Good morning Brothers and Sisters,
It’s clear James has a pastor’s heart, evidenced through his commitment to continue discipling his “flock,” even if they are scattered around the world. He has reminded them they will face a variety of trials and tribulations. Most of them will come from outside circumstances. However, he has also reminded them they will face trials as a result of their own enticement to sin when they give into temptation.
James is also an encourager and he has balanced delivering the solemn news about life’s trials with the victory that can achieved by navigating those trials with wisdom. He has achieved that goal by providing the good news that God will give them the wisdom they need – generously.
He continues with an encouraging word through the next portion of his letter: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first-fruits of all He created.”
This is an example in contrast. What comes from within us is the evil from our own desires. Those desires, when full-grown, lead to death. What comes from GOD? Every good and perfect gift!
James is not talking about material gifts, although that may be how some people interpret this passage. Sometimes we can become preoccupied with the “things” we want in life. There area number of prosperity preachers today who seem to focus on that interpretation of God’s Word. That is not what James is talking about in this passage. James is referring to the “gifts” that God has to offer.
Allow me to share an analogy. When we chose to present someone with a gift, the majority of us usually embark on a search for something appropriate, something we think the recipient of our gift will enjoy and appreciate. It is usually something we go shopping for. There are also those who chose to re-gift something they have received and there are those who will choose to make something to present. It is very rare when someone will take an item of value that belongs to them and present it as a gift to another person.
When James says that every good and perfect gift is from above, he is stating that those gifts come from God. It seems pretty clear that God isn’t going to visit the local mall in an attempt to find something to present. No, God is going to give us what He has to offer.
Think about these options as gifts:
I would imagine the first thing that comes to mind is a passage of scripture we are all familiar with. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23) We know that the fruit of any tree is what it has to “offer” to the world. The fruit of the Spirit is another way of identifying characteristics of God. It seems as though those are the kinds of Gifts God would offer to His children.
However, there are other specific gifts scripture draws our attention to: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the coming good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message (gift) of wisdom, to another a message (gift) of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. All these are the work of one and the same Spirit (GOD!) and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.” (1 Corinthians 12:7-11)
A close evaluation of those two lists give us a perfect picture of the characteristics of God. God is love, peace, kind, good, faithful, gentle, wise, able to heal, possesses miraculous powers, is all knowing, etc., etc., Those are the kinds of gifts that come down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
James is helping his reader understand the kinds of gifts they should be seeking. Those are the kinds of gifts one needs to be able to navigate the trials of life with wisdom and discernment. As an example, when a family is facing a devastating crisis (maybe like the Coronavirus!!!!) it seems the gift that would result in a greater benefit to them would be receiving the gift of knowledge, or peace, or patience as opposed to some kind of material gift.
James is helping his “flock” understand what they need as they face the trials of life so that their faith would continue to grow and mature to the point of completeness. And he reminds them those gifts are the kind given by our heavenly father, who does not change like shifting shadows. That means the gifts God offers are not subject to change. They are what God has to offer because they represent the very character of God. He isn’t going to give us something that is in contrast with His nature.
Tomorrow, we will look at the last portion of that phrase – the greatest gift God has given us.