’t what is best for us. This is usually because we are making requests outside his will. It is wonderful that the Spirit knows us better than we know ourselves, and God knows not only our needs, but the needs of others and his own divine plan. Sometimes we are too weak to make the right request - whether weak in knowledge or wisdom or body or spirit or faith. This is not a license, rather it is insurance.

John 4:23-24 But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth. How we make petitions is as in important as what we petition for. God already knows our hearts and our needs. He awaits our requests in expression of our faith. We need to come humbly, though, and say our prayers with the fullest honesty of our hearts, with an attitude of worship as well as faith.

Mt 21:21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. Doubt is the biggest reason prayers go unanswered.

1.6.4 How do we ask?

The passage itself does nicely answering several important aspects of this question. For one thing, don’t be doubting. That’s a sure fire way to miss God’s ear with your request. Faith is critical to receiving wisdom or just about anything else we request. Here are a few other supporting verses…

1 Jo 5:14 And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us. We need confidence in Him (faith again) to be heard, but we also need to be making requests that are in accord with His will.

Jn 15:14-16 You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you. In this passage Jesus is revealing to his disciples not only the honor of being able to make requests with expectations of an answer, but the surrounding verses reveal a great deal about our end of the bargain. For one thing, Jesus is telling the disciples that they are more than mere servants, they are also friends. He declares them as friends because they DO what Jesus has requested of them. He also indicates that the divine revelations of knowledge are of God (spoken through the very mouth of Jesus thus far, but later also through the Holy Spirit) are given to them for their friendship. These guys were selected as friends because up to that point they obeyed, the Lord knew he could expect them to continue in obedience, and had specific missions for them to perform in the future. For the purpose of carrying out the missions given by God, God promises to equip them with anything they need to get their jobs done by simply asking.

There’s a lot of meat to this passage from John 15, more than we have time to explore, but consider this example from real life. If you work for an employer, you exchange your time and effort in exchange for pay. You are assigned specific duties. Isn’t it reasonable to expect the boss to give you the things you need to get the job done? Would you be a receptionist and not be given a phone? Sometimes our bosses don’t know what we need to do our jobs, they overlook things, they are trying to penny-pinch, or they just want to see if we can figure out what we need on our own. God isn’t quite like any of those, but He does want us to rely on him because he is true and dependable, he wants a relationship beyond boss-slave. He is faithful to us and only seeks the same courtesy to be returned. He will give us what we ask so that we might be what we were designed to be, the workmanship of his hand to do the good work he has for us (Eph 2:10). We are not saved by works, but we were designed to live out works, performed in love and obedience, fully equipped as sewers of the good seed.

Mt 6: 9-13 Pray then like this: Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. The Lord’s Prayer is useful to this discussion for several reasons, but my focus will on the mood. The prayer Jesus uses as an example is gushing with humility. We must realize that if we are making a request, it is because we are asking for something we cannot obtain on our own and we need the Lord. We must indeed be dependent and broken, asking wholly in faith. Why would you pray for something if you could get it or make it or do it yourself?

1.6.5 Why does God answer NO?

I’m first going to summarize a few points about how we get to the point of God having something to answer. First, there’s the asking. Ask something outside of God’s will you generally get a big fat NO. Ask for something out of selfishness, again you will probably get a NO. Ask for something and not believe God will hear you or answer, another likely NO. If you get a yes to any of these, either the answer didn’t come from God, or God has a plan that happened to include what you wanted in spite of you.

Then there’s the tough ones like illness, injury, and “Paul’s thorn.” Sometimes we have very real problems. That’s how we see them, anyway. We may have all the faith to move a mountain and all the patience to ask a million times, but we just don’t recognize how something could be outside God’s will. We pray in faith, we pray in the spirit, and we believe, and still get zilch. Here’s some hope for you…

Isaiah 55:8 says, For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. Our field of vision is limited. We aren’t all knowing. We aren’t all seeing. We aren’t all powerful. These are all good reasons to be asking, but they are also all good reasons to for a NO answer. This leads to the next scripture reference…

2 Cor 12:9 But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Sometimes God has a higher purpose for what we think of as a problem. We want the problem fixed because we perceive it to be a weakness. In our limited minds we think God could better use us if we weren’t so broken. This very well may not be the case at all. It isn’t up to us how God uses us, it is up to Him. It is still okay to ask, but we should find joy in our trials when he uses those trials for His glory. Our weakness is for His sake, but it is also for ours. We just don’t see it that way. Would we realize our need for God if we were already perfected in this life? As for me, I’m not sure I would say yes.

1 Cor 13:11-12 When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways. For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. We start our walk with the Lord as children, new creations, born again. Children ask many questions. We do our best to answer them. Children often don’t understand, or at least don’t fully understand the answers we give. Sometimes we give a NO answer to a child to protect them from harm or to protect their innocence. Sometimes we say NO because we have something better we want to give them. Sometimes we say NO because their birthday is coming up and its already been purchased as a present for them. I think God does a lot of things like that, but I also know that just as Paul says here, we can look forward with hope to having full understanding when we are in the Lord’s presence. Another aspect to consider is our spiritual maturity. As we grow, we learn. We learn what to ask and how. Our faith grows. Our love grows. Our discernment grows. Our wisdom grows.

Rev 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning nor crying nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away. This to me says that the hard things will be dealt with, though perhaps not in this life. The day will come when every tear will be wiped away. Maybe you find this comforting and maybe you find it frustrating. For me it is a comfort.

As for what you asked for: Some things, like wisdom, are promised without strings (James 1:5), except of course for asking in faith. What draws us toward God is pretty much a given. What distracts us from God is not.

1.6.6 How much faith is required in order to receive?

– Mt 17:20 “Because you have so little faith, I tell you the truth, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed you can say to the mountain move here to there and it will be moved. Nothing will be impossible for you.” To put this in context, the disciples asked Jesus why they were unable to drive out a demon. This was Jesus’ reply. If it only takes the faith of a mustard seed to drive out a demon, it seems unlikely the Lord would require any greater faith to answer a prayer for something he wants to give you, like wisdom.

In the dialog between Jesus and the woman at the well in Jn 4, Jesus speaks of worshipping in spirit and truth (v. 23-24). Ro 8:26 speaks of how the spirit intercedes with groanings too deep for words. I bring these items up because the overall context of this paragraph from James has to do with the central concept of making a request to the Lord for wisdom. Communication with God can take many forms, but to me it is all prayer. To come with a right attitude, humbly, to acknowledge the sovereignty of God (Lk 11:1), is the essence of worship. When we make requests, to be “in spirit and truth” they are by definition within the will of God. Even they the Lord may not answer as quickly as we like or exactly in the manner we would like, but still he will provide for us what is best for the Kingdom.

1.6.7 What is doubt?

Based on the combined definitions of the English word doubt from the dictionary and the Greek word translated doubt or wavering, in layman’s terms I would say doubt is an active skepticism, an unbelief in something that would prevent trusting or taking action based on what is doubted.

From the dictionary:

(Verb form) 1. To be undecided or skeptical about: began to doubt some accepted doctrines.

2. To tend to disbelieve; distrust: doubts politicians when they make sweeping statements.

3. To regard as unlikely: I doubt that we’ll arrive on time.

Archaic. To suspect; fear.

4. To be undecided or skeptical.

(Noun Form) 1. A lack of certainty that often leads to irresolution. See Synonyms at uncertainty

2. A lack of trust.

3. A point about which one is uncertain or skeptical: reassured me by answering my doubts.

4. The condition of being unsettled or unresolved: an outcome still in doubt.

No Doubt: Certainty, Probably.

From a Greek lexicon:

Greek transliteration - Diakrino

NT Usage - 18 times - doubt 5, judge 3, discern 2, contend 2, waver 2, miscellaneous 5


1. to separate, make a distinction, discriminate, to prefer

2. to learn by discrimination, to try, decide

3. to determine, give judgment, decide a dispute

4. to withdraw from one, desert

5. to separate one’s self in a hostile spirit, to oppose, strive with dispute, contend

6. to be at variance with one’s self, hesitate, doubt

1.6.8 Why is doubt such a poison to our prayers?

Ro 14:23 But whoever has doubts is condemned if he eats, because the eating is not from faith. For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. The second sentence here is the focus. We know the law stands. We know that Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law on our behalf. We know that while works are important and have their place, it is grace alone which saves because our works cannot perfect us. While Paul was speaking of food in the first sentence, the second sentence here seems to stand on its own and would also seem to apply universally.

I bring up this verse from Paul because faith appears to me to be in almost every sense the opposite of faith. Just as faith leads to good works, doubt leads to bad works. James does an excellent job of presenting contrasts throughout the first chapter of his letter. We will see many more examples as we go.

How faith and doubt are similar: Just like faith, doubt in and of itself is an intangible. It is like a psychological seed. What we think, we do. What we believe, we act upon. Also, both faith and doubt are related to how we respond to information presented to our various senses. For example, if you read a newspaper, we can believe or doubt the weather forecast. The information was presented, we read it, and we elect our response. Faith and doubt are both decisions.

How faith and doubt differ: The difference is our response to information. The actions of the response are the outer works resulting from our inner decision. Faith is the seed which grows into works based on an affirmative hope in the good news of Jesus. The seed of doubt grows into active denial of the Lord and His grace.

Doubt poisons because: Faith and doubt cannot both hold our attention at the same time. Ro 14:23b (For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin) indicates the obvious. Faith and doubt are mutually exclusive. Since faith is the requirement for salvation, if doubt crowds out faith there’s no salvation.

1.6.9 Why do people doubt Jesus? (Are you one of them?)

– Jn 20:24-25 Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”

Based on the definition given earlier and the various things scripture has to say about doubt, I would say that the reason for doubting the good news of Jesus Christ can be summed up as refusal to accept the information as fact and trust it to be accurate. The real question then is, why is the information (gospel message) not trusted?

1 Thess 5:24 but test everything; hold fast what is good. The information comes from an unknown or dubious source. There is nothing wrong with taking steps to verify the accuracy of a message. Be sure God is speaking. If you find it is in fact God speaking, then you have no excuse for not obeying. If you find it to be a false source, then you need to use your armor.

Jn 8:14 Jesus answered, “Even if I do bear witness about myself, my testimony is true, for I know where I came from and where I am going, but you do not know where I come from or where I am going. Not enough information. At some point things have to be taken on faith. That said, if you simply don’t have enough information, how can you make a good decision? The modern church is riddled with “easy believism” theology. Many flocks are not being fed with the nutrients needed to grow strong and stand firm. If the gospel were presented in its complete and raw form, some would find Christ who were not convinced by the simple messages while some of the simple message lovers would be shown for who they are.

Lk 22:60 But Peter said, “Man, I do not know what you are talking about.” And immediately, while he was still speaking, the rooster crowed. Fear. It is natural to fear the unknown. Throughout scripture we are chastened to fear the Lord. That isn’t quite the same as fearing a snake or a spider. Fearing God is like fearing your father’s belt — it is more like respect. In this case, Peter was afraid for his life. He forgot the promises of Jesus and reacted out of fear rather than faith. Peter forgot the words of David in Ps 118:6 The Lord is on my side; I will not fear. What can man do to me?

Lk 23:34 And Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” And they cast lots to divide his garments. Denial. Sometimes we are in denial because we like how things are and we refuse to accept something new and different. The guards casting lots we eye witnesses of God’s power. They saw the signs.

Mt 19:21-22 Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. Difficulty. When we realize we have to do something that isn’t easy, sometimes we give up. The rich young man in this encounter is a prime example.

Isaiah 28:21 For the Lord will rise up as on Mount Perazim; as in the Valley of Gibeon he will be roused; to do his deed—strange is his deed! and to work his work—alien is his work! Strangeness. God is a mystery. He does things we can’t fathom. Some just can’t grasp the gospel because it too foreign to the worldly things they do understand.

2 Jn 1:7 For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Competing Information. Many would dilute or modify the good news of Jesus Christ. The world itself offers a great many things (temptations) to also serve as distractions. Satan uses every means at his disposal to try and keep us from obedience.

1 Tim 4:12 Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Bad Examples. It is no wonder we aren’t successful in communicating the good news when we don’t give an example of its value to the world.

1.6.10 What command does Jesus give regarding doubt?

Jn 18:17 The servant girl at the door said to Peter, “You also are not one of this man’s disciples, are you?” He said, “I am not.” To put Thomas into perspective, we will examine Peter’s example of doubt. Peter illustrated perfectly the fruit of doubt. Peter expressed doubt through action whereas Thomas expressed doubt in words. Thomas is often looked down upon by modern Christianity, but he was honest enough to admit he doubted and explained what it would take to remove the doubt. Peter, on the other hand, said one thing and did another. Doubt became sin when Peter denied knowing Jesus.

Jn 20:8 Then the other disciple, who had reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed This verse takes place immediately after the girls find the tomb empty and they’ve called the men to see the empty tomb. We cannot be certain who the “other disciple” was, but we know that for them, seeing meant believing.

Jn 21:17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” Jesus said to him, “Feed my sheep.” Jesus forgave Peter for his moment of doubt. Just as Peter’s doubt was an act rather than mere words, Peter was given specific work to do in order to act in faith.

Jn 20:27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” First, Jesus revealed himself just as he did to the other disciples following the resurrection. It was only after Jesus removed the excuse for doubt that he told Thomas to stop doubting and believe.

In word and deed, Jesus commands that we put aside doubt and replace it with belief.

1.6.11 How do you suppose God feels about doubt?

Jn 20:29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Lk 24:36-40 As they were talking about these things, Jesus himself stood among them, and said to them, “Peace to you!” But they were startled and frightened and thought they saw a spirit. And he said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts arise in your hearts? See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.

Both with Thomas and with those gathered and waiting, there was doubt. In both cases Jesus recognized the doubt and took away their excuses for it. To me this indicates a great deal of mercy from one who obviously doesn’t need to stoop to our level. Rather, Jesus – the divine manifestation of God in the flesh – proactively addressed doubt directly. I am grateful for the testimony of mercy given here, because without the loving mercy, our all powerful almighty God would have no reason not to squash us like bugs and dispose of us like vermin. Surely God doesn’t have much use for doubt because he admonishes us to turn from doubt to belief. That’s the summary of his mission on earth. He proved his mercy and in so doing sought to return our attention and trust to His glory rather than our own.

1.6.12 How should you treat someone who has doubts?

Jude 22 “And have mercy on those who doubt.” Just as the Lord takes mercy on us in our doubt, actively intervening in our lives to overcome our doubts, he wants us to be merciful toward fellow believers who doubt. This does not mean we accept doubt, but rather we should follow Christ’s example of dealing with doubt by demonstrating the truth and removing all excuse for doubt. Love them, help them, show them, teach them challenge them and get them to think deeply and independently as you have. As they grow, go with them until they can persevere on their own. Don’t enable, don’t do it for them, but encourage and motivate them so they will succeed. I think this is a great way to show God’s love, and love covers a multitude of sins.

1.6.13 What does doubt cause you to do?

Our focal passage (Jas 1:5-8) speaks nicely to this question. It says doubt causes us not to receive anything from the Lord. This question ties together the all the other questions previous raised about doubt. Doubt was defined as essentially the opposite (or absence) of faith. If one doubts God, they lack faith and in fact are in a condition of unbelief. Without belief we cannot be saved (ref Jn 3:16) and we will act in disobedience (ref Heb 4:6). James says that the doubter is double-minded and unstable. He essentially says the doubter is wishy-washy and gullible. The doubter is a sucker. W. C. Fields said “There’s a sucker born every minute.” Sadly he was right. If we are true believers, no small part of our obedience to our Lord is to reveal our Lord accurately to non-believers and believers who have doubt.

If you doubt and are therefore unstable in your values, you will be easy prey for temptation. Temptation begets sin which begets death (ref James 1:14-15). Doubt is like the AIDS virus. It doesn’t kill directly, but makes you susceptible to death by common disease (common temptation).

1.6.14 Do you think doubt is the same as worry?

Some people confuse doubt and worry. Doubt is the opposite or absence of faith.* Worry means to be anxious, which is to say being troubled with cares. While the two concepts are unique, worry tends to lead to doubt. We can worry about a lot of things, but aside from reducing our productivity, when we worry we tend to dwell on the “what if” scenarios in our minds. Worry may generate fear, but it may just as easily cause us to start justifying our concerns and taking control away from God. When we do this, we do the same thing as Eve – we presume to become like God in our superiority, doubting God’s authority by replacing it with our own.

To illustrate worry, consider Mt 6:27 in the following translations:

ESV: And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?

KJV: Which of you by taking thought can add one cubit unto his stature?

NIV: Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?

Each of these popular translations conveys the concept of worry differently. After researching the Greek further I would be satisfied to accept any of the three renderings of the verse, though in this case KJV does a more accurate job of rendering cubits to stature as opposed to the other versions which render hours to life. The word translated worry (NIV) and thought (KJV) appears to be most accurately translated as anxious (ESV).

Okay, forget all the technical stuff. The point is no, doubt and worry aren’t the same, but odds are favorable that worry could lead to doubt.

*Someone pointed out to me that momentary doubt is okay, we can grow either faith or sin from moments of doubt. I disagree completely for several reasons. For one, if we doubt, it is only when we decided to trust that the doubt is overcome by faith. For this to happen, by grace the excuse for doubt is removed and facts are accepted so that our doubt is replaced by faith, even for a moment. The second reason I disagree is that in times of stress our genuine selves are exposed. When we have time for calm and composure its easier to say or do the “right” thing. Under stress, however, what we really think and feel and believe tends to be exposed. If we say we’re believers, any doubts we have are exposed in the moments of stress. I don’t believe in momentary doubt, only momentary exposure of the doubt. God tests us in order to expose the doubt. If He can reveal it, we can see it, then He can refine us into faith by revealing himself in ways that remove the doubt and strengthen our faith. If our faith grows after expressing doubt, it is the supernatural effect of God refining us and releasing us from the doubts. Doubt, left on its own, is always a negative.

1.6.15 Why the sea analogy?

Isaiah 43:1-2a But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you;

Have you ever been to sea? The ocean can be a violent and dangerous place. I spent four of my six years in the Navy at sea, stationed aboard the USS Tinosa (SSN-606). Submarines are strange vessels. For one thing, they’re designed to sink. We had this saying: “A sub really only belongs one of two places – either tied to the pier or at least 400 feet below the surface.” For all you land lubbers out there, this means you don’t want to be sitting on the surface in a vessel shaped like an oblong bobber. The depths of the ocean are always stable, but on the surface, even in relatively mild seas, the boat is constantly shifting under your feet. In heavy seas it can be difficult to remain standing. I remember once when we came to periscope depth in the North Sea, I woke up in a bunk across the isle from my own and one level lower after being ejected by the power of the waves against the hull.

The waves of the sea are pushed about according to whatever winds are pressed upon the waters. To survive the force of the sea, a vessel must be well made, which is to say solid and secure, something that will persevere and be steadfast in spite of the storms. Anyone can flail about out there in the waves, and those out there in the waves will only go where the winds take them, for only in Christ do we have a secure vessel that can carry us safely home. Remain in the safe ship (Christ) and you will make it to port (heaven).

James 1:7

James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” — NIV

James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” — KJV

James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” — ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:7 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
me [3361] not, no, none, never gar [1063] verily, therefore, yet, no doubt, as, because that oiomai [3633] make like ones self, suppose, think, image, be of the opinion ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) anthropos [0444] human, certain person ekeinos [1565] he, it, that… hoti [3754] that, which… (conjunction) lambano [2983] accept, attain, bring, have, hold, obtain, take up away tis [5100] anyone, anything, someone, something, somewhat para [3844] near ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) kurios [2962] Lord, Master, Sir

1.7.0 Introduction to James 1:7

After describing the catch to receiving promises from God in verse 6, verse 7 spells it out very plainly. If you lack faith your requests will go unfilled. In this verse we look more deeply into why doubt is a reason not to receive from God. We also look at what it means to receive.

1.7.1 Why should the doubter not expect anything from the Lord?

Nu 21:4-9 From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And the Lord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronze serpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. Passage provided for context.

Nu 21:4 the people became impatient on the way. (ESV). KJV says and the souls of the people became much discouraged because of the way. Either rendering seems to imply the people doubted Moses and, by extension, God. The doubt (lack of faith) caused the Lord to send the snakes (serpents) to bite them with poisonous venom. God made a provision, though, so as they were dying they had the choice to look upon the bronze serpent and live. The doubters couldn’t expect to live, but the ones with enough faith looked and did live. Truly it takes a tiny amount of faith to find salvation, but you have to fix your gaze upon the true source of salvation. I also like this passage because it illustrates how faith can be restored and the doubt overcome. The grace of a God who allows us to return to him after wandering away in our consumption with self-pity, worry and doubt is humbling and remarkable.

1.7.2 What does receive mean?

The dictionary has a rather lengthy answer to this question which I will distill as follows: to take or acquire, get; to hear or see information; to have bestowed on oneself; to meet with or experience; bear the weight or force of, support; take or intercept the impact of; take in, hold or contain (such as a tank); to admit; greet or welcome; perceive or acquire mentally; regard with approval or disapproval; listen to and acknowledge formally and authoritatively.

In context with James 1:7, the question really has to do with receiving from God. As there is nothing we can earn from God, per se, anything we receive from Him is a gift. This includes anything from wisdom (v5) to salvation. In keeping with the context of our focal passage, receiving does depend on first asking, and then with a stipulation (faith).

The word “receive” is very important. Any gift isn’t a gift until given. The giving isn’t complete until the gift is received. Until the gift is used, it isn’t fully received. It takes faith to use what God gives (see Nu 21 discussion from previous question). God offers wisdom, even to the point of writing a book and putting in our hands, but until we open that book and read it, we have not received it. How much faith does it take to simply open a book and read it? The same could be said of hearing the Word through preaching, observation of creation, or anything else.

What God says must be more than heard (or read), it must be obeyed. Obedience is the culmination of receiving, the full use of any gift given by God. This explains why obedience (deeds) is so closely associated with faith. When the snake bitten people looked at the bronze snake (Nu 21:9), they were obedient, thus demonstrating faith, thus the gift of salvation from the poison was received.

James said faith without works is dead (James 2:7). Some would say his teaching is contrary to Paul’s, but they are wrong. In Eph 2:8-9 Paul preached the very important message that we must have the right attitude and think rightly, believing. The natural result of believing is obedience (works). James understood this principle. A lot of people ignore Paul’s expression of the same concept in Romans 2:13. Understanding the concept of receiving from God, a topic generated by James 1:7, proves it. Eph 2:10 shows Paul also understood this principle. Faith is the requirement, and the purpose of believing is to become a doer of the Word. Just as faith without works is dead, Paul merely preached that works without faith is dead. The two principles are two sides of the same coin, thus I contend that James and Paul really preached messages which are in total agreement, completely without contradiction.

James 1:8

James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him. 6 But when he asks, he must believe and not doubt, because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That man should not think he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all he does.” — NIV

James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. 7 For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. 8 A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” — KJV

James 1:5-8 “5 If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. 6 But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. 7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; 8 he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” — ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:8 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
aner [0435] male individual dipsuchos [1374] double-minded, two-spirited, vacillating akatastatos [0182] unstable, inconstant en [1722] preposition denoting place: such as in, at, of, through… pas [3956] all, any, every ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) hodos [3598] road, route, mode, means, journey, way autos [0846] her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun)

1.8.0 Introduction to James 1:8

James completes the paragraph by painting another picture with words. He describes the man lacking faith as double-minded and unstable. In this portion of the study we will look at even more deeply into doubt as well as instability.

1.8.1 How are double-minded and unstable defined?

Lk 16:13 No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. Although this passage from Luke’s gospel is talking about money, the principle of double-mindedness is well expressed. Jesus says you can’t have it both ways. One who is double-minded is a person who believes they can have it both ways in spite of the Truth that they cannot.

Double-minded. The Greek transliteration is dipsuchos. This Greek word is used only twice and both times by James. It literally means double-minded, uncertain, doubting, wavering, and divided interest.

Unstable. The Greek word akatastatos is defined as unstable, inconstant, and restless.

Since each of the major translations bring these words to English the same way, it seems safe to assume they are good words for us to use in this context.

1.8.2 How does worry contribute to this instability?

Mt 6:27 And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?* Worry is a waste of time. Time wasted on fruitlessness means time not spent in obedience. The greater the worry, the greater the waste of time. The more time you waste, the less time available to obey. Excessive worry not only makes you less effectual, it can make you ineffectual to the point of being lukewarm and summarily spat out. Satan loves the worrier because they aren’t serving God, but they are slaves of their own cares.

Mt 6:24 No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money. If you are a worrier, you are given time which belongs to God and wasting it. Your mind is consumed with the world and your life and whatever else it is you worry so much about. Worry seems to have a lot to do with the development of doubt and subsequent instability which in turn leads to susceptibility to temptation, then sin, then – gulp – death. It is a wide road.

*Each of my major translations renders Mt 6:27 very differently, though the concept remains the same. For example, one version says worry and another says thought where ESV says anxious. KJV speaks of adding cubits to your stature where the other versions speak of adding hours to your life. For all you KJV fans out there, your version appears to be closest to the literal Greek on that last part of the phrase.

1.8.3 What can we expect from God if we are distracted by the world?

Jas 1:7 For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; It only takes a mustard seed’s worth of faith to move a mountain (because we tell it to move in faith that God will move it as we’ve asked), but without faith our requests fall on deaf ears. If doubt means we won’t receive and faith means we do receive, it only stands to reason that doubt opposes faith. Belief unites us into one body in Christ, but doubt divides us. Division causes instability. James merely reinforces this reason prayer goes unanswered by expounding in verse 8, explaining instability through doubt (double-mindedness), or if you prefer he’s explaining doubt through instability.

1.8.4 What exactly does “ways” mean?

Greek [odios], syn.: road, progress, route, journey

Jn 14:6 Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” James use of the phrase “in all his ways” is the most compelling part of the passage for the argument that he speaks of a prolonged condition of doubt being the root cause of instability and unanswered prayer. We are instructed to ask God questions, seeking Him and His wisdom, so it is important not to confuse doubt (skepticism) with questioning. A question is asked when the answer isn’t known. Doubt is disbelief of the answer. A moment of doubt may be thought of as a brief reluctance to accept an answer, and in some cases this may be true. The doubt which James speaks of, however, is certainly a state of mind which permeates the conscious mind and renders their faith null. Just as an instability in a bridge will cause it to fracture and collapse, doubt causes faith to become unstable and collapse.

1.8.5 What is the remedy for the doubter?

Jn 20:27-28 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Thomas confessed his doubt before this encounter with Jesus. Jesus responded by taking away Thomas’ excuse for doubting. Jesus commanded him to not disbelieve, but believe. Thomas then responded to Jesus in the only way that makes any sense at all. He exclaimed the divinity of Jesus and the full impact of Jesus’ identity must have struck him to the quick. I can only imagine Thomas falling to his knees in abject humility. Jesus wasn’t scolding Thomas in this encounter, rather he demonstrated incredible grace by giving Thomas the very thing he was bold enough to ask for: proof of Jesus authority, divinity, power, and mercy. In that moment Thomas came to know Jesus as his Lord. Is Jesus that real to you? Do you bow humbly before him as your Lord and Master? Yes, he is our friend. Yes, we are granted permission to cry Abba Father. But with that familiarity we must not loose perspective and forget that Jesus is Lord of Lords and King of Kings.

1.8.6 Summary of James 1:5-8

In the framework of these few verses we have learned a great deal. Wisdom was a topic that could have been the subject of its own book, but the important things to remember are that true wisdom comes from God, he gives generously, and he gives without prejudice.

We learned about how to make requests of God, and about requesting wisdom in particular. This lead to discussing the chief requirement made of us when asking, and that is faith. James explains to us the nature of doubt and its impact on requests made of God, even of something as basic and as freely available as God’s wisdom.

Faith is also the single requirement of salvation (Jn 3:16), though as we will learn later in the study of James, faith is not passive and it is not an intellectual knowledge. It takes substance in the form of behaviors which are based on core beliefs and values.

Worry distracts, making it easy to doubt, doubt leads to susceptibility to temptation, temptation to desire, desire to sin, and sin to death. The vaccine for this process is faith.

James 1:9

James 1:9-11 9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: 10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. 11 For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. – KJV

James 1:9-11 9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. – NIV

James 1:9-11 9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. – ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:9 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
kauchaomai [2744] boast, glory, joy, rejoice de [1161] and, but, now… (conjunction) ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) adephos [0080] brother, sibling (connected by womb, literal or figurative) ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) tapeinos [5011] base, depressed, cast down, low degree, humble en [1722] preposition denoting place: such as in, at, of, through… ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) hupsos [5311] elevation, altitude, the sky; or be exalted, high degree autos [0846] her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun)

1.9.0 Introduction to James 1:9

This passage beginning with verse 9 continues through verse 11. Here James contrasts the high with the low, again using word-pictures, to illustrate how high and low socio-economic stature relate to spiritual conditions. Verse 9 talks about how the believer in a low social or financial status can rejoice in his high place with the Lord. While studying verse 9 we will concentrate on the nature of the “lowly brother.”

1.9.1 What does James mean by “lowly” brother?

The Greek word tapeinos is rendered low degree (KJV), humble circumstances (NIV), or lowly (ESV). Tapeinos literally means not rising far from the ground and metaphorically means a) as a condition: lowly, of low degree b) brought low with grief, depressed c) low in spirit, humble d) in a bad sense, deporting one’s self abjectly, deferring servilely to others. This word is used 8 times in the New Testament and in each case has a fundamentally similar rendering in English.

In context, James appears to be speaking of one’s societal or economic status more than their state of mind, particularly when you see James go on to contrast against the rich man in verse 10. When you step further back and look at this statement in context with the whole of the NT and consider the audience (James 1:1), the societal status of being rejects of the Jewish leadership places almost all of the believers in the category of lowly brothers. If you think of it this way, the rich might also mean those rich in religion, but poor in spirit whereas the lowly Christian brother is beneath the contempt of the Sanhedrin yet is rich in spirit.

1.9.2 What exaltation can a lowly brother boast about?

James 2:5 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? From this reference it would seem that God favors the poor. This cannot be the right understanding, though, because we have specific instructions not to be prejudiced based on social status, and that includes the wealthy. Instead, I am reminded of the passage in 1 Peter 2 where Peter talks about Jesus as the cornerstone of our faith, yet also as the stumbling block of non-believers.

In Mt 9:13 Jesus says to the Pharisees: Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners. Jesus offers something we must realize we need. Those who realize they are sinners in need of salvation are the ones who realize their low position. These are the people who humble themselves before God.

Mk 10:31 But many who are first will be last, and the last first. James merely reinforces what Jesus said. The exultation (lifting up) of the lowly is chiefly salvation, but extends to understanding and wisdom, receiving the Holy Spirit, and other features and benefits you receive as a part of the body of Christ.

Prov 28:11 A rich man is wise in his own eyes, but a poor man who has understanding will find him out. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. The same can be said of wealth. The man who is rich in his own eyes is near sighted because he doesn’t see beyond his worldly wealth. If a man can see beyond his own wealth to the wealth of God in the form of salvation, which is to say living in the eternal presence of the Lord in Heaven, he would be akin to the man Jesus describes in Mt 13:46-56 Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls, who, on finding one pearl of great value, went and sold all that he had and bought it. Whatever we have in this world is nothing. When we realize that, when we allow ourselves to be poor in this world and reckon ourselves as such, then we may be exalted.

1.9.3 How is exultation or high position defined?

Greek: Hupsos. Defined as height 1) of measurement; 2) of place, heaven; 3) metaphorically rank or high station. The Greek word hupsos appears 6 times in scripture and in KJV is rendered “be exalted” only once, here in James. In the other cases it is rendered high, on high, or height.

In Lk 1:78, Lk 24:49, Eph 4:8 the hupsos used to describe a location. In Eph 3:18 and Rev 21:16 it is used to describe physical dimensions. James 1:9 is the only instance where hupsos is used metaphorically to describe a person’s condition.

As we have seen several times already and will undoubted see many more times in our study, James artfully illustrates points by comparing and contrasting opposites. In this passage (James 1:9-11), James compares the lowly brother to the rich man. James compares the high or exalted position of the lowly man to the humiliation of the rich man. It seems logical that hupsos would, in context, mean the opposite of tapeinosis, the Greek word in James 1:10 translated as low (KJV and NIV) or humiliation (ESV). If one uses high for one, then low would be the reasonable contrast. If one uses exalted, then humiliation would be the reasonable contrast.

English definitions:


1.      to raise in rank, character, or status; to elevate.

2.      to glorify, praise, or honor.

3.      to increase the effect or intensity of, heighten.

4.      to fill with sublime emotion - elate.


1.      having a relatively great elevation; extending upward.

2.      extending a specified distance upward.

3.      far from a reference point.

4.      being at or near the peak or culminating stage.

5.      advanced development

6.      slightly spoiled or gamy or having a bad smell (as spoiled meat)

7.      sound pitch as a large number of cycles per second

8.      latitudes closer to a pole

9.      great importance, rank, status, serious, climax, lofty stirring of events or themes

10.  lofty or exalted in quality or character

11.  greater than usual or expected in magnitude, cost, or degree

12.  favorable

13.  great force or violence

14.  luxurious or extravagant

15.  of or relating to vowels produced with part of the tongue close to the palate as in the long e sound

16.  of or relating to gear configuration as in an automotive transmission producing maximum vehicular to engine speed ratio.

In my humble opinion either word (high or exalted) works. The metaphorical use of the original Greek word in context seems to convey a sense of condition. That condition (v9) shows the elevation of the low person. The first time examining the definitions of exalt and high one might conclude that they mean fundamentally the same thing and would be interchangeable. The word “exalt,” however, seems to convey more of a concept of a transition in progress toward higher position rather than already being at that higher position as with the word “high.” Since we don’t realize the fullness of God’s grace and glory in this life, only tasting it here, we hope for its fullness in Heaven. A person in low physical circumstances, therefore, is a person in the process of traveling along the narrow road to heaven. There can be no greater exaltation than salvation where we can come into the presence of Jesus and be allowed to remain. There can be no greater humiliation than being rejected by the ultimate source of grace. That said, to me the use of low and high as words to describe the conditions of poor and rich men seems insufficient when words like exalted and humiliated are available.

1.9.4 What is an example of the “lowly brother?”

2 Cor 6:10 as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, yet possessing everything. Here Paul was discussing the nature of his ministry. Included in this description he counts himself as poor, yet making many rich. Paul describes himself as poor, having nothing. Paul understood that nothing in this world will last, and that our new bodies will live in a new place. We can’t take anything from here with us, so since we have nothing to keep, we are indeed poor as the world reckons poor. At the same time Paul indicates he possesses everything. This sounds foolish, but if you realize that having obtained salvation means eternal life basking in the love of our Savior where there will be no more tears, then truly he does possess everything he needs eternally. Paul speaks of making many rich. The only work of eternal value is working with the harvest. God will assign the specific work and the season for your labor, but the work is there to be done. The work of making others rich does not mean “working for the man,” but rather sharing the good news with others so that they too may become rich with knowledge of the Lord unto salvation.

James 1:10

James 1:9-11 9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: 10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. 11 For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. – KJV

James 1:9-11 9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. – NIV

James 1:9-11 9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. – ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:10 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) de [1161] and, but, now… (conjunction) plousios [4145] wealthy, rich en [1722] preposition denoting place: such as in, at, of, through… ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) tapeinosis [5014] depression (in rank or feeling), made low, low estate, vile, humiliation autos [0846] her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun) hoti [3754] that, which… (conjunction) hos [5613] while, even as, as soon as, since, so that… (adv) anthos [0438] flower, blossom chortos [5528] court or garden of vegetation parerchomai [3928] come near, approach, pass by or away; fig: perish, neglect, avert, past, transgress

1.10.0 Introduction to James 1:10

Verse 10 establishes the contrast by introducing the rich man. It offers the rich man hope by instructing him how to come to the same joy as the poor man and why he needs to do so. In the study of this verse we shall examine the nature of riches, pride, and passing away.

1.10.1 How do you define wealth?

Col 2:2-3 that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Paul was writing to folks he knew of behalf of other believers who hadn’t actually met him face to face. Paul wanted to share with them the very most important thing he could share. Paul was a very wealthy man in the spirit. Though he certainly had the means to live comfortably in the world, he counted understanding and wisdom of God as more valuable than anything worldly. These treasures he sought to share, and no matter your opinion of Paul, he wrote more words which are today accepted as part of the NT than any other single NT author, and nearly all of them are letters to distant believers with whom he desperately desired to share from the riches of his trove of wisdom poured out to him from the Spirit.

Prov 10:22 The blessing of the Lord makes rich, and he adds no sorrow with it. [1] ([1] alternate: and toil adds nothing to it) I included the sub-note with this verse because it would sound more logical in English this way. For those of you who prefer KJV or NIV, they read like ESV here also, so it isn’t just my translation. The note doesn’t explain the reason for the alternate translation, either. I find the variation is important, however, for the sake of understanding the nature of true Godly wealth. Eph 2:8-9 proclaims grace comes by faith and not by works. This verse from Proverbs explains that the blessings of the Lord not only make us rich, but (using the alternate interpretation) no works we can do will change His blessing of richness. To me this confirms yet again that Jesus never changes, his words are a constant, and that salvation has always been available through unearned grace, requiring faith.

1.10.2 Does God care if you have material wealth?

Mt 19:16-26 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. Again I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished, saying, “Who then can be saved?” But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Here Jesus is saying it is hard, but then he says it is possible. The problem isn’t the person having the possession. The problem is possessions having the person.

Looking for examples from scripture to help answer this question, Job is the first person I would look at. Job 1:2-3 says There were born to him seven sons and three daughters. He possessed 7,000 sheep, 3,000 camels, 500 yoke of oxen, and 500 female donkeys, and very many servants, so that this man was the greatest of all the people of the east. Job started out with great material wealth. Job cared for God and for his children. So much so he daily gave offerings on behalf of his children because his heart so yearned that they love God as he did (Job 1:5). God cared about Job, not his things. That’s why he allowed Satan to take everything from Job, short of his life. In the end Job remained faithful to God. He wasn’t perfect, and God did straighten Job out about a few things, but when the test was complete Job was given far more than he’d started with (Job 42:10-17). Through all the ups and downs, Job and God cared more about each other than things or words of other men. Regardless of what rewards might be available to us in this life, if our heart is constantly yearning for and seeking God such that we obey Him in our love, then our ultimate reward will far greater than anything we could hope for in this life.

There are many more examples like this, such as Abraham, Joseph, Moses, even Jonah. People who sought God through various trials and went through ups and downs, but whether they were enjoying a period of earthly prosperity or loss, they kept their eyes on the Lord who saw them through it all.

So to answer the question, I really don’t think God cares how “well we do” in terms of material wealth if we keep our attention on Him. Whatever wealth we have (or don’t have) serves His purpose. We fool ourselves to think our purpose is our own, so we should just simply accept His purpose and embrace it.

1.10.3 What should you do with material wealth?

Mk 10:21 And Jesus, looking at him, loved him, and said to him, “You lack one thing: go, sell all that you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Jesus did one thing consistently, and that was to confront people with whatever lie they believed. He always told them what the lie was, and that they must forsake that lie and align themselves with Truth, which is to say accepting the fact Jesus is Lord and submitting accordingly. In this case, Jesus confronted the rich young man with his false god, his wealth. If the man would have turned from his false god (wealth) and accepted the Lordship of Jesus, he would have been happy. Instead, he went away sad. The man might have known Proverbs 10:15 and simply misunderstood it. Or perhaps he felt the money brought him happiness and Jesus wasn’t offering what he thought was better. That’s the flaw discussed in the third reference today (below).

Prov 10:15 A rich man’s wealth is his strong city; the poverty of the poor is their ruin. Most people would read this and think God is saying we need to accumulate wealth in this life as best we can to protect our families and avoid ruin. I confess, I thought the same thing myself when I first read it. Then, with prayer, God revealed something more to me. There are at least two other ways of looking at this passage. First, the spiritual wealth of the Holy Spirit places you in the company of fellow believers, a part of the Body of Christ. There is strength in numbers, and the New Jerusalem is surely going to be a fine city. The poverty of the poor, in contrast, speaks to the spiritually poor who will face ruin in that day. Second: Yet another revelation about this verse can be drawn from the “golden rule.” If you share your wealth, you build a stronger community. Share your material wealth with your fellow believers who are less fortunate and your whole group benefits. It tears down strife and envy and you fulfill what James calls a good religion (Jas 1:27). The poor, and more specifically those who see themselves as having very little, thus are unwilling to share what little they do have and are ruined by their hardened hearts. They are truly ruined.

Rev 3:15-18 I know your works: you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were either cold or hot! So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, so that you may be rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself and the shame of your nakedness may not be seen, and salve to anoint your eyes, so that you may see. In this passage the Lord is speaking to the Church of Laodicea. This passage could be the subject of weeks of study, but I’m going to get to what I think applies to the question at hand. The Lord is telling these people they don’t realize how wretched they are, wallowing in their wealth instead of helping those who really need it. These are people who are well to do and think they’ve gotten what the Lord has to give them. They don’t see they’ve been deceived. Their wealth is a lie, distracting them from true obedience to the Lord’s highest command – to love one another. If they loved one another, they would serve each other while serving the Lord. In fact, they would serve those in need because in doing so, they are serving the Lord. If they would see themselves as God sees them, they would realize the need to zealously help those less fortunate and would step into the mission field right before their eyes. You don’t have to travel 5000 miles to be a missionary. Sometimes 5 feet will be far enough. By repenting (changing their thinking to align themselves to God), they would through their obedience by buying the gold of true wealth, the white robes which cover our shame, and the anointing which allows us to see clearly what is now so dim.

1.10.4 What do you think about these situations (Straw Man Exercise):

1.      If a man steals a million dollars from a bank, should he tithe it?

2.      If you represented the church receiving money from a criminal, would you have any problems accepting the money once you found out where it came from?

3.      Now replace “steals” with “wins”, replace “bank” with “casino”, and replace “criminal” with “winner”. Would it make any difference? Why or why not?

About Theft

Ex 20:15 You shall not steal. This makes the thief a sinner. We know that through the merciful Grace of Jesus that any sin may be forgiven. Forgiveness of sin and erasure of earthly consequences are not the same thing. God doesn’t want to receive the stolen goods (Mal 1:13). It’s a felony. Legally it would be your responsibility to turn in the thief, no matter their intended use for the ill-gotten gain.

About Gambling

Ex 20:17 You shall not covet… I read numerous well written arguments concerning gambling and concluded that gambling violates the tenth commandment. The purpose of gambling is to acquire money through no honest work, and to quickly accumulate that wealth. It is the desire for wealth that drives gambling, circumventing God’s intended methods accumulating wealth.

Isaiah 65:11-12 refers to people who set a table for Fortune and cups of mixed wine for Destiny. Fortune and Destiny were both ancient far east gods representing what amounts to gambling. In that passage the Lord goes on to say death awaits them because they forget the Lord, delighting in evil.

2 Ki 18:23 is part of a passage that speaks of a wager offered by the King of Assyria to King Hezekiah. In context this would seem to support a position against gambling, but it isn’t explicit.


Searching for the subject of casting lots I found more than 20 entries. In most cases those casting lots were determining God’s will. Some examples include Aaron, Joshua, Saul, David, Joel, Obadiah, Jonah etc. That seems to run counter to our notions about gambling. Pr 16:33 puts these events in context by explaining why the people of God would gamble for their decisions: The lot is cast into the lap, but its every decision is from the Lord.

Where the casting of lots may be a tool God can use for decision making, casting lots to gamble money is entirely different matter, falling clearly into the purview of Isaiah 65. It is from casting lots that we get our modern term lottery.

Straw Man Summary

The bottom line is the money from theft or from a get-rich scheme such as gambling is tainted and unacceptable to the Lord. To receive such would be like the priests described by Malachi (see 1.10.5). You have civil responsibilities if the money was obtained illegally and a responsibility to God even if it wasn’t illegal. It makes no difference what charity the money goes to, anonymous or otherwise. Until the sinner is reconciled to God the money given would only be an anchor around his neck. Nothing that man can do can repay his sin (Eph 2:8-9). Only grace can preserve life eternally. Of course God can use the money anyway, if He chooses, and since His ways are not our ways it isn’t my place to judge if and how he could turn the tainted into the pure since he certainly has that authority. Beware, dear pastors and church reps, that if you knowingly accept such money, you are as guilty as the sinner who brought it to you.

1.10.5 Does God care how you obtain material wealth?

Malachi 1:13 But you say, ‘What a weariness this is,’ and you snort at it, says the Lord of hosts. You bring what has been taken by violence or is lame or sick, and this you bring as your offering! Shall I accept that from your hand? says the Lord. (For complete context read the whole chapter.) The Lord says stolen goods or money will not be accepted by Him, whether the priests accepted on His behalf them or not. God wants your best, from what is honest and true and pure, whether it is a material offering or an offering of the heart.

1.10.6 How does material wealth affect your faith?

Mk 10:22 Disheartened by the saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. The rich young man’s wealth stood between him and what he really needed to believe in. Jesus confronted him with the purest and most stark choice, and he chose to believe in his earthly wealth instead of Jesus. After seeing this example and seeing what kinds of true wealth is available with genuine faith, would you make the same choice as the young man?

Prov 11:28 Whoever trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like a green leaf. This scripture stands in stark contrast with Prov 10:15, proving it must mean something other than what it seems to say on the surface. Prov 11:28 explains that earthly riches are temporary, but Godly riches (in the form of righteousness) are eternal.

Rev 3:17 For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. The rich man, like most people, trusts what he knows. He knows what money can do. Giving up what you know, particularly when you know that thing (wealth) brings you a sense of physical security and comfort, is extremely difficult for most people.

1.10.7 Are you rich?

The Greek word plousios appears 28 times in scripture and every time is translated as the word rich. The literal definition is wealthy, abounding in material resources. It metaphorically means abounding or abundantly supplied, as with Christian virtues or eternal possessions.

Mt 14:16-20 But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over.

How much “stuff” do you have? Stuff can include money, time, skills, information, trust, or anything else of value. Are you doing what you should with that stuff? Do you have stuff another person needs? How about the eternal stuff? Do you have enough of that stuff? The great thing about eternal stuff is the more you give away, the more you have left. This is an important aspect of Jesus feeding the 5000. If it is from God, and you obey God and give away what came from God, He – being the creator that He is – will see to it you have more left than you started with. Do you have your mustard seed?

1.10.8 What advice is given to the rich?

1 Tim 6:17-19 As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. This passage speaks for itself.

1.10.9 Where is your treasure?

Heb 11:24-27 By faith Moses, when he was grown up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter, choosing rather to be mistreated with the people of God than to enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. He considered the reproach of Christ greater wealth than the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking to the reward. By faith he left Egypt, not being afraid of the anger of the king, for he endured as seeing him who is invisible. Moses chose the reproach of Christ over all the wealth of Egypt. His example of treasure is humbling.

1.10.10 Why does James talk about riches in the context of an overall discussion about temptation and trials?

The consistent theme of James as a book is one of determining the substance of faith in the form of action, which is to say how we live our lives. James begins his letter by cutting straight to the issue of testing faith through trials and temptations. Material wealth is certainly a temptation to many. Remember what the temptation of money did to Ananias and Sapphira (Acts 5:1-11). Finance is one of the most popular topics in the whole of the bible, touched on to one degree or another by nearly every biblical author. Given the nature of James’ letter, it’s a wonder he didn’t write more on the subject of materialism.

1.10.11 What does James mean by humiliation (ESV), low position (NIV) or made low (KJV)?

The Greek word used is tapeinosis. It appears 4 times in scripture. This is a form of the same Greek word used in James 1:9 to characterize the status of the brother as lowly. (Tapeinos, the form of the word used in James 1:9 was covered by question 1.9.1.) After expanding my research, I learned KJV always translates tapeinosis as some form of the word low. NASB, however, renders tapeinosis as either humiliation or humble state each time it is used in scripture. Grammatically, humiliation or low position is an adjective which modifies the rich man via the preposition translated “in.”

In context, its seems obvious the abundant resources of the rich man are at best a strike against him. From lessons learned through earlier questions we know the rich man will have more difficulty laying hold of salvation than a man of humble means (Luke 18:25). The more of anything a person has, the more God will expect of that person regarding what they’ve been given. This is true of all gifts from wisdom and knowledge (James 3:1) to money (1 Tim 6:17-19), just as Jesus taught in the Parable of the Talents (Mt 24:14-30).

To actually answer the study question, though, the humiliation or low state the rich man is brought to could be metaphorical just as easily as physical. Each person is unique and special, so to each person God may uniquely apply this wisdom, I think. Certainly the best thing is when the heart is humbled and the attitude of the rich man is brought into alignment with the Will of God. When a man’s material wealth is taken, a humbling before God may be the result. I think the Lord would be more pleased, though, if we humble ourselves first and submit to give God what is His first.

1.10.12 Why do people desire material things?

1 Pe 2:11 Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. The key word is passion, and it all goes back to the fall of Adam. We cannot know for sure, but it seems likely neither Adam nor Eve even contemplated disobeying God’s instructions about the trees or anything else until the deceiver came. Satan was able to create a desire in Eve through the introduction of his lie. Desire for things other than God have carried down through all men since. Peter reminds us that our earthly passions war against us. What the body desires, from money to sex, is a natural genetic defect and it opposes God.

Ex 20:17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbor’s.” The 10th commandment uses the word covet rather than desire or passion or want, but the idea is the same. People want. Who wants what they already have?

After eating the fruit of knowledge of good and evil, the first couple came to knowledge of their failure, that they were found lacking. As a result of the fall, God was no longer in communion with them as He was before. The false desire to be like God lead to the fall and the subsequent breakdown in the man-God relationship. Since then man has sought to replace what was lost in the fall. The flesh always desires. The unregenerate man lives as a slave to the desires of the flesh, seeking to replace what was lost with things of the world.

The good news is that God came to repair the damage. The healing process began with Christ in his victory over death (Jn 20:19-20) and the coming of the Holy Spirit (Ac 2:1-4) to indwell the believers (Jn 3:16), regenerating them (2 Cor 5:17). The process also ends with Christ (Rev 21:6) returning and bringing the believers to their home (Rev 22:14).

1.10.13 Who will pass away?

Pr 11:4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. Grammatically it appears James is saying the rich will pass away. This in no way means that the lowly will not also pass away, but rather it speaks to the rich man specifically as a reminder that his wealth will pass from him when he passes away. Though his wealth might help him in this life, his money won’t extend his earthly life or help him with eternity. Only righteousness can be stored up for Heaven.

James 1:11

James 1:9-11 9 Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted: 10 But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall pass away. 11 For the sun is no sooner risen with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth: so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways. — KJV

James 1:9-11 9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business. — NIV

James 1:9-11 9 Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10 and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11 For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. — ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:11 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
anatello [0393] make rise, spring up, at rise of, be up gar [1063] verily, therefore, yet, no doubt, as, because that ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) helios [2246] sun, light sun [4862] union, with, together, companionship, possession, beside ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) kauson [2742] a glare, high heat kai [2532] and, also, even, so then, too xeraino [3583] shrivel, dry up, wither ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) chortos [5528] court or garden of vegetation kai [2532] and, also, even, so then, too ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) anthos [0438] flower, blossom autos [0846] her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun) ekpipto [1601] drop away, become inefficient, fall, cast down, fail kai [2532] and, also, even, so then, too ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) euprepeia [2143] gracefulness, good suitableness ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) prosopon [4383] front view, countenance, appearance, face, person’s presence autos [0846] her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun) apollumi [0622] die, destroy fully houto [3779] likewise, in this manner, thus kai [2532] and, also, even, so then, too ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) plousios [4145] wealthy, rich en [1722] preposition denoting place: such as in, at, of, through… ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) poreia [4197] travel, journeying, proceedings autos [0846] her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun) maraino [3133] extinguish, fade away, pass away

1.11.0 Introduction to James 1:11

Verse 11 expounds on verse 10 with poetic beauty. A great deal of time is spent talking to the rich man in this passage when you compare it to the brief message to the poor man given in verse 9. Questions for verse 11 primarily address the temporal.

1.11.1 What is the significance of the reference to the sun rising?

Ps 74:16 Yours is the day, yours also the night; you have established the heavenly lights and the sun. First of all, we know God created the sun.

Ex 16:21 Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted. In this example, Moses had commanded the people to gather the manna first thing in the morning before the sun grew high in the sky and melted it, thus causing it to spoil. We have all observed that as the sun grows higher in the sky through the morning it gets warmer and warmer. The summer sun is very hot as morning heads toward midday. With respect to the context of this passage, James seems to be drawing an allegory from the manna of the desert wanderers to the wealth of the rich man. James is saying that although the manna was good first thing in the morning, it spoiled over time as it was exposed to the sun’s heat. Likewise, the money a man collects takes time to lose its luster in the eye of its holder. As a man acquires more, what he had before just isn’t good enough. Eventually the man will who lives for his riches will find his life to be hollow and spoilt. A time will come when none of it will matter anymore and he will die, leaving all of it behind for others to bicker over.

Jn 9:6 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. The sun may light the world, but it’s Jesus who lights the way to eternal life.

1 Cor 15:40-44 There are heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is of one kind, and the glory of the earthly is of another. There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory. So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. It is sown in dishonor; it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness; it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. Just as this life is a but a seed to the next, I think the light and heat of our sun will eventually be replaced by the light of our Lord. His light will fill the city as described in Rev 22:5 And night will be no more. They will need no light of lamp or sun, for the Lord God will be their light, and they will reign forever and ever.

Rev 20:12, 15 12And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. 15And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. As with the sun’s scorching heat that withers the grass while the rich man fades away, hell fire is reserved for those not found in the book of life. This will be the final judgment of Christ on the dead where those not written in the book will fade away altogether forever.

1.11.2 Why the flower and grass illustration?

Ps 103:15-18 As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field; for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more. But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments. James appears to be quoting Ps 103:15, at least in part. Grass and flowers live for a season. So it is with men. The rich pass away just as do the poor. Even if you clip the flower and press it in a book to retain its beauty for a longer time, its life is still gone – no more a living beauty.

Isaiah 40:6-8 A voice says, “Cry!” And I said, “What shall I cry?” All flesh is grass, and all its beauty is like the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever. This is another passage James seems to draw from. Like the Psalms reference, the point seems to be the brevity of human accomplishment, no matter how grand, compared to eternity.

As our study of James progresses we will see the hope of eternal life revealed, that revelation being woven into the fabric of James’ epistle (1:18, 1:25, 2:5, 4:10, 5:20).

1.11.3 What doesn’t last?

Pr 28:20 A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.

Pr 28:22 A stingy man hastens after wealth and does not know that poverty will come upon him. Money is temporary. “Unfortunate” things can happen in a heartbeat. A car accident can take your money and your wealth. An illness can break you financially. You could be sued. Your riches are as fragile as your life, if your checkbook is what you count as wealth.

1.11.4 What does last forever?

Phil 3:12-14 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. Being perfected as a result of the “upward call” of God is the prize Paul speaks of.

1 Thess 4:17 Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord. No matter when you think this event takes place, we know it eventually does.

Jn 6:54 Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. Jesus spoke in a metaphor here, but his message in this verse explains much. Feeding on his flesh means to receive his words, to believe in him, to accept him completely and yield ourselves to him, to his sovereignty, and to his eternal Lordship. To drink his blood means we accept his atoning blood sacrifice on the cross in place of our death as payment for our sins. The promise, in exchanging our will for his, is eternal life. The Lord lasts forever. He offers us an opportunity to join him.

1.11.5 Summary of James 1:9-11

James 1:9-11 9Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, 10and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. 11For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits. – ESV

There are fundamentally two types of wealth. Worldly wealth is temporary. In this life it serves a purpose. We are called to be stewards of what God gives us. He promises that when we share, we receive back even more. If we are stingy and hoard it, what we have will eventually be taken away. It is as temporary and fragile as our flesh and in the end can do nothing to sustain our flesh or our souls. People who are materially wealthy will find it challenging to please God, but there’s plenty of direction in scripture as to how to overcome the world. James explains this is done by humbling ones self to God and man by first realizing the funds come from and belong to God, and their only meaningful purpose is to care for others.

James contrasts the material wealth with spiritual wealth. A person who is filled with the Holy Spirit has minimal physical needs. God will take care of the earthly needs of those who submit to His will, no matter how materially poor that person may be. The poor are exulted to eternal glory while the rich must humble themselves and reckon themselves as less than the least in order to enter the Kingdom of God.

Prov 13:7 One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth. You can live humbly or as a snob whether you have a lot of money or not. Our material possessions mean nothing. We have what we perceive ourselves to have, which is to say what we claim to have. Claim God an you have great wealth. Claim material wealth and you have nothing.

James 1:12

James 1:12 12 Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him. – KJV

James 1:12 12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. – NIV

James 1:12 12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. – ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:12 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
makarios [3107] supremely blessed, fortunate, well off aner [0435] male individual hos [3739] who, which, what, that hupomeno [5278] stay behind, remain; fig: bear trials, persevere, endure, suffer poikilos [3986] various, diverse, motley, of uncertain derivation hoti [3754] that, which… (conjunction) dokimos [1384] approved, tried, acceptable ginomai [1096] to become… lambano [2983] accept, attain, bring, have, hold, obtain, take up away ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) stephanos [4735] crown, badge of royalty, elaborate prize of games ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) zoe [2222] life hos [3739] who, which, what, that epaggelia [1861] announcement, message, promise ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) agapao [0025] love (social or moral sense) autos [0846] her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun)

1.12.0 Introduction to James 1:12

In some translations verse 12 is heaped into the same paragraph as verses 13 through 15. For the sake of our study it is not necessary to keep all these verses together strictly for context. To that end verse 12 stands nicely on its own. In fact, verse 12 actually ties together the overall theme of verses 2 though 11 by promising a blessing for endurance through temptation and trials in the form of the crown of life. Always meticulously clear, James does not forget to specify the catch: it is a promise to those who love God. Verse 12 affords us an opportunity to explore several key terms, the nature of the test which results in a crown, the crown itself, promises of God, and love.

1.12.1 Are there any definitions critical to unlocking this verse?

For convenience, definitions for several Greek terms used in this verse are provided.

Makarios (Greek): 1) Blessed 2) happy. Most often translated as blessed, as in the first word of each English version used here of this verse.

Hupomeno (Greek): 1) To remain as in to tarry behind 2) to remain as in abide and not recede or flee; to persevere holding fast to faith in the face of trails, to endure bearing bravely and calmly.

Hupomeno is used 16 time in the New Testament and is translated to numerous English words. In the three translations used in this study the word is rendered differently each time (endureth, persevere, and steadfast), though in each case with substantially the same meaning.

Peirasmos (Greek): 1) An experiment, attempt, trial, proving. 2) trial of a man’s fidelity, integrity, virtue, constancy (this meaning is associated with temptation toward sin) 3) of the temptation which the devil, a condition or mental state by which we are enticed to sin or lapse in faith or holiness 4) an adversity, affliction or trouble sent by God and serving to test or prove one’s character, faith, or holiness 5) temptation of God by man – rebellion against God by which man tests and challenges his power and justice.

Peirasmos may be translated as test, trial, or temptation depending on context. Since it may be used in any such case, context must be used to determine the most appropriate English translation to use. In most versions other than KJV the word is translated as trail in this verse. While either trial or temptation may be used, trial would seem a more appropriate choice considering the definitions of the English words test, trial, and temptation (each given below).

Test: An evaluation or method of evaluation.

Trial: 1) Examination 2) state of pain 3) difficulty 4) legal proceeding to determine innocence or guilt.

Temptation: 1) something that seduces or the quality to seduce 2) the desire for something you know you should avoid 3) the act of influencing by exciting hope or desire 4) solicitation toward that which is evil

Dokimos (Greek): Accepted, pleasing, acceptable.

Dokimos is most often translated as approved in KJV and NASB, though in this one case KJV uses the word tested. ESV and NIV both translate this Greek word into the phrase “stood the test.” This is an interesting and compelling context clue that in this application the word Peirasmos almost certainly is better translated trial rather than temptation.

Epaggello (Greek): 1) To announce that one is about to do or furnish something 2) to promise (of one’s own accord) to engage voluntarily 3) to profess.

Although epaggello is sometimes translated differently elsewhere in scripture, it is translated as promise in all versions of this verse.

1.12.2 What is blessed?

The Greek word for blessed was defined in the previous question. The definition of the English word blessed can be summarized as follows: to make or honor as holy, or to confer or bestow well being or prosperity upon.

Mt 5:10-12 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. Although this passage is only a portion of the famous beatitudes in Mt 5, these verses speak directly to the issue central to James 1:12. While Matthew tells us what brings the blessing, James tells us what the blessing actually is: Withstand persecution for the name of Jesus and you will receive the crown of life.

1.12.3 How do you survive a trial?

Eph 6:13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. Perhaps this verse sounds cliché, but you cannot escape a deeper examination of the armor of God if you are serious about survival.

Ro 5:2-4 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope Get your faith in order and stand firmly in the Lord’s grace. From a position of grace it is much easier to see over and through the mist of worldly sufferings, enduring those sufferings with your eye on the hope. In so doing you develop endurance and character which are important components in the recipe for ultimate survival.

Heb 10: 36-39 For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God you may receive what is promised. For, “Yet a little while, and the coming one will come and will not delay; but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.” But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and preserve their souls. Once you come into a saving relationship with Jesus, you are a new creation that walks on legs of faith. Never shrink away, for the faith you stand on will preserve your soul for eternal life.

1.12.4 If standing the test for a crown is like a running a race for a crown, then what is this race all about?

1 Cor 9:22-27 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. Do you not know that in a race all the runners compete, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly; I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified. Paul uses athletics as a metaphor to help us understand the concept James is discussing. The mission is to bring salvation to others. The Good News is only news if it is told to others. Paul then contrasts a worldly race where men compete for a single prize that only one can win. He then transitions into an instruction to us to run such a race. Unlike an worldly race, however, there is one common prize to be won by all who finish or, as James puts it, those who endure and stand to the end. That prize, in the words of James, is the crown of life.

Notice that Paul has more to say on this subject which is often overlooked by popular Christianity. Paul says he disciplines his flesh and controls it so he himself doesn’t loose his own race in the midst of his effort to help others. Paul makes it clear he knows that only by enduring to the end and being constantly vigilant, constantly seeking, and constantly serving will he win his prize. This is an example of faith in action, put to work and not idled. Going to church one day a week isn’t sufficient. Singing a praise song and dropping coin into a bucket isn’t enough. Nothing is ever enough. That’s the point of grace. Grace, however, is not a license for laziness. We must constantly be making the effort, constantly pursuing the goal with single mindedness. As we reach further into the heart of the James Epistle, this subject will continue with us as the underlying theme.

1.12.5 Who or what are we standing or racing against?

Eph 6:12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. If you take the time to really examine this verse from Ephesians, you’ll see what appears to be a contradiction. Paul first says the threat isn’t from men, but then talks of rulers and authorities. What are they but men? The riddle is answered by reading the rest of the verse. Our world is in darkness because individuals and whole groups of people do not have Christ’s love and indwelling spirit.

Jn 9:6 As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world. As long as there are people without Christ, there will be darkness in the world. Paul explains that these people who live in darkness are slaves to a different power. Paul describes this other power as spiritual evil emanating from heavenly places. Men are not the source of evil in and of themselves, rather they are the willing conduit of evil. Such men seek power as they are lead to seek it, rising to positions of worldly authority. These spiritually evil authorities are what we wrestle against, standing against, and run against.

1.12.6 Can we win on our own?

Jn 15:4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. Jesus makes it clear we can’t do it alone. We must abide in and with him. Just as other men rely on spiritual evil for power, to stand against such men we must rely on Jesus. Ro 8:26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. Jesus promised the Holy Spirit would help us.

1 Thess 3:1-2 Therefore when we could bear it no longer, we were willing to be left behind at Athens alone, and we sent Timothy, our brother and God’s coworker in the gospel of Christ, to establish and exhort you in your faith We saw that Jesus came, was and is the light of the world, and was and is the embodiment of the Word of God. We saw that the Holy Spirit came to indwell and help us. In our walk of faith, we are commissioned also to aide one another, being an aide and accepting help and encouragement from one another.

1.12.7 What is the crown of life?

Gen 2:9 And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In the very beginning God created the tree of life. It was one of two trees in the center of the garden, presumable standing next to the forbidden tree of knowledge. When they ate of the forbidden fruit they were kicked out of Eden before they had a chance to eat of the other. If God wanted man to forever live in a loving relationship with Him, then why not let them eat of it? Perhaps it was because God knew in advance of man’s fall and all that would have to happen to correct this foreknown fall. After all, what motivation would man have for seeking and submitting to God if his life was already eternal?

Gen 3:22-24 Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. The reason we don’t enjoy eternal life today is that God prevented man from eating that fruit after he’d eaten the forbidden fruit.

Rev 2:10-11 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death. We are warned that Satan will orchestrate trouble for us, in some cases to our bodily death. We are to take comfort from knowing that such a first death simply means exemption from the second death described in Rev 20:14-15.

Rev 22:2 through the middle of the street of the city; also, on either side of the river, the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, yielding its fruit each month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. We are promised to see the tree in the midst of New Jerusalem standing beside the river of life, bearing fruit each month, and the leaves will be used. It doesn’t say explicitly that we must eat from the tree to obtain the eternal life. This may be metaphoric anyway, representing the gift of eternal life for those whose names are in the book of life. It appears eternal life is given by Lord Christ, not taken by eating.

The crown represents the prize. The prize of life is literally eternal life.

1.12.8 What are the conditions for receiving the Crown of Life?

Pr 28:13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy. (See also Ro 10:9-10) You can’t hide your sin from God. It didn’t work for Adam and it won’t work for you. Confess your sins to receive cleansing, thus mercy. Surely there can be no greater mercy than to be pardoned from sin and granted eternal life as a gift. By confessing you are acknowledging your position in humility as being the creation, not equal to the creator. Remember, Eve was tempted with the idea of being like God.

Ro 8:5-8 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. After confession comes submission. Submission comes by putting your focus on God, His Word, and His Spirit with a servant’s heart and hands.

Jn 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God. You must recognize who Jesus is and believe in him. This must be more than an intellectual knowledge, it is a commitment.

1 Cor 10:21 You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and the table of demons. This verse supports and expounds on Jn 3:18. Commitment to Christ means you can’t ride the fence. You can’t serve evil and at the same time you serve God.

Mt 28:19-20 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. In the great commission we see what Jesus meant in Jn 14:15 when he said If you love me, you will keep my commandments. The Good News is only news if you tell it. Go and tell it.

To summarize these several verses into something easy to remember: ADMIT, SUBMIT, COMMIT, and TRANSMIT. I’m not one who likes to put faith into a formula, but if I were to publish a formula, this would be it.

1.12.9 To whom is the crown promised?

Jn 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” In the well known conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus, Jesus gives the answer to our question. This leads to the next obvious question, much as Nicodemus inquired: what exactly does being born again mean?

Jn 3:5-6 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Jesus first says we must be born of both water and of spirit and in the next verse he explains the metaphor as birth by flesh and spiritual birth. The birth of the flesh came about as a result of parental conception. Birth of the spirit comes about when our spirit is renewed or regenerated through grace. Spiritual conception takes place when we hear the Good News and spiritual birth takes place when we choose to adopt it as our reality, which is to say we believe it and live it (Jn 3:16).

Following the analogy of the cycle of life, after birth we are babes, then we grow and mature. We speak words we learn growing up. Spiritually it is very similar. When we first believe we don’t begin to comprehend it all, but we have a new spirit which has at its core the Holy Spirit to guide and teach it, drawing it toward the Father through Jesus Christ and all the tools he gives us. Sadly, just as we can loose our life through carelessness and foolishness, if we fail to remain steadfast in our faith, living out what we confess to believe, our spiritual life may die prematurely as described in the parable of the sower (Mt 13:1-9). This is why endurance is so important, hence the reason for the extended study of topics like testing, trials, endurance, perseverance, and endurance.

1.12.10 What is a promise?

The Greek word epaggello, here translated as promise, literally means 1) To announce that one is about to do or furnish something 2) to promise (of one’s own accord) to engage voluntarily 3) to profess.

The English word promise can be defined in summary as a pledge, vow, or declaration assuring you will or will not do a specific thing.

1.12.11 Is a promise conditional?

In a contract, a promise is an asset to the one receiving and a liability to the one promising. If the one receiving has no liability, they legally have no grounds for holding the promissory to their promise. In other words, a contract is really two promises, or you might think of it as a mutual promise between two parties. In a contract, one party promises something of value in exchange for a promise from the other party of something else of value. For example, loans and service agreements are common and easily understood contract concepts. The purpose of a written contract is to provide documentation of the promises so they can be legally enforced by either party.

Whereas a contract is an explicitly conditional mutual promise, a covenant is an unconditional promise. In other words, one party declares they will do a certain thing without regard to any exchange or any sort.

The answer to the question may be yes or no depending on whether there is a mutual promise (contract) or a strictly one-sided promise (covenant).

Ro 4:13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. A promise made by God is conditional except in those special instances where a covenant was made. The prime condition is righteousness, and righteousness is culmination of faith. Many words can be used to quantify this quality, but I would boil it down to trust, love, respect, and obedience.

1.12.12 What does it mean to break a promise?

Deu 23:23 You shall be careful to do what has passed your lips, for you have voluntarily vowed to the Lord your God what you have promised with your mouth. First of all, don’t break a promise. It could be hazardous to your health.

Neh 5:13 I also shook out the fold of my garment and said, “So may God shake out every man from his house and from his labor who does not keep this promise. So may he be shaken out and emptied.” And all the assembly said “Amen” and praised the Lord. And the people did as they had promised. The threat was very clear to the people Nehemiah spoke with here. They understood the relationship between the dust being shaken from the garment and them being shaken from their homes and jobs. When people realize their home and livelihood are on the line they tend to straighten up quickly. Most people will endure a great deal of unpleasantness to maintain a job or to keep their family intact. It shouldn’t be unpleasant to obey God, but in this particular case the people had done something wrong and Nehemiah was using a clear threat to ensure they came through on their promise.

Ex 20:16 You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. To bear false witness, in simpler terms, means to lie. Ultimately, a broken promise is nothing less than a lie. A broken promise is a broken commandment. A broken commandment is a sin. Sin results in death.

Ro 6:23 The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ. I personally am as guilty as anyone reading this document of this sin. I deserve the death penalty for my sin.

2 Cor 7:10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. We are blessed indeed that God sees fit to allow us to humble ourselves with a repentant heart and receive his gracious mercy and an undeserved gift, courtesy of the blood of Jesus Christ.

1.12.13 Can God break a promise?

Joshua 21:45 Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass. If God cannot lie (Nu 23:19, below), we know then any promise He makes will come to pass. Nu 23:19 God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfill it? God doesn’t lie. Since he doesn’t lie, and a broken promise is a lie, then he will not break a promise.

Jer 26:13 Now therefore mend your ways and your deeds, and obey the voice of the Lord your God, and the Lord will relent of the disaster that he has pronounced against you. The Lord may change his mind, if given cause. There are other instances in scripture where God also changes his mind when moved by man, whether grieved of a promise as a result of man’s failure or moved to hold back a promised curse by a repentant heart.

1.12.14 What is your favorite promise from God?

Take a moment to reflect on God’s promises. Make a brief list of your favorite promises. Choose the one most important to you and write out why it is so important to you and how you’ve had that promise fulfilled in your own life.

Ps 121 is my own personal favorite promise and my favorite chapter in all of scripture. The Lord used this one day when I was in my deepest moment of despair to tell me He will always be there, any time of the day or night, to comfort, protect, and guide me, from now through eternity, and he has the power and authority to do as he has promised.

1.12.15 Summary of James 1:12

A crown is something awarded to a victor. While the crown of life might in fact be literal, it is certainly representative of the promise of eternal life. The race itself represents our life and its many struggles. Our principle enemy we race against is Satan and on our own we cannot win against him. We are assured of victory, however, if we rely on Jesus with true and enduring faith. Some promises are conditional and some are not. Either way, once God declares he will do a thing, it will be done. Any time God places a condition on a promise he offers us responsibility. If we respond by using that responsibility to place our faith in him we will surely receive the promise.

James 1:13

James 1:13-15 13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. – KJV

James 1:13-15 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. – NIV

James 1:13-15 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. – ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:13 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
medeis [3367] none, not, nothing peirazo [3985] test, entice, tempt, prove, try lego [3004] systematic discourse: put forth, speak, tell, describe, boast hoti [3754] that, which… (conjunction) apo [0575] off, away, separation theos [2316] God peirazo [3985] test, entice, tempt, prove, try ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) gar [1063] verily, therefore, yet, no doubt, as, because that theos [2316] God apeirastos [0551] untried, not temptable, not to be tempted esti [2076] he/she/it is, them/they are kakos [2556] worthless, depraved, wicked peirazo [3985] test, entice, tempt, prove, try de [1161] and, but, now… (conjunction) autos [0846] her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun) oudeis [3762] no, none, nobody, nothing, never

1.13.0 Introduction to James 1:13

James 1:13-15 stands together as one of the simplest, most straight forward explanations anywhere in scripture of how we fall from innocence, reach a condition of sin, and become dead as a result. Verse 13 sets up the discussion by making it crystal clear the God is not the source of temptation and we are well advised not to try and blame him when we experience temptation. God is holy and does not tempt us, nor can he be tempted. Our study of verse 13 goes to great lengths to shed light on these various ideas.

1.13.1 Is the same word used in this verse for temptation as was used in James 1:2 and 1:3?

James 1:2 — Yes, or more specifically peirazo is actually a form of the same word. Context must be used to determine the appropriate English translation. In this case peirazo is translated as tempted in all three English versions we referenced for this verse. Because the reference here has clearly to do with luring rather than proving, it seems only logical to agree with tempted as the choice of English words as indicated in KJV, NIV or ESV.

James 1:3 — No. The word used in James 1:3 has the much more strict interpretation of trial.

1.13.2 Why does James 1:13 Generate Controversy?

Deut 32:4 The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.

2 Sam 22:31 This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

3 Jn 1:11 Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

God is perfect and God is good. There are literally hundreds of verses that confirm these two truths. To suggest God would lure man toward evil smacks of blaspheme to me. I’m aware of 2 Thess 2:11 which, to paraphrase, says God sends a delusion so that people who are already wicked will be condemned (for more information review the passage in context). This is harsh, and seems to fly in the face of God’s goodness and the words of James, but I don’t think there’s really a contradiction here.

First, delusion and temptation are different.

Second, Jesus explained the wheat and tares would be separated – this is merely a mechanism to that end.

Third, what people hear and what God says may be two very different things.

God speaks truth, but it isn’t always plain, nor is it easily accepted. God can speak plain truth and people will still hear what they want to hear, twisting it to suit their own desires. This is what I believe to be the nature of the delusion Paul spoke of in his letter to the Thessalonians.

1.13.3 What happens when you say God is tempting you?

Ex 20:7 You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. You are associating God with evil. That equals using His name in vain. Profaning God’s name has serious consequences.

Eze 36:23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. This passage amplifies Ex 20:7 and goes on to say that the believer has a role to play in defending the good name of the Lord. You can’t have it both ways – either you defend the Lord or you are must defend yourself from Him, and we all know how that will turn out.

1.13.4 What happens when you try to tempt God?

Luke 4:1-13

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”

And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

The Paradox Resolved

James 1:13 says that God cannot be tempted. This passage is one place in the New Testament where it clearly indicates Jesus was tempted. If Jesus is truly God, then how can this be? As is so often the case, one must examine both passages in proper context. When James says “God cannot be tempted with evil” he is literally saying any attempt to tempt God with evil will not succeed. God does not prevent you from trying to tempt him, he simply refuses to fall into sin through temptation. There is an enormous difference. The passage from Luke chronicles just such an attempt by Satan himself and we see that while the man Jesus was “put in harm’s way” courtesy of the Holy Spirit’s leading him to the desert, we see the Almighty Lordship of Jesus in his refusal to be baited. Jesus provides us with invaluable insight and an exquisite example of how to face temptation.

Results of Attempted Temptation of God

In answer to this study question, first of all Satan was not successful. If Satan can’t successfully tempt God, who are we to imagine we could? We cannot tempt God. Neither can Satan. That’s not for lack of trying either by us or by Satan. What I mean is that God can’t be tempted, not that we can’t try to tempt him.

Jesus was lead into the wilderness by the spirit. He was lead to remain there for 40 days. Satan came there and tempted (attempted to tempt) Jesus. If you read it carefully you’ll see the Spirit didn’t lead him to temptation, but to the place where the Devil came to tempt him. There’s a subtle but important distinction here, and one which is usually missed. The Holy Spirit filled Jesus and lead him to the place. Satan came to that place and tried to tempt Jesus.

In the end Satan departed. This speaks not only of God’s character, which repels evil, but also of the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer. If you live a spirit filled life, give God authority in your life, enduring for His name’s sake, and putting your faith, hope, trust and love in Him, when Satan comes he will end up going away empty handed.

1.13.5 What is blaspheme?

According to the dictionary the word “blaspheme” literally means to speak of God in an irreverent or impious manner. I believe there’s a lot more to it than this definition.

Eze 20:27 Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: In this also your fathers blasphemed me, by dealing treacherously with me. This passage explains blaspheme as dealing treacherously with God. When you tie together the concept of speaking “irreverently” about God with treachery, it seems to imply that blaspheme more specifically means saying bad things about God as though you were speaking “behind his back.” Slandering God is perhaps the best way to explain blaspheme. Another explanation I once heard of blaspheme is it’s when you attribute evil to God.

Jude 8-9 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” To fully understand this passage you need to read the preceding verses, but the idea here is that “these people” were mocking God by doing wrong when they knew what was right. Jude then gives the compares them to the example of Michael who did the right thing by not presuming to know better than God. When you do what you know is wrong, you are effectively saying you know better than God and your ways are equal to or higher than his. No wonder it makes God angry.

Mt 12:31-32 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Our God is a forgiving God. Jesus lived with us, suffered like us, with us, and ultimately for us. The Holy Spirit is the most precious and effective gift we could possibly receive because it is God’s own Spirit. It is described as a comforter and teacher, among other things. If we slander the Holy Spirit by saying it is evil, giving it credit for doing evil or saying its good work is evil, or nullifying it for the purpose of or to accomplish what amounts to slander against it, then we blaspheme the Holy Spirit and perform the unpardonable sin. Blaspheme of the Holy Spirit is a very specific sin, I think. If not, there would be little hope for most of us.

Again consider the term “slander.” When you slander someone, you speak badly about them and run down their name and damage their reputation in the eyes of others. Blaspheming God hurts how others feel toward God.

Lk 17:2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. When you blaspheme you slander God. Also keep in mind that more than mere spoken words can damage God’s reputation in the eyes of others. As much as God hates blaspheme of Himself as Father or Jesus, His ultimate hatred is when God’s Holy Spirit is blasphemed.

A wise person once told me they felt grieving the Spirit (blaspheme against the Spirit) was something done over time and not a simple ill word spoken out of turn. I hadn’t put it into words like that, but I think it stands to reason if one’s lifestyle runs opposite the direction of the Spirit, yet the person claims to be Spirit filled, this would be the truest form of blaspheme of the Spirit.

1.13.6 What are you doing when you trash-talk God?

Eph 4:29-30 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. By “trash talk” I’m referring to corrupting talk. Trash talk is street slang for running someone down. It effectively means slander or blaspheme. Interestingly enough, this passage also makes reference to the important instruction we have not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Mk 3:28-29 below).

Lev 24:15-16 And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death. There is a specific warning here not to curse God and not to blaspheme God. When I asked the question about “trash talking” God, I’m specifically referring to how we talk about God. This verse specifically says not to curse God. Using God’s name when cursing on or at another person is not the same thing.

Mk 3:28-29 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” Mt 12:31-32, referenced under the previous question, reads very similar to this passage from Mark. As it relates to this question, consider trash-talking the Holy Spirit. I wouldn’t personally recommend it. But then, if I did recommend it I would in essence be guilty myself, wouldn’t I?

1.13.7 Why doesn’t God tempt man?

Ex 20:20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” There are dozens of example in scripture of testing. There are examples of God testing man and man testing God. God’s tests do not lure man toward evil, but bring what is hidden into the light. If evil is in the heart of man, God’s test merely exposes it for what it is. This can be a very good thing if the person will then see what God shows them and deal with it, repenting and changing course. Fear has many ill effects on people and fearing God’s purification process is something naturally scares people. The flesh is weak or born from corruption. God’s tests are designed to teach us not to be sinful. This is the fundamental difference between God’s tests and temptation.

The short answer: Temptation is intended to lure us into evil while God’s tests are intended to make us respect God and turn from sin.

James 1:14

James 1:13-15 13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. – KJV

James 1:13-15 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. – NIV

James 1:13-15 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. – ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:14 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
hekastos [1538] each, every de [1161] and, but, now… (conjunction) peirazo [3985] test, entice, tempt, prove, try hupo [5259] prepositional place (at, beneath, by, in, of, under…) ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) idios [2398] one’s own epithumia [1939] longing, desire, lust exelko [1828] entice, draw away, drag forth kai [2532] and, also, even, so then, too deleazo [1185] entrap, delude, allure, beguile

1.14.0 Introduction to James 1:14

Verse 14 begins to take us down the path leading from our natural state to death. It begins with our own nature under exposure to temptation. In this part of the study we are reminded of the source of temptation, told how the process of death begins, and we get a chance to explore the nature of temptation and desire as they relate to us.

1.14.1 Who tempts?

This question should be review. Satan is the father of lies and temptation. When a man tempts he is only doing what Satan has taught him to do. When a man falls into temptation through his own desire he is acting on the fleshly nature passed down through the corrupted seed of Adam. [See also the questions from James 1:2 and 1:3.]

1.14.2 What is the route from Satan to death?

James 1:14-15 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. The path begins with the originator of lies, Satan. Satan told the first lie in the Bible, followed by the newly corrupted Eve, then Adam. Eve experienced the sensation of desire when the enticement was put before her. She lacked the knowledge of good and evil at the time, though, so one could argue she didn’t have the capacity for comprehending the moral implications of disobedience to God. Regardless, she found what Satan offered to be something she desired. The desire gave way to action, the action being sin because it was an action opposing the will of God. Ultimately, the fact Eve was deceived was no excuse. Sin earns death (Ro 6:23).

If God does not intervene in this progression and all of mankind suffers the genetic flaw of the corruption of flesh handed down from Adam and Eve, then there is no hope. The key then is to obtain God’s intervention. The good news of the Gospel of Jesus is God’s intervention plan.

Jesus took upon himself the sin, paying the penalty of fleshly death on our behalf to intervene and break this curse we took upon ourselves. He asks nothing of us that we weren’t created with, namely that we come to Him, know Him, and believe in Him. He made it as easy for us as he could by stooping to our level, giving us not only atonement for sin through the blood of a perfect sacrifice, but a human face with human words and a human example we can look at and in so doing realize God spoke the Truth from the very beginning. We see it can be done, that death can be overcome, because it has been. Jesus told us ahead of time he would die on our behalf, he would come back from death, and he would go to heaven. He did these things. He promised more. If he can do these things, surely he can and will do the rest of what he’s promised, including giving us eternal life in whatever form and whatever place He deems best for us.

1.14.3 What is the route from God to life?

The answer is weaved throughout the tapestry of scripture from the first few pages through the last. The verses to follow are but an overview of the totality of the answer.

Gen 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The route to eternal life begins with God himself. He is the creator of life and the grantor of eternal life.

Luke 11:10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. We recognize the need to find the route to eternal life when we recognize we are on the road to death and we need to find the other route. Thus, the next logical step is to seek. In Jesus’ own words we have a promise that when we earnestly seek him, we will indeed find him.

Jn 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. In the final analysis the route includes several steps, but belief in Jesus is the only step we ourselves can and must accomplish on our own.

Ac 17:30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent After you accept the fact of God’s existence and you seek him, you find him, and you begin to believe in him, you will begin to change. The word “repent” literally means to change your ways. In the biblical sense it means to change from sinful ways to ways obedient to God. The word “command” implies specific direction from God. To believe in Jesus by definition includes submission to his authority to command us and subsequently obeying his commands.

Heb 4:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. Righteousness is the substance of faith. Righteousness is obedience based on faith.

Jude 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. This verse speaks of our Lord Jesus’ mercy and how it lead to eternal life. There are numerous other verses that speak of grace, mercy, and the subject of eternal life, but this one ties together in just a few words the very most important concepts. We are to hold onto the love of God, loving and being loved, enduring patiently for the mercy of Jesus. In the end it is a free gift, nothing we can earn, just something to be freely accepted. To believe and live that belief is how we accept it. This is the conclusion of the route to eternal life.

1.14.4 How does temptation work?

The passage from James provides excellent insight to the production of sin from raw temptation. Temptation plays on desire, manipulating it for the specific purpose of enticing us to carry out a sinful act.

Having spent a number of years in corporate marketing myself, I can tell you that the purpose of advertising is to create an interest and desire for a product. Once the potential customer is made aware something they might want is available, you then target the customer with information about the product that will make most attractive to that customer. Whenever possible targeted marketing programs provide information as specific and personalized as possible. When the customer is approached with something they recognize as desirable and it is presented personally with enticing messages designed to lead to a purchase, this is “good advertising.” This concept of targeting selected information for a selected audience is also called propaganda. The term propaganda is generally associated with an organization having a specific agenda. A company manufacturing a product is an organization with a specific agenda, namely to sell their product and beat their competition in the process.

Temptation can be easily explained as Satan’s marketing program. The devil’s propaganda is designed to play on man’s natural desires. While advertising as a great way to explain temptation, there is one important difference between them. Temptation is the form of advertising designed specifically to lure you to do something sinful. It attracts you toward doing something outside of God’s will. Not all advertising has this purpose. Certainly telling the Good News of Jesus Christ doesn’t fit the definition of temptation according to James.

Temptation is not sin. Sin happens when you “buy” the goods being sold by the devil. A purchase is an exchange of one thing of perceived value for another thing of perceived value where the buyer and seller agree that the exchange is mutually acceptable. Simply having a desire or being exposed to advertising which plays on that desire is not the same as sin. Sin, by definition, is disobedience toward God. It is helpful to always remember that temptation is a lie. It is a lie because what you get in return for your disobedience is never worth the price.

1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. The propaganda, no matter how well targeted and personalized, is not new or unique. Everyone is tempted by a common list of commercials. Different people tune in to different commercials (temptations) by natural inclination (desire). The good news is that we don’t have to buy the lies. This verse alone doesn’t begin to explain the mechanics of how God protects us from being overcome by our desires, but we have the promise that He can and will, and that’s enough for now.

1.14.5 What is desire?

Synonyms include longing, want, wish, passion, covet, crave. Webster’s uses the phrase: a feeling that accompanies an unsatisfied state. This would seem a highly accurate description of desire. If there is something unsatisfied within us, the resulting feeling draws us toward whatever we think will provide satisfaction. This feeling, called desire, makes us vulnerable to temptation. This explains how desire ties to temptation.

In this passage KJV actually uses the word “lust” in lieu of desire. The Greek word epithumia is translated lust, desire, longing, crave, covet, or some variation of any of these throughout the New Testament, depending on the translation you choose. Since we are concerned with understanding what is meant by the Greek and we are constrained to using English to do the job, it stands to reason we would want to use an English word that most closely approximates the meaning of the original language. I prefer the word desire when used in this passage in James because it doesn’t have the more narrow sexual connotation of a word like lust or other more restrictive terms such as covet. Temptation is a very broad term and the word desire is equally broad. In researching the Greek term epithumia, I learned it is used to indicate a want of God just as much as a want for carnal satisfaction.

1.14.6 Where is the desire?

Ro 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. Desire springs up from within. Satisfaction and dissatisfaction are deeply personal. Since desire is, by definition, the feeling of not being satisfied, this feeling comes from within the human heart. You may say it stems from the human spirit or from the human flesh. Any given desire may come from either one. Certainly a thirst for water after working in the sun is a physical desire while the desire to share a conversation or embrace is emotional. Emotional desires seem to come from the same place as all other emotions, a place we call (for lack of a better term) the human heart. Sin is the result of acting outside God’s will to try and satisfy a feeling of dissatisfaction. Paul explains it is passed down to all mankind genetically. Our flesh and our spirits are born from the corrupt. It is part of who we are. It isn’t what God wants us to be, however. The good news, of course, is that Jesus Christ’s blood was shed to wash away the filthiness of our hearts and bodies and make us free from our sin, if only we accept His cleansing gift.