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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.

Lottery

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.

James 1:15

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 1:15 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
eita [1534] if, or, whether ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) epithumia [1939] longing, desire, lust sullambano [4815] catch, seize, take, conceive tikto [5088] produce, bring forth, bear, be born, be delivered hamartia [0266] a sin, an offence ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) de [1161] and, but, now… (conjunction) hamartia [0266] a sin, an offence apotelleo [0658] complete, consummate, finish apokueo [0616] breed, generate, beget, produce thanatos [2288] death

1.15.0 Introduction to James 1:15

Verse 15 draws us to the logical end for realized temptation, namely death. We also get to look at the concept of conception and how birth relates to the start of life and death.

1.15.1 How does desire become sin?

In verse 15 James uses the analogy of conception to explain the progression from desire to the fulfillment of sin. In the natural world conception takes two, namely a father and a mother. To paint the picture more clearly in your mind, think of the human heart as female and advertisements as male.

Anyone can advertise – Satan, the world, or God. Since we know what God offers doesn’t lead to sin, let’s remove Him from the equation first. Anything Satan offers is a deception and if we buy anything he has to offer we know that it’s a sin. We also know Satan is the ruler of the world (Jn 12:31). That just means products advertised by the world are manufactured by Satan, Inc.

The human heart is a fertile place, much like a womb. It seeks fulfillment. Temptation is the kind of advertising that is appealing and plays on the natural desires of the heart. When a person pays attention to Satan’s (or the world’s) commercial message, the force of the desire mates with the ad and if the person does not resist and there’s no contraceptive (bible, Holy Spirit, etc.), the two will conceive. The conception yields action disobedient to the will and the Word of God. This is sin.

There is good news, however. Jesus Christ came to give us contraception for sin and offer us a way to find fulfillment by conceiving good fruit via the Spirit its good and imperishable seed. Every human has a need that can only be filled by the Lord. Our natural desire for God, when unrealized, is an opening for Satan to try and offer us something to fill the void in God’s place. This is the common mechanism of human failure. Through Jesus’ redeeming act of self sacrifice it is possible to wash out the alien from our heart so the Holy Spirit can fill us, satisfying that God given feeling of need for satisfaction. He is the only one that can truly and eternally satisfy.

1.15.2 Why conception?

Gen 16:1-4 Now Sarai, Abram's wife, had borne him no children. She had a female Egyptian servant whose name was Hagar. And Sarai said to Abram, “Behold now, the Lord has prevented me from bearing children. Go in to my servant; it may be that I shall obtain children by her.” And Abram listened to the voice of Sarai. So, after Abram had lived ten years in the land of Canaan, Sarai, Abram's wife, took Hagar the Egyptian, her servant, and gave her to Abram her husband as a wife. In the biblical sense, to have sex with someone is to wed them regardless of ceremony. In God’s eyes, sex is the ceremony. The biological purpose of sex is to conceive a child. God designed humanity to perpetuate itself. Our strongest physical urge after our most basic necessities is sexual.

Conception is the point where many people believe life begins. Regardless, birth can only happen after conception, thus conception is a necessary step. Conception happens as a result of a joining. Applying biology to James’ sin analogy we see it is necessary for there to be a temptation and a desire that results in acting on the temptation. The act itself is the point of conception. Sin is the child born of the unholy union.

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 tenth commandment addresses desire in the ugly form of coveting. This law was given because people wanted things that belonged to others.

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 wise, she took of its fruit and ate, and she also gave some to her husband who was with her, and he ate. Eve wanted be like God, as if she could take equality from Him.

Gen 3:4-5 But the serpent said to the woman, “You will not surely die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” Back up. Look at what precipitated her act. Satan came and advertised. Eve had no reason to want anything other than God and to obey God and be in perfect communion with God. Then Satan came along and introduced a new concept. He provided an inducement by advertising to her the idea that God had something better than her, He wasn’t sharing it, and she somehow ought to have it. It was an outright lie to claim there would be no penalty, but then lying is what Satan’s good at. Had the idea not been put in her head, her desire would not have been aroused and she would not have been put in the position of having to choose whether to accept the offer.

It has been the speculation of scholars for centuries why Eve and her husband chose to accept Satan’s offer when God told them up front about the penalty. Regardless, it is good for us that God provided a way to pay that debt on our behalf. We have eternity to thank Jesus if we will accept his atonement on our behalf and choose to buy (ie. put our faith in and believe in) what He alone “advertises” and not what comes from the world or Satan.

1.15.3 What is the Godly opposite of sinful conception?

1 Pe 1:23 since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; This verse is a key phrase within a broader yet critical message about the glorious redemptive work of Jesus. Seed is often used to describe what Jesus offers us through His word and Spirit. The good news is the advertisement God gives, one free of deceit. It is an offer we need only accept. There’s no way we can pay our end of the bargain because what the Lord gives immeasurably exceeds what we can give in exchange. Unlike Satan’s offer where you get less than you bargain for, with God you get infinitely more value than you bargain for.

Is 61:10-11 I will greatly rejoice in the Lord; my soul shall exult in my God, for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation; he has covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. For as the earth brings forth its sprouts, and as a garden causes what is sown in it to sprout up, so the Lord God will cause righteousness and praise to sprout up before all the nations. This passage is such a rich and beautiful expression of the true wedding analogy. It illustrates the courtship free of the serpent’s sleaze.

Rev 19:7-8 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. The hope we have to come together with our Lord is wondrous beyond imagination. We will be restored to absolute purity and will enjoy the rewards of being joined together with God. This is not to say we literally become God, but rather we are welcomed to be with him and not left outside for eternity.

Gen 2:24 Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh. Where a man and woman join together physically, God and man join together spiritually.

Rev 22:17 The Spirit and the Bride say, “Come.” And let the one who hears say, “Come.” And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price. Where temptation begets sin and sin begets death, the Good News is consummated by purification and it begets eternal life. With temptation you give up something in order to be deceived and loose even more. With God you receive salvation in order to receive eternal life and without cost. It seems incomprehensible anyone could refuse such an offer. The happily ever after at the end of this story is better than any fairy tale because its true, and its about you.

1.15.4 How does Satan’s wedding differ from Christ’s?

Rev 19:20 And the beast was captured, and with it the false prophet who in its presence had done the signs by which he deceived those who had received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped its image. These two were thrown alive into the lake of fire that burns with sulfur. Prior to the “1000 year reign” the beast and false prophet are thrown into the lake of fire.

Rev 20:12-15 And 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. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. The first and last parts of this passage are most important, though the entire passage is included for the sake of contextual clarity. In this final judgment at the end of the 1000 years, those who aren’t found in the book of life are thrown into the lake of fire. Marriage to Satan means joining him for a hot bath.

1.15.5 Is birth the start of life?

Jer 20:17 because he did not kill me in the womb; so my mother would have been my grave, and her womb forever great. Many Christians argue that life begins at conception and birth is merely the transition of that life. There are dozens of references in scripture referencing the womb. Some are far better known, such as Jer 1:5, but few are more compelling to me for this argument than Jer 20:17. I say this because it specifies that he could have died in the womb. I present this as evidence and proof of the conventional perspective because something cannot be killed unless it is first alive.

Ps 58:3 The wicked are estranged from the womb; they go astray from birth, speaking lies. Ps 71:6 Upon you I have leaned from before my birth; you are he who took me from my mother's womb. My praise is continually of you. I searched for examples of what definitely happens to change in a person’s life at the point of birth and instead found continuity from life in the womb to life outside the womb.

Ac 22:28 The tribune answered, “I bought this citizenship for a large sum.” Paul said, “But I am a citizen by birth.” Birth is a benchmark used by society to mark your “entrance into the world” and to proclaim certain things such as your name, your family position, birthright, citizenship, and so forth.

It would seem based on these few bits of scripture birth isn’t the start of life, rather it is the start of our life in the world’s system.

1.15.6 Is birth the start of death?

Ro 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. If birth is the start of life within the world’s system, then what is the destiny of world’s system?

1 Jn 2:17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever. Since the world is passing away, people who live within the world’s system are destined for death. Both Paul and John speak very quickly after stating the damning truth of sin’s reward that we have hope for eternal life. Death does not need to be the ultimate result of birth.

1.15.7 How does sin become fully grown?

Ro 6:23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. This verse is often quoted as justification for the idea all sin is ultimately equal because all sin has the same ultimate penalty. This seems to me a very narrow conclusion drawn from a single line of scripture.

Jn 19:11 Jesus answered him, “You would have no authority over me at all unless it had been given you from above. Therefore he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin.” The idea of sin growing must assume that some sins are greater than others. Jesus himself testified that some sins are greater than others. This verse is just one of many that dispel the popular myth built on a misinterpretation of Ro 6:23.

Lev 6:17 It shall not be baked with leaven. I have given it as their portion of my food offerings. It is a thing most holy, like the sin offering and the guilt offering. The subject of leaven and unleavened bread comes up many times in scripture. In every case God only permits the unleavened to be used for ceremonies and forbids leaven.

1 Cor 5:6 Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump? Leaven is yeast. A lot could be gleaned by looking at the properties of yeast, but suffice it to say its most profound property for baking is its ability to make bread rise. As bread rises it becomes less and less like its purest form. Note that it only takes a little to do a lot. It is the same with sin. A little sin causes us to deform from the purity God created us to be. As the sin takes hold of us, we not only puff ourselves up, but the sin takes hold throughout our entire being causing us to finally look nothing like the pure form, totally deformed and full of hot air. The pure (unleavened) bread was suitable for sin or guilt offerings (Lev 6:17) because it was undefiled, just as Christ is our undefiled sacrifice for sin and guilt. It is also worth noting that once leaven is added to bread it cannot be removed by natural means. Likewise, once we are stained by sin we cannot cleanse ourselves by our own power. It requires the supernatural intervention of Jesus to take away our sin.

1.15.8 Why does sin result in death?

Gen 2:7 then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature. God is life.

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. God is also perfect and just, without iniquity. God is sinless.

Gen 2:17 “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” Sin is outside of God. Anything outside of God is outside of life, therefore dead. This explains why God warned Adam that he would die the day he ate fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Death is separation from God. When Adam sinned, it inserted a chasm between man and God. The good news, quite literally, is that Jesus Christ made suitable and adequate restitution for the sin of mankind for all time, restoring fellowship with God and making eternal life possible for humanity.

1.15.9 Summary of James 1:13-15

From questions asked about this passage we learned a great deal about the nature of temptation and God’s nature relative to temptation. We learned the process leading to death and the process leading to life. The very nature of life and of death has been discussed at length.

God is perfect and just. God doesn’t tempt according to the technical definition of temptation as given by this passage in James. Temptation is an invitation to sin. It is essentially a form of advertising designed to put ideas in your head that lead you away from God, into lawlessness. Temptation takes advantage of the natural human condition which seeks to satisfy an unfulfilled need. The lie making temptation so dangerous is that the need is false. Since the need is false, the solution to the need is false. The supposed solution is outside of God and by definition lawless and sin. Satan’s marketing plan is never the less effective.

Desire, the condition of feeling you are unsatisfied, is hard coded into the essence of our being. God put desire in us so we would be magnetized to Him. With the introduction of sin to the world courtesy of Satan’s first deception, human desire has caused humanity to seek satisfaction in things other than God. When we act on this feeling by pursuing anything other than God we sin. Sin divides us from God. God is life, therefore being outside of God means being outside of life. The only word we have to describe being outside of life is death.

Temptation isn’t sin, but it is an inducement that attracts us to sin. Once we sin, space develops between us and God. Without intervention the space tends to grow. How much it grows ultimately makes little different because once we’re divided from God we are dead. There is only one solution. Jesus Christ built a bridge. His sinless sacrificial death makes it possible for God to grant grace and mercy and let us finally come across that bridge. All it takes is enough faith to stand up and walk across that bridge. In other words, put your faith in Jesus and trust him, believe in him for he is the only way to eternal life.

James 1:16

James 1:16-18 16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. — KJV

James 1:16-18 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. — NIV

James 1:16-18 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. — ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:16 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
me [3361] not, no, none, never planao [4105] to roam, go astray, wander, err, deceive, seduce adephos [0080] brother, sibling (connected by womb, literal or figurative) mou [3450] I, me, my agapetos [0027] beloved, dear

1.16.0 Introduction to James 1:16

Verse 16 is one of the shortest and seemingly most simple verses in the book of James. Naturally it will yield more questions for our study than most. This verse is generally brought into English as the first sentence of a paragraph consisting of verse 16 to 18. In the broader context it could also be applied as a follow-up to the preceding paragraph and broader still the overall theme of the chapter and book. It is a clear directive intended to grab and hold your attention. It is this directive and its meaning that will yield these next several questions.

1.16.1 What is the mood of this statement?

This question is admittedly subjective. However, there are clues. First, consider who is writing and who is being written to. A Spirit filled church leader, James the half brother of Jesus, is believed to be the author. Fellow believers whom James refers to as beloved brothers are the audience. The warning indicates a concern for the welfare of the audience. Concern demonstrates compassion. If James was willing to go to the trouble of writing a warning, framing it with love, he must have been passionate about the message he was trying to convey. In James 1:1 he refers to himself as a servant. This sense of humility is also seen in Verse 16. This statement is a directive, but you can almost feel James pleading with the reader to take to heart this message. Most other New Testament writers took a similar overall approach with their message, speaking with humility of self while still carrying the authority of Christ (ref 1 Cor 1:4; Heb 1:13-14; 2 Pe 1:2; 1 Jo 1:4; Jude 3). Jesus himself simultaneously exuded both humility and authority as he passionately sought to bring the message as well as the act of redemption.

Although James 1:16 is a brief verse and an incredible amount can be gleaned from this simple statement, taken in the broader context of James’ letter this statement stands out as powerful and important by virtue of its passion.

1.16.2 Who is James warning?

James uses the term “brother” 4 times in ch 1, three of those with beloved (or similar language). It was established in the study of the very first verse that James is specifically addressing his letter to fellow believers in Christ. Fellow believers are brothers. We may not always get along with our brothers, but they are still family.

1.16.3 What is deception?

The Greek word here is planao. According to Strong’s (KJV) it is used 27 times and the majority of the time it is translated as some form of deceive, but also as err, go astray, seduce and wander. Planao is defined as causing to lead astray as to lead from the right way where physically it means leading away from the correct path or wander about; metaphorically meaning to lead away from truth, to cause err, and lead toward sin.

In English synonyms include deceive, betray, mislead, beguile, delude, dupe, hoodwink, bamboozle, double-cross.

James 1:17-18 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Most translations put James 1:16 as the first phrase of a paragraph which also includes James 1:17-18. It is important to see the context to fully understand and appreciate how emphatic James is being and why. The implication here is that obviously there are those out there preaching that not all good gifts are from God, that God isn’t perfectly consistent, or that he didn’t bring us forth by the word of truth to be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. We know that false doctrines were everywhere in those days – just as they are today. James was fundamentally warning fellow believers not to be suckered by false teaching and gave some specific examples, not just in the next two verses, but throughout his letter.

1.16.4 Who is the source of deception?

Jn 8:44 You are of your father the devil, and your will is to do your father's desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, and has nothing to do with the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks out of his own character, for he is a liar and the father of lies. In this passage Jesus was speaking to some Pharisees. The Pharisees were mere men, but Jesus charged them with doing Satan’s bidding. Men may execute deception, but Satan’s will is the true source of deception.

1.16.5 Does God deceive?

Titus 1:2 in hope of eternal life, which God, who never lies, promised before the ages began* (*or before times eternal) By definition a deception implies intentional misleading or, more bluntly, it is a lie. God does not lie and therefore does not deceive.

1.16.6 If God doesn’t deceive, then what about these verses?

There are many seeming contradictions people point to in the bible in an effort to prove it wrong and, by extension, to destroy the faith of those who believe the bible to be true and accurate. What follows are four passages used for that purpose which at first appear to contradict Titus 1:2 and similar verses. With each verse is an attempt to explain logically how these verses are misinterpreted, misunderstood, or taken out of context.

1 Ki 22:20-23 and the Lord said, ‘Who will entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at Ramoth-gilead?’ And one said one thing, and another said another. Then a spirit came forward and stood before the Lord, saying, ‘I will entice him.’ And the Lord said to him, ‘By what means?’ And he said, ‘I will go out, and will be a lying spirit in the mouth of all his prophets.’ And he said, ‘You are to entice him, and you shall succeed; go out and do so.’ Now therefore behold, the Lord has put a lying spirit in the mouth of all these your prophets; the Lord has declared disaster for you.” This passage is an excerpt from a story about a messenger named Micaiah who was – in these verses – telling the king what God had told him. The events that followed showed the prophesy was true. Perhaps this is only a technicality, but it is important to note from this passage that God himself used a willing spirit to go and lie. God didn’t personally lie, though he did allow a lie. This should not be viewed as unreasonable or unusual since he allows us to lie all the time. We do not know the nature of the spirit God used.

2 Thess 2:11 Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, The Greek for delusion in this sentence is Plane, a form of the word translated err or deceived in James 1:16. Since God doesn’t lie this is difficult to reconcile. One interpretation might follow 1 Kings 22, particularly since it is stated that God sends the delusion. It doesn’t say God delivers or even authors the delusion. Perhaps he only is controlling the routing of a lie and not actually creating it. Another interpretation would suggest that the purpose of the delusion is to prove for the public what God himself already knows about the hearts of the people described in the context.

Rev 17:17 for God has put it into their hearts to carry out his purpose by being of one mind and handing over their royal power to the beast, until the words of God are fulfilled. In this passage no technicality can rescue God. Of course with God no technicality is actually required, but that’s beside the point. First of all, notice that God had previously said he would do something and now he must fulfill what he said. This shows God will keep his earlier promise. Next, examine this verse in context. It falls within an angel’s explanation of the vision of the great prostitute and the beast. Those who would have it “put into their hearts” to submit to the beast, at least for a certain time, are people who were already being presented with a lie by the beast. In actuality God is merely withdrawing from those men so that they would follow their own natural inclination to follow the beast.

Eze 14:9 And if the prophet is deceived and speaks a word, I, the Lord, have deceived that prophet, and I will stretch out my hand against him and will destroy him from the midst of my people Israel. This passage is included in the text describing a test of sorts. In the greater context God is telling his prophet that some Israelites were worshiping idols, but was offering a chance for them to come to his prophet and seek God’s council via that prophet. The Lord goes on to say he will listen and answer. Eze 14:9 is essentially saying if the prophet gets deceived he’s really a false prophet and will die. In following verse God warns that both the false prophet and those who sought council from the false prophet will die.

1.16.7 How important is it to avoid being deceived?

1 Jo 3:7-8 Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. There are numerous passages like this, warning us to be on guard against deception. Here are a few such key verses, each to be read in context: 2 Thes 2:3, 2 Tim 3:1-7, Jude 17-18, 2 Jo 7, Heb 13:9, 2 Pe 2:1. The shear frequency of similar statements should indicate relative importance. In the passage from 1 John 3:7-8 we are warned that the purpose of the appearance of the Son of God was to destroy the works of the devil. The very purpose of Jesus was to nullify the very work of Satan from the very beginning, in the garden. Death comes by sin and sin by the devil, but life comes by Jesus Christ.

1.16.8 What kind of people deceive?

3 Jo 9-10 I have written something to the church, but Diotrephes, who likes to put himself first, does not acknowledge our authority. So if I come, I will bring up what he is doing, talking wicked nonsense against us. And not content with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers, and also stops those who want to and puts them out of the church. Diotrephes is an example of a person who deceives by putting himself above authority. Read the verse again and observe this man’s character for yourself.

The book of Jude talks addresses false teachers at length and provides colorful character descriptions for those who listen to and do the bidding of the father of lies, Satan. There are many more examples, such as 2 Peter 2, you can also use to find out more about the nature of people who deceive.

1.16.9 Why is deception such a threat?

Mt 12:30 Whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters. Christ gives a clear warning. Anyone who deceives is against Christ. Anyone who accepts a lie is pulled away from Christ and, according to this verse, stands against Christ.

Rev 3:16-17 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. Believers who listen to deceptions become ineffective and lukewarm. The ultimate result is rejection. Those who are deceived are ones who say they’ve made it, whether physically or spiritually, but who are in fact seriously lacking by God’s standard.

1.16.10 How does deception begin?

2 Pe 1:20-21 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. According to Peter, deception begins with the will of man, in his own mind, conceiving his own twisted view of scripture. From within himself comes false prophesy, for genuine prophesy comes only from God through the Holy Spirit.

Jas 1:22 But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. James tells us that words without application leads to deception.

1.16.11 How do you recognize one who deceives?

2 Tim 3:2-5 For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people. This passage provides a pretty good description of description of what you would automatically recognize as bad, right up to the point where it describes them as having the appearance of godliness but denying its power. This passage could describe many church leaders, orthodox or otherwise. It also describes many false religions, some touting themselves as denominations. Some of the characteristics described here aren’t as obvious in clergy because they tend to cloak themselves well and worse, people tend to overlook their flaws even when those flaws are extreme. Is it any wonder they are hard for many to recognize without training?

Mt 15:8-9 “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” Jesus describes deceivers as those who talk a good game, but their heart isn’t in it. The way to discern the deception is to look into what is being preached and see if it is the Word of God or the word of man.

1 Thess 5:19-22 Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil. Those who deceive have no use for real prophesy and the Spirit, because they will do nothing but expose and destroy the deceiver. We are told to test everything and only keep what is good. It doesn’t say be sure to keep what is good when you’re keeping things, it says to keep the good and abstain from every form of evil.

1 Tim 1:3-4 As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. Look for a different doctrine. If it doesn’t match the gospel it is false. This passage is a little different from those above because it gives examples of some of the things false teachings would have you get involved with. In this case examples include devotion to myths, obsession with personal history, and promoting speculation rather than the firm facts of the bible. A steward is a manager and any instruction to poor management is a false doctrine.

Gal 6:3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. Sometimes you have to look in the mirror to see the source of deception. Satan is the father of lies. Do not allow yourself to be adopted into his family. If Satan believes his own rhetoric then he, too, has deceived even himself.

1.16.12 How can you avoid being deceived?

Jas 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. You have to want to avoid deception. If you aspire to more, if you feel called to more, then you must live up to more. If it isn’t real, don’t try or you will only be digging your grave deeper and faster.

Jas 3:3 If we put bits into the mouths of horses so that they obey us, we guide their whole bodies as well. If we shut up we can listen. If we listen to God he will speak to us. If he speaks to us we need to tell others what he gives us to say. If we don’t control our tongues we won’t be able to do this. As our tongues go, so goes our whole being.

Mt 10:16 Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. This advice given from the mouth of Jesus is simple and direct. The advice is to be skilled, knowing the word and knowing how to apply it. All the while we are to keep our noses clean in the process. This passage seems to dovetail well with the one that says we are to be in the world yet not of the world.

1.16.13 What specific deception is James warning us about?

James 1:12-15 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. 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. 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. In the verses leading up to James 1:16, James talks about steadfastness and the promised crown of life for those who love God. He warns us not to fall into the temptation of thinking God tempts and reveals to us that temptation plays upon our own desire. He explains how our desire, coupled with temptation, leads to death. Even though verse 16 is generally considered the start of the next paragraph, it could certainly be considered a resounding epilogue for the preceding paragraph.

James 1:17-18 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. I once heard a US Treasury agent explain how to detect a counterfeit bill. He said the best way to determine if a note is fake is to know the real thing so intimately you can immediately detect a flaw. James is essentially saying the same thing. Be convinced of the absolute accuracy of God’s Word, that God is 100% consistent, and to be steadfastly certain of His plan for us. Don’t be suckered by false teaching.

James 1:17

James 1:16-18 16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. — KJV

James 1:16-18 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. — NIV

James 1:16-18 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. — ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:17 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
pas [3956] all, any, every dosis [1394] giving, a gift agathos [0018] good, benefit, well kai [2532] and, also, even, so then, too pas [3956] all, any, every dorema [1434] gift, bestowment telieos [5046] complete, full age, perfect anothen [0509] from above, from the beginning, from the top esti [2076] he/she/it is, them/they are katabaino [2597] descend, come down, fall apo [0575] off, away, separation ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) pater [3962] father, parent ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) phos [5457] luminousness, light, fire para [3844] near hos [3739] who, which, what, that ou [3756] absolute negative (adverb) eni [1762] be in or among (contraction for third person singular) parallage [3883] transmutation, fickleness, variableness e [2228] or, and, but, except, rather, than, that, what (conjunction) trope [5157] turn, turning, revolution aposkiasma [0644] shadow, shading off, obscuration

1.17.0 Introduction to James 1:17

This verse includes two major themes. The first theme involves the greatness of what God has in mind for us. The second is the consistency of God as a source of light and all goodness.

1.17.1 What is the best gift from God?

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.

1.17.2 What does the Lord give us in this life?

Mt 10:34-39 Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a person's enemies will be those of his own household. Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. And whoever does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it. Modern “pop-Christianity” tends to foist the idea that if you just pray a little and do a few good deeds life will be easier and you will enjoy bountiful blessings and abundance. Jesus did say he came to bring life in abundance (Jn 10:10), but I think this verse and others like it are often taken out of context and used to present the false impression of a rosy earthly life. If you go through any of the four Gospels and look at each instance where Jesus encountered people and gave them the Good News, he always told them they had to change. The first thing we must accept as a gift from Jesus is change. Change is hard for most people, and its perhaps even harder sometimes for those around the person who is changed. Division and strife often accompany change. Believing in Jesus results in the truest freedom, but freedom isn’t free nor is it easy. We are promised a real peace, an inner peace, but not the kind of peace the world desired by the world (Jn 14:27).

Mt 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light. If we change from our ways to his ways, we are then able to enjoy true inner peace and joy because the heavy burden of our sins is taken from us. If you have ever been in debt, whether for a house or a car or a student loan or anything else, you know debt is like a weight – intangible yet oppressive. Sin is a debt. When our sin is removed, the weight is removed. I believe this is why the yoke of Jesus is so light.

Lk 11:10-13 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him! Just because we will have to change and we will be put in difficult and challenging positions, it doesn’t mean he’s just cleaned us up and sent us on our way. Christ does not simply give us a book and smile. He provides us with an indwelling Spirit. It is called a deposit (2 Tim 1:14) for our eventual hope. This deposit is fully functional and useful, providing us with information, comfort, and much more.

1.17.3 What is a gift?

The Greek word is dorema. It appears only twice in the New Testament and both times it is translated as gift (KJV and ESV). According to Strong’s concordance the word literally means gift, bounty, or benefaction.

According to the dictionary a gift (in the sense of the Greek word used here) is something that is bestowed voluntarily and without compensation.

Eph 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. A gift is something unearned. God only gives good gifts and such gifts indeed cannot be earned.

1.17.4 What is God’s attitude toward giving?

2 Cor 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich. Jesus gave up everything for us, including life in the flesh. What better example is there of giving?

1.17.5 Who is the father of lights?

Gen 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God created light. This verse alone provides sufficient information to answer the question.

Ps 27:1 The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? Light is a term used to describe the source of illumination, whether physical, mental, or spiritual.

Mt 4:16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned. The very nature of illumination is to make a thing visible, which is to say revealing. As in this verse, the appearance of light results in revelation.

Jn 8:12 Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” Jesus proclaimed himself the light of the world and of life. Anyone who understands that God is the father of light would also understand that Jesus’ statement made it abundantly clear he was claiming to be God (Jn 10:30).

1.17.6 What is light good for?

Ps 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. Light reveals our surroundings. God’s word serves as a light to reveal the direction we are to go. Any path other than the one where the light shines is a path into darkness. God’s light leads us to God.

Ro 13:12-14 The night is far gone; the day is at hand. So then let us cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us walk properly as in the daytime, not in orgies and drunkenness, not in sexual immorality and sensuality, not in quarreling and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Light actually protects us in various ways. If we stay in the light we avoid getting into trouble. Darkness, which is by definition the absence of light, is dispelled when light encroaches. This essentially means light drives away darkness, so if we accept the light, we accept armor against the powers of darkness. Light exposes sin for what it is, calls it by name, and makes it possible to be dealt with. Put on Jesus Christ, the light of the world, and sinful desire will become empty and void because sin will not be able to withstand the constant and powerful light.

1.17.7 How consistent is God?

Heb 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. I think the answer to the question is: completely.

James 1:17 uses much more poetic language. Shadows only vary or change with motion. “No variation or shadow due to change” not only indicates pure consistency, it indicates our Lord is unmoving and unswerving in character.

1.17.8 Why is God perfectly stable?

1 Jo 3:20 for whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and he knows everything God knows everything. If God has absolutely accurate and complete knowledge, what could possibly cause him to be unstable?

Jas 3:11 Does a spring pour forth from the same opening both fresh and salt water? God’s character is pure. There is no reason for God to be anything but consistent. If there is inconsistency, its in our perception.

James 1:18

James 1:16-18 16 Do not err, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. — KJV

James 1:16-18 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created. — NIV

James 1:16-18 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. — ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:18 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
boulomai [1014] be willing, intend apokueo [0616] breed, generate, beget, produce hemas [2248] us, our, we logos [3056] word, something said, communication, divine expression of Christ aletheia [0225] true, truth, truly, verity eis [1519] to, into… (prep. expressing motion) ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) einai [1511] to exist (am, is, was, be…) hemas [2248] us, our, we aparche [0536] first-fruit, a beginning of sacrifice tis [5100] anyone, anything, someone, something, somewhat ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) autos [0846] her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun) ktisma [2938] an original formation (creation: product or creature)

1.18.0 Introduction to James 1:18

This verse expresses the idea Christians are newly created, regenerated beings. It says that our new nature is the result of the action of the “word of truth” for the divine purpose of being a “kind of first-fruit” among all of creation. This statement implies what Paul says clearly in Eph 2:8-10, namely that regeneration is something accomplished by Christ (the word of truth) and not by ourselves and it is done for his purpose, not ours. It seems to me we have a divine purpose in our existence and to do anything other than fulfill that purpose with the gifts he’s given us seems like an insult to him.

1.18.1 What does James mean by “brought forth?”

Gen 1:24 And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures according to their kinds—livestock and creeping things and beasts of the earth according to their kinds.” And it was so. God initially brought forth everything in creation in the first chapter of Genesis.

The words of the Greek phrase have nearly identical meaning to the phrase in Gen 1:24. In each case the words used generally refer to birth, but in each of these cases they can and do also mean the act of creation. Birth, after all, is a step in the creative (or procreative) process. Just as God created the world and all the living things in it, He created each of us as individual human souls and recreates (2 Cor 5:17, Gal 5:16) us through the act and process of being born again (Jn 3:3).

1.18.2 What is “born again”?

Jn 3:3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” From the beginning of Jesus’ conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus took charge of the conversation. He began with this statement to Nicodemus. Jesus didn’t use this language with most others he encountered. Using this language with Nicodemus was appropriate because he was a student of the scriptures. He would have understood the many references to repentance and renewal of heart.

Question 1.15.5 asked if birth was the start of life, but the scriptures dealing with birth had more to do with entering a system of living rather than the actual start of existence. It seems logical, then, that to be born again really means that you start living live under a new system.

Ez 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. God cares about the condition of the heart above all else. Jesus was telling Nicodemus that he needed to experience a radical heart change.

Lk 13:5 No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. The word repent literally means to change. Jesus did not use the phrase “born again” here, but the meaning appears to be very much the same.

2 Cor 5:17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away, behold, the new has come. Indeed, to be born again implies an end to a previous life. It is a change of heart, a change of mind, a completely regenerated being. There is no room for the old.

1 Pe 1:3 Blessed be the God of our Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Peter also writes about being born again. The important point in this verse is “…he has caused…”. Man cannot cause rebirth, but can only experience it. It is a gift (Ro 3:24), something we cannot earn (Eph 2:8-9). As Peter says, Blessed be God.

1.18.3 How do we go about becoming born again?

In the realm of pop-Christianity the “Roman Road” is frequently used in personal evangelism. The goal of this technique is to illicit a confession of sin, faith, and prayer for forgiveness. While the steps of realizing one’s sin, admitting our inability to overcome it on our own and acceptance of Christ’s sacrifice in faith are necessary steps, they are only the beginning. A new and changed life is required.

Salvation isn’t an equation with a fixed number of steps to be carried out to a logical end. That’s why there are so many books in the bible written by so many authors. Each book tells a story and most include examples how salvation is sought and discovered, or missed.

Entering into a saving relationship with Jesus Christ isn’t a light decision. The next few questions should perhaps be considered before advancing to a more proper answer of this one. We shall return to this question a bit later in the study…

1.18.4 Why would you want to be born again?

Rev 21:3-4 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. 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.” There will no longer be separation between man and God. God will live with man and there will be no more tears, no more death, no more pain. All the crap will be gone. Not only does life continue into eternity, but it will be the life described in this passage. This is prize Paul spoke of (1 Cor 9:24, Phil 3:14), the hope of the Glory of God (Ro 5:2).

1.18.5 Why wouldn’t you want to be born again?

Rev 20:13-15 And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire. Anyone who wants to join Satan, the false prophet and the beast in the lake of fire (Rev 19:20), might not want to be born again. Anyone else who doesn’t want to be born again simply doesn’t understand or refuses to believe the implications of that decision.

1.18.6 Is it God’s will for all to be born again?

1 Tim 4:10 For to this end we toil and strive, because we have our hope set on the living God, who is the Savior of all people, especially of those who believe. Either he’s the savior of all people or he isn’t. Or, just maybe, this passage doesn’t really mean what we tend to think it means by only a casual reading. Let’s examine a few more references for clarification.

Heb 5:9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him Regardless of what happens to those who don’t obey him, we have the promise of eternal salvation to those who do obey him.

Mt 1:21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins. Jesus will save his people, but what about those who aren’t his?

1 Cor 5:1-5 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you. For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment on the one who did such a thing. When you are assembled in the name of the Lord Jesus and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord. The man Paul is speaking of is a member of the Corinthian church. This member, supposedly a born again man, is living in heinous sin. Paul is advising the other members to throw him out. Paul goes on to say that Satan will destroy the man’s flesh, but Jesus would still save his soul. The grace of our Lord exceeds understanding and exists out of or in spite of linear time. Even so, this is not an argument for Jesus saving all.

Jn 3:5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 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. Apparently it is possible to miss out on eternal salvation after all. Clearly not all will be saved (Rev 20:15).

As to reconciling 1 Tim 4:10 with Jn 3:5, I have a theory. In context one has to realize Paul was writing to Timothy, a fellow preacher. More specifically, examine the balance of 1 Tim 4 and in particular verse 6 where Paul makes it clear he’s addressing issues within the church. It stands to reason, then, that Paul’s use of the word “all” in verse 10 can justifiably be restricted to mean all within the church body.

1.18.7 How do you know if you’re born again?

Gal 5:22-24 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. I believe the concept of being born again is profound in both its simplicity and its complexity. Fundamentally it means you are living a new life. That new life necessarily includes spiritual regeneration with a desire and active effort toward obedience to Jesus. The passage from Gal 5:22-24 illustrates such an example.

1.18.8 What are the responsibilities of being born again?

Mt 5:17-20 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. God is holy (Rev 4:8). We are called to be holy (Lev 11:45) because we are to follow Christ (Lk 9:23).

1.18.9 What must we do to become born again?

Isa 55:1-3 “Come, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Listen diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in rich food. Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. Just as a mother gives bodily birth to a new child, so the Spirit breathes life into our spirits, bringing them alive for the first time. Birth is only the start of a system of living. Follow Jesus. Listen to his words and hear him well so that you can do as he instructs and you will be living in the new system and thus born again.

I would like to mention a variable collection of passages commonly called the “Roman Road.” While I don’t have a problem with any of those verses – they are all part of scripture, after all – boiling the Gospel message down to a formula isn’t the technique Jesus used. He speaks to individual hearts with individual messages. The heart changes and the behavior with it. If either changes alone then both are empty, assuming either could change without the other. People often think Paul and James say opposing things on this and that’s just not true. They merely focus on different sides of the same coin. Jesus spoke to the heart and the positive results were seen in the form of action resulting from the changed heart.

1.18.10 What is the “Word of Truth?”

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. Jesus established himself as Truth.

Gen 1:3 And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God spoke light into existence.

Jn 1:1-5 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. Jesus is the Word John spoke of. If all was created by and through Jesus, then it was Jesus who did the “leg work” of speaking light into existence. Jesus is both the Word and the Truth. Since we have long since established Jesus does not lie, he is therefore the Word of Truth.

1.18.11 What is “Firstfruit?”

Lev 23:10-11 “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. First fruit is literally the first of the harvest. Being first usually symbolizes best and always means specifically chosen.

Ro 8:23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. This passage speaks of spiritual firstfruits. Here it speaks of what we receive, which is the chosen best of God.

The Greek aparche is found six times in the New Testament. According to Strong’s concordance it literally means to be of the first productions of the earth offered to God. The first portion of dough used for the consecrated loaves. This term was therefore used to describe persons consecrated to God for all time. Another definition being a person superior to others of the same class.

As used in James, firstfruits appears to indicate that we, either as humans or more specifically as the elect of Christ, are above non-human life and/or unsaved people. Though less obvious, James could also be implying that as those people chosen to live in the infancy of church age these believers were literally among the first to receive the good news and become born again. Traditional interpretation holds that believers are to receive a good and special position in the Kingdom of Heaven. While possibly true, it seems somewhat pompous to me to judge ourselves better than others for our faith. That is the Lord’s decision, not ours. As for me, I am a poor excuse for a believer and unworthy to be of any of the Lord’s fruit. If I were to be granted any position in His kingdom it would be an act of the purest grace and mercy.

1.18.12 What is the Feast of Firstfruits about?

Lev 23:9-14 (Feast of Firstfruit) And the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, When you come into the land that I give you and reap its harvest, you shall bring the sheaf of the firstfruits of your harvest to the priest, and he shall wave the sheaf before the Lord, so that you may be accepted. On the day after the Sabbath the priest shall wave it. And on the day when you wave the sheaf, you shall offer a male lamb a year old without blemish as a burnt offering to the Lord. And the grain offering with it shall be two tenths of an ephah of fine flour mixed with oil, a food offering to the Lord with a pleasing aroma, and the drink offering with it shall be of wine, a fourth of a hin. And you shall eat neither bread nor grain parched or fresh until this same day, until you have brought the offering of your God: it is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwellings.

Lev 23:15-21 (Feast of Weeks) “You shall count seven full weeks from the day after the Sabbath, from the day that you brought the sheaf of the wave offering. You shall count fifty days to the day after the seventh Sabbath. Then you shall present a grain offering of new grain to the Lord. You shall bring from your dwelling places two loaves of bread to be waved, made of two tenths of an ephah. They shall be of fine flour, and they shall be baked with leaven, as firstfruits to the Lord. And you shall present with the bread seven lambs a year old without blemish, and one bull from the herd and two rams. They shall be a burnt offering to the Lord, with their grain offering and their drink offerings, a food offering with a pleasing aroma to the Lord. And you shall offer one male goat for a sin offering, and two male lambs a year old as a sacrifice of peace offerings. And the priest shall wave them with the bread of the firstfruits as a wave offering before the Lord, with the two lambs. They shall be holy to the Lord for the priest. And you shall make proclamation on the same day. You shall hold a holy convocation. You shall not do any ordinary work. It is a statute forever in all your dwelling places throughout your generations. Moses was given this feast as one of the annual feasts for the Jews. In fact, this whole passage covers what are called the Feast of Firstfruits and the Feast of Weeks. Both involve firstfruits and so we shall look at them together. All of the feasts are generally viewed as symbolic of future events, ultimately to be fulfilled by Jesus.

Ac 2:1-4 When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Those gathered were doing so in obedience to the Lord. They were among the very first dedicated believers. We don’t know for sure, but I suspect the days and hours leading up to this included prayer and fasting. Certainly Jesus’ ministry began with prayer and fasting. Either way, this would have been a period of mental, physical and spiritual purification. These believers were the firstfruits of believers. Jesus being first was used in pure form (unleavened). Notice that later, in the Feast of Weeks, a period of 50 days was to pass (seven weeks plus a day). Then came an offering of new grain, but this time baked with leaven. Leaven is symbolic of sin. These new offerings were to include sin. With the sin, however, once again comes the unblemished lamb. It seems the sacrifice of Christ is sufficient to erase the sin of the believer. They are made holy.

1.18.13 Summary James 1:16-18

This passage begins with a firm yet loving warning to wake up, be alert, and not be fooled. We learned that deception is a kind of lie, that God does not lie, but people do. Satan is the original liar and Jesus calls him the father of lies. James reminds us of the unchanging perfection of God and the goodness of all that comes from God. We may not always perceive the good, but that doesn’t make it anything less. God is not only perfect, but unchanging. There is no hint of shadow, no room for wavering. We know it is the will of God, not our will, which brings us forward as firstfruits. Truly we are but invited guests in the Kingdom, yet we are welcomed as dear children, family of our holy and merciful Lord.

James 1:19

19 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: 20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. 21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. — KJV

19 My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, 20 for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires. 21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filth and the evil that is so prevalent and humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. — NIV

19 Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; 20 for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness that God requires. 21 Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. — ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:19 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
eido [1492] to see, know, be aware, consider, perceive, understand adephos [0080] brother, sibling (connected by womb, literal or figurative) mou [3450] I, me, my agapetos [0027] beloved, dear esto [2077] let them be (imparitive) de [1161] and, but, now… (conjunction) pas [3956] all, any, every anthropos [0444] human, certain person tachus [5036] swift eis [1519] to, into… (prep. expressing motion) ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) akouo [0191] relating to hearing: give in the audience of, harken, be noised bradus [1021] figuratively slow, dull eis [1519] to, into… (prep. expressing motion) ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) [2980] bradus [1021] figuratively slow, dull eis [1519] to, into… (prep. expressing motion) orge [3709] violent passion: desire, ire, anger, wrath, vengeance, indignation

1.19.0 Introduction

As we have seen many times already and will continue to see in James’ style, concepts in this verse are presented with stark contrasts. In this case James refers to behaviors of hearing compared with speaking and anger. Hearing we are called to jump to while speaking and being angry are not to be done in haste. James forbids neither, but does counsel due mental process before acting. Verse 20 goes on to further explain the reasoning and verse 21 provides practical instructions how to accomplish the behavior outlined in verse 19.

1.19.1 Is James talking about every person or every believing person?

Jas 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion: Greetings. James originally intended the letter to go to fellow believers. The wisdom of James 1:19 is certainly not limited just to believers, though. Many religions espouse similar ideals for personal behavior. I think has a lot to do with good old fashioned common sense.

1.19.2 Hear what?

Jn 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. The Holy Spirit is a constant indwelling companion, always ready to counsel, advise and direct.

Rev 2: 29 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. Jesus was speaking to John in a prophesy here, but the idea expressed is valid in or out of context. Jesus is the Word (Jn 1:1, 14). He speaks to us through words he spoke and were recorded for us in scripture (Ps 119:105). He speaks via the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:26, quoted above). Just as he spoke through prophets in the Old Testament, he still uses individuals to convey messages to other people (1 Cor 12:7-8, quoted below)

1 Cor 12:7-8 To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit God speaks to us through others. Caution: Sometimes he uses unlikely vessels.

1 Thess 5:20-21 Do not despise prophecies, but test everything; hold fast what is good. In order to hear God, we have to listen to everything and be discerning. To be effective with personal evangelism, I believe you must be able to see and hear the person you are sharing the good news with. You must be able to relate to them at their level. Jn 3 and Jn 4 are two very different examples of Christ sharing the Good News. With Nicodemus he used a completely different technique than with the woman at the well, but in both cases he “listened” to their hearts and determined exactly what he needed to say and do. He knew Nicodemus understood the deeper meanings of the scriptures and was seeking to understand what seemed incomprehensible – his own sinful heart and the need for repentance, humbling, and spiritual regeneration. The woman at the well had sin issues and knew she was in no position to raise herself up. She didn’t need theology, she needed compassion and direction. We have to learn from Christ’s example even more than from his words.

1.19.3 What does James mean by “hear”?

akouo [0191] relating to hearing: give in the audience of, harken, be noised Based on the definition provided by the concordance for the word translated as “hear” in verse 19, the following verse seems to illustrate the concept nicely…

Pr 13:1 A wise son hears his father's instruction, but a scoffer does not listen to rebuke. James means to pay attention, not simply let it go in one ear and out the other.

1.19.4 How do we listen to people?

Pr 23:19 Hear, my son, and be wise, and direct your heart in the way. Use your heart to listen to what the other person has to say. It is such an engrained part of man’s sinful nature to deceive that we often use words to camouflage what our heart seeks to express, so listen to more than the words of the person. Use all your senses, and when you’ve done all that use your heart.

Pr 12:15 The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice. Most of us think we’ve got it figured out, especially Christians (big or little “c”). The fact is, God created man as a social creature. By indwelling man with his Spirit, he provides a way for us to share social communion with God and men together. What we have now is a mere precursor to the social community of Christ in New Jerusalem (Rev 22:1-5). While we are here, though, we can and indeed must use one another (Pr 27:17).

Pr 24:6 for by wise guidance you can wage your war, and in abundance of counselors there is victory. Building on Pro 12:15 – a word of caution: listen to good advice.

1.19.5 How do we listen to the world and to nature?

Mt 6:26 Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? The Lord provides us with endless lessons if only we will open our senses and our hearts to learn them. In this verse Jesus uses creatures to teach a lesson. There are many more examples where nature is used to teach, such as rock and soil, plants, weather, the sun, stars, and moon. We must see the fingerprints of God on all of His creation and be open to hearing his messages written by His divine hand.

Ex 15:26 “If you will diligently listen to the voice of the Lord your God, and do that which is right in his eyes, and give ear to his commandments and keep all his statutes, I will put none of the diseases on you that I put on the Egyptians, for I am the Lord, your healer.” There are plenty of examples of what God can do, both blessing and curse, in nature as well as society. Open your eyes and you will be able to see truth.

1.19.6 How do we hear God?

Ps 119:105 Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. God speaks to us through His written word, the bible.

Jn 14:16-17 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you. The Holy Spirit is a gift. One of its attributes is its ability to give us help in the form of knowledge (information) from God.

Pr 22:17 Incline your ear, and hear the words of the wise, and apply your heart to my knowledge People, particularly spiritually mature people are mouthpieces of God.

Jonah 1:1-2 Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” Sometimes God speaks clearly and directly without middlemen.

1.19.7 How can you tell the voice of God from that of an evil spirit?

1 Thess 5:21 but test everything; hold fast what is good. This instruction is a simple directive and one which should not be ignored. The following scripture references expound on how to go about determining if a voice is speaking good or evil.

1 Cor 12:3 Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit. The first litmus test is always the use of the name, Jesus Christ. False religions don’t make Jesus Christ their master with absolute and singular authority.

2 Pe 2:1-4 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep. For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to chains of gloomy darkness to be kept until the judgment; This chapter from 2 Peter is full of useful advice, but these verse seemed the most appropriate to share here. First, look for the false teaching and false doctrine in your midst. It is often introduced secretly. It denies Jesus. It may be sensual (geared toward self-satisfaction). It says something in opposition to scripture. It exploits people. Avoid such teaching and the people who teach it because they will get what is coming to them.

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. To determine if what you hear is truly of God, test it against God’s word and listen to the Holy Spirit’s education and information from within. God never varies, so his message – by any source – cannot oppose itself.

Ac 28:28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen. Who is the target audience? If only members get to hear, there’s something wrong. The good news for those who need to hear it. This goes back to the warning about secrecy from 2 Peter (above).

Jn 14:26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. Jesus promised – and as of Pentecost delivered – the Holy Spirit to help us. If the Spirit dwells within you, it will urge you one way or the other when you hear words being spoken. It will always agree with scripture and all prophesy of God will come to pass and not be proven false.

Mt 17:5 He was still speaking when, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” Sometimes an obvious sign accompanies a message. The sign will prove the teaching true or false. Most often the sign is revealed over time rather than in the moment. When this happens, it is the proving of the message you ultimately care about.

1.19.8 Why should we be slow to speak?

Pr 12:14 From the fruit of his mouth a man is satisfied with good, and the work of a man's hand comes back to him. When you speak, people listen. When you do something, it cannot be hidden. Jesus isn’t the only one watching you, nor is he the only one judging you. Take time when you speak to be sure you’re speaking as prompted by the Holy Spirit and not your own ego.

2 Pe 1:20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. Though ironically this verse is widely misinterpreted, suffice it to say you can’t make up your own interpretation of scripture to fit your premise. Your premise must be based on the totality of scripture. Context is critical. Individual verses taken out of context are easily distorted in their explanation. In this study I make every effort to be as diligent as possible to avoid missing context sensitive applications, but I am as flawed as any other man. Only the Word is truly and purely accurate and then only in its entirety. Granted, when witnessing – or even in more casual speech – we can’t just read whole passages without thinking about it. The point is, context matters, as does agreement with the whole of the Word.

1.19.9 Should we always be slow to speak?

Pr 18:2 A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. There are plenty of proverbs that warn us about fools and speaking. The point of this particular selection is to remember our opinions are always close to the surface. It isn’t our opinion that counts. It’s the Word of God. Prayerfully open your heart to the words of the Spirit, then speak what God would have you say rather than blurting out your own opinions.

Pr 23:9 Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words. Sometimes speaking is a waste of time anyway. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is wrong to speak, but sometimes the proverbial soil is just too rocky.

1.19.10 How do we know what to say?

1 Jn 4:6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error. Pay attention to your audience. Knowing your audience is the first step in determining what to say.

Eph 6:18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints You need to be in regular communication with the Lord. Ask for wisdom (James 1:7).

Mk 13:11 And when they bring you to trial and deliver you over, do not be anxious beforehand what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour, for it is not you who speak, but the Holy Spirit. This verse offers me great hope. It should not be taken as a blank check, however. The mind is prepared in advance by learning and learning comes from study of the Bible. Put it in your head. The Spirit will help you pull out what is needed. To use this passage as a crutch and an excuse for not studying amounts to tempting God.

1 Cor 12:8 To one is given through the Spirit the utterance of wisdom, and to another the utterance of knowledge according to the same Spirit, Wisdom and knowledge regarding communication with others is a gift given specifically to some. This doesn’t mean the rest of us can’t do it for in fact we must, but some receive special blessings in this area.

1 Pe 1:21 who through him are believers in God, who raised him from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God. Ultimately, the litmus test for our utterances should be whether God is glorified.

1.19.11 What is anger?

The Greek word used by James for anger is “ogre.” According to the concordance this word orge [3709] means: violent passion — desire, ire, anger, wrath, vengeance, indignation

By looking at this word in the Greek we see James is talking about more than a casual annoyance or even getting peeved in the common sense. He’s talking about the kind of anger that involves primal arousal to action. It might be equally valid to say we should be slow to wrath and slow to vengeance. Basically its about taking an action based on a powerful negative emotion.

It may be worth noting KJV uses the word wrath. This is an occasion where I find myself preferring KJV’s word choice. To me, wrath implies response motivated by a negative passion. Anger seems to imply the negative passion itself.

1.19.12 Is it okay to become angry?

Dt 9:20 And the Lord was so angry with Aaron that he was ready to destroy him. And I prayed for Aaron also at the same time. In this example God [YHWH] was angry. Who are we to say it isn’t okay for God to be angry? It is also interesting to note what Moses was doing while God was fuming. Moses was praying, specifically interceding on his brother’s behalf.

Mt 21:12-13 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” This is the most well known case of Jesus displaying his temper. He wasn’t just mad at them for sinning, but angry for the Father’s sake because something of the Father’s had been defiled. In essence Jesus was defending someone else, namely the Father. I believe one of the lessons to learn from this event is that it is certainly okay to be angry when you see someone perpetrating a wrong against someone else. Since we know the kind of anger James speaks of involves wrathful or vengeful retribution, we can certainly see this example involving Christ’s temper is very fitting to this discussion. Elsewhere Jesus instructs us to turn the other cheek (Mt 5:39), but that’s with regard to our own defense, not the defense of the helpless.

Eph 4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger Anger is allowed, but the privilege comes with a warning. The need for the warning should be obvious. When we are angry we often act out of emotion, casting off reasoning and worse yet ignoring the Spirit’s direction. When Paul says not to let the sun go down on your anger what this seems to mean is not to let yourself brood. When sour emotion festers it eats away at our reasoning and only makes finding a resolution more difficult. Deal with the problem making you angry, then move on. It is hard to be productive when you’re riled up.

1.19.13 How can we gain control over anger?

Lk 11:9 And I tell you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. As with so many other “how can we” questions, one crucial method is always prayer.

Mt 16:19 I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed [1] in heaven.” ([1]Or shall have been bound . . . shall have been loosed) The footnote is included here because other versions translate this passage differently. The point, however, remains the same. When we are walking in true faith, the Name of Jesus is such a powerful tool that with His permission we can use it to bind or loose things. This presumably could include one’s own emotional responses such as anger. When we submit ourselves to the will of the Lord, we must include submission of our emotions. This does not mean we cannot become angry or to say anger is wrong. It does mean, however, we have the authority to bind our emotions so that the indwelling Spirit has an opportunity to resolve the source of the anger.

Ps 4:4-5 Be angry, and do not sin; ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent. Selah Offer right sacrifices, and put your trust in the Lord. The psalmist gives excellent advice here. Sit down (or lay down) and think about the situation. Use your mind to reflect in silence. Offering a right sacrifice simply means to put yourself into the proper perspective relative to God. Remind yourself of your position: creation. God is God and you are not. Accept it, surrender your will, and accept it is up to God to have control. You have no control over the external except whatever authority God grants (Jn 19:11).

Jonah 4:1-2 But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, [1] and he was angry. And he prayed to the Lord and said, “O Lord, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster. Jonah was downright ticked off at God. In spite of his anger he turned to God for guidance. He plead his case and took out his anger on God. Fortunately God has immense shoulders we can cry on or beat against. Either way He is willing to let us work through it and ultimate find the truth at the end, just as Jonah did. The lesson here is to lean on God rather than yourself and your own emotions for guidance.

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