Faith and faithfulness.
James announces one of the letter's main themes, faith or faithfulness.
Faithfulness or endurance in trials leads to maturity; thus adult faith is pure and whole: complete, lacking in nothing.
Next, faith means petitioning God with wholeness of mind. Jewish purity concerns affirm what is whole, but shun what is of two kinds
(doubt and faith;
see Lev 19.19; Deut 22.9–11
). This theme will be developed in
Rise of poor, fall of rich.
James repeats the tradition that the rich will fail and the lowly rise (Lk 1.51–52; 1 Cor 1.18–29
). He likens the fate of the rich to that of desert flowers which quickly wither, thus echoing Jesus' parable
(Mk 4.5–6; 1 Pet 1.24–25
Temptation and benefaction.
James honors with a victor's crown those who faithfully endure trials (2 Tim 4.8
Whence come temptations? Not from God, but from human passions; the human life cycle (conception, birth, fully grown) demonstrates how even a small pollution grows into total depravity.
Again God's person and gifts are pure: with God there is no variation, and every perfect benefaction descends from God.
God, who does not tempt, is our best benefactor, whose gift of birth comes through the preaching of the gospel. This is contrasted to the birth of evil in
Ears and mouths. James introduces a topic that will receive detailed treatment in
. Since holiness and anger cannot both abide in a pure heart, believers must uproot the weeds to make room for the word of God.
Ears, eyes, hands, mouth. Continuing the body metaphor,
James encourages bodily wholeness, a basic Jewish purity concept.
Wholeness requires ears that hear God's word to connect with hands acting on it.
God's law does not constrain us, but is a perfect guide bringing liberty, not slavery to passion.
James contrasts good and bad religion in terms of holiness. An uncontrolled tongue corrupts the whole person, but hands that care for the needy indicate pure and undefiled faith. True believers, moreover, keep themselves pure, unstained by the world.
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