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A Letter of James: Chapter 1

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1 FROM James, a servant of God and the Lord Jesus Christ. Greetings to the twelve tribes dispersed throughout the world.

2 MY friends, whenever you have to face all sorts of trials, count yourselves supremely happy 3in the knowledge that such testing of your faith makes for strength to endure. 4Let endurance perfect its work in you that you may become perfected, sound throughout, lacking in nothing. 5If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God and it will be given him, for God is a generous giver who neither grudges nor reproaches anyone. 6But he who asks must ask in faith, with never a doubt in his mind; for the doubter is like a wave of the sea tossed hither and thither by the wind. 7A man like that should not think he will receive anything from the Lord. 8He is always in two minds and unstable in all he does.

9The church member in humble circumstances does well to take pride in being exalted; 10the wealthy member must find his pride in being brought low, for the rich man will disappear like a wild flower; 11once the sun is up with its scorching heat, it parches the plant, its flower withers, and what was lovely to look at is lost for ever. So shall the rich man fade away as he goes about his business.

12Happy is the man who stands up to trial! Having passed that test he will receive in reward the life which God has promised to those who love him. 13No one when tempted should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and does not himself tempt anyone. 14Temptation comes when anyone is lured and dragged away by his own desires; 15then desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and sin when it is full-grown breeds death.

16Make no mistake, my dear friends. 17Every good and generous action and every perfect gift come from above, from the Father who created the lights of heaven. With him there is no variation, no play of passing shadows a 1:17 no variation … shadows: some witnesses read no variation, or shadow caused by change. . 18Of his own choice, he brought us to birth by the word of truth to be a kind of firstfruits of his creation.

19Of that you may be certain, my dear friends. But everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to be angry. 20For human anger does not promote God's justice. 21Then discard everything sordid, and every wicked excess, and meekly accept b 1:21 Then discard … and meekly accept: or Then meekly discard … and accept. the message planted in your hearts, with its power to save you.

22Only be sure you act on the message, and do not merely listen and so deceive yourselves. 23Anyone who listens to the message but does not act on it is like somebody looking in a mirror at the face nature gave him; 24he glances at himself and goes his way, and promptly forgets what he looked like. 25But he who looks into the perfect law, the law that makes us free, and does not turn away, remembers what he hears; he acts on it, and by so acting he will find happiness.

26If anyone thinks he is religious but does not bridle his tongue, he is deceiving himself; that man's religion is futile. 27A pure and faultless religion in the sight of God the Father is this: to look after orphans and widows in trouble and to keep oneself untarnished by the world.

Notes:

a 1:17 no variation … shadows: some witnesses read no variation, or shadow caused by change.

b 1:21 Then discard … and meekly accept: or Then meekly discard … and accept.

Text Commentary view alone

1.1 : Salutation.

James: probably the brother of Jesus (Matt. 13.55; see Jude 1 ), although this is not specified. The church is in the world like the twelve tribes of Israel.

1.2–27 : Miscellaneous topics:

endurance (vv. 2–4 ), wisdom (vv. 5–8 ), wealth (vv. 9–11 ), trial (v. 12 ), temptation (vv. 13–15 ), God's beneficence (vv. 16–18 ), human anger (vv. 19–21 ), true religion (vv. 22–27 ).

2–4 :

Endurance: see 5.7–11; Prov. 3.11–12 .

5–8 :

Wisdom is understood by James as moral purity; see 3.13–17 . Faith is belief in God; see 2.19 .

9–11 :

The theme of the wealthy and the humble is important in this tract; see 2.1–7; 4.13–5.6 .

10–11 :

Isa. 40.6–7 .

12 :

Outward trials: see Dan. 12.12 Sept.; Rev. 2.10; 1 Pet. 5.4 .

18 :

As firstfruits Christians are heralds of a new age; see Rom. 8.23; 11.16 .

19–21 :

On anger, see 3.1–12 .

21 :

The message is the gospel.

22–25 :

On moral action, see 2.14–26 .

25 :

The gospel is the perfect law … that makes us free, and demands studied attention and obedience.

26 :

On false speech, see 3.1–12 .

27 :

True religion is defined here, not as doctrine or knowledge or ritual, but as moral action. World: see 2.5; 3.6; 4.4 .

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