Wednesday, January 9, 2008

James 1:1; 1:2-8, 9-11

Chunk for January 15
James 1:1-11 ESV

UPDATE 1/16: Verses 9-11 have been added to this chunk because verse 9 has a coordinating conjunction that links it to verses 2-8. The commentary text was updated 1/18.

Syntactical Display (text is Young's Literal Translation; display is Laura's)

From the first sentence of the first full paragraph, we know that James' letter is unlike Paul's letters. Rather than the traditional Pauline prayer, James' first sentence is a command: "Count it all joy." The occasion in which this command is to be obeyed is a surprise to our ears: "when you meet trials of various kinds." Yet, the command is based in a fact that cannot be denied: testing produces the steadfastness needed for maturity. This leads to a second, dependent command: "let steadfastness have its full effect." In other words, don't short change the process by whimping out and then complaining that you have no steadfastness.

The question that comes to mind may be something like, "Yeah, but how do I do that." This leads directly to the second dependent command: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God." "Wisdom" is defined by the American Heritage Dictionary as "the ability to discern or judge what is true, right, or lasting." James, realizing his readers will need wisdom to stand in trials, tells them to ask for wisdom from the one who generously gives wisdom. The result is assured: those who ask for wisdom, without doubting, will receive wisdom. Faith is the necessary condition. James gives two reasons for this necessary condition. First, doubters are "like a wave of the sea." Second, doubters will not "receive anything from the Lord."

Key idea: The required, joyful, faith-proving response-to-trials necessarily involves a decision to endure, a willingness to request the needed wisdom, and have a proper attitude of gratitude and humility.

1 comment:

  1. Apparently James felt the need to write to these early Jewish-Christian believers because they did not have the support of established Christian churches. James seems to have known about their persecution and felt the need to write to them as a concerned leader and provide encouragement. In 1:2 James reminds the reader that although they may not find happiness (happiness is based on positive happenings)in hardship, they can still experience joy which is something that Christians can always access - our joy of knowing the truth - our salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. James also reminds the reader that perseverence or steadfastness in the face of trials will grant the believer maturity and completeness.