It might be the awkward homeschooler in me, but I am not very good at small talk. Sure, while I worked in customer service for a short period of time I learned to start and carry on short conversations with people I didn’t know well. But when it comes to someone I’m closer to, someone I care deeply about, I struggle having conversations on arbitrary topics. I’d much rather look at them deeply and ask, “How are you really?” I’d rather dive into theology than the weather. I’d rather kick-start the conversation discussion the state of culture than a TV show. I want to know their current struggles instead of hearing a dishonest “Oh good. Busy!”
This is likely why I so deeply enjoy the book of James. James 1:1 which we briefly discussed last week, simply stated humbly who the author of the epistle was. In verses 2-11, Jame immediately dives into the main topics of the letter. He doesn’t mince words, just gets right down to business. Likewise, let us dive right in as we study James 1:2-11 which covers the 3 main topics of the book: enfu6, wisdoms, and impartiality.
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you face trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.
James introduces his first topic with these few powerful verses. He implores Christians to persevere in the face of struggle.
When James encourages believers to consider their struggle “joy,” he’s not talking about an emotional state of happiness. He’s speaking on contentment in every situation. Derek Tidball put it as, “an unnatural reaction of deep, steady and unadulterated thankful trust in God.” Regardless of what we’re facing, we can have peace and joy.
Why should we be in this state of joyful contentment? Verses 3 and 4 answer this saying that it is because the steadfastness we get in result of testing propels us towards completion in Christ. Testing in this context is understood as our opportunity to prove ourselves. God allows testing so we can have an opportunity to live out our faith. Steadfastness, or endurance, is active patience and faith lived out. We are tested by trails so that we can show our inward faith outward. While we won’t actually achieve perfection in this life, we can strive for it. Through trails and endurance, our faith is matured and our righteous character develops.
If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
How exciting is it that we can have wisdom simply by asking? God delights in giving His children wisdom. He’s not just talking about intelligence or knowledge. The wisdom God gives Christians is further revelation of Himself as the one true God and guidance in moral living. God does not leave us alone to live the Christian life. We need only ask for insight and guidance.
There is a condition to this wisdom though and that is faith. Faith obviously includes the initial belief in God but also to the continued confidence in Him. Despite how this passage sounds, we actually can wonder and question some of the conditions and direction of life. Rather, we shouldn’t question the character of God. If we’re continually waving back and forth between believing God is who He says He is and questioning Him, we shouldn’t expect a depth of understanding of God and moral direction. This division will not only leave the divided Christian lacking wisdom but also unstable in everything. We see this in nominal Christians who verbally proclaim faith but don’t trust God enough to let Him penetrate the whole of their lives. They don’t have stability or consistency in their life.
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of thr grass, he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and it’s beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
The third point is the Christian should treat others fairly regardless of their financial situation. This point will be further expanded upon, but we simply see it here as how the poor and rich should react to their own situations.
The lowly Christian here is someone who is financially struggling and who does not rank highly in society. While the world sees them as less than, God says they’re in an exalted position. While bosting can often be sinful, James means it in a positive way that was used in the Old Testament which would have been understood by his Jewish/Christian readers. He is saying that the lowly should rejoice and glory in God because their socioeconomic status does not keep them from relationship with the Most High God. The world may see them as worthless, but in His love, God exalted them to be His children.
Similarly, the rich can glorify God in their humbling. While the world praises those with better status and more money, in God’s eyes, they are still fallen creatures who desperately need His just as much as the poor needs Him. James uses the illustration of a flower to emphasize this fact. While a flower is beautiful for a season, all wither away eventually. The same is with people. Unless Jesus comes again, none of us are getting out of this life alive. When we die and stand before God, we won’t have our worldly possessions or status to impress Him. All we will be left with will be our relationship with Jesus. That is enough for both the poor and the rich.
Each of these topics James will further breakdown later in the epistle. The introduction to the main points is powerful statements and guidance on how the Christian should conduct themselves in a variety of situations. We can have peace and take joy in the midst of trials as we know they are maturing our faith. We can boldly ask God for wisdom if we do not waver in who He is. We can rejoice in our salvation regardless of our worldly status knowing that we are each finite, sinful people saved only by grace. This epistle written 2,000 years ago was highly relevant to the early church. The to-the-point message is still applicable for Christians today.