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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.