- I have always wondered about the connection between 1.2-4 and 1.5:
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.
We usually supply a connection, of course. We can infer, for example, that we need wisdom so that we will see trials through properly. But the longer I think about it, the more I doubt that that’s what James has in mind. I tend to think that these are loose pieces of teaching, strung together by shared ideas & catchwords (German, stichwort?) , but with no deeper conceptual connection.
2. Here’s the outline I see:
- 1.2-4: Testing > perseverance > maturity, readiness for God’s work. (Cf Rom 5.1ff and 2 Tim 3.17)
- 1.5-8: Praying for wisdom.
- 1.9-11: Wealth & humility.
- 1.12: Blessing for perseverance (cf 1.2-4).
- 1.13-15: Evil desires > temptation > sin > death. (Is James using “evil desires” the way Paul uses “flesh”?)
- 1.16-18: God’s unchanging goodness.
In outline, James seems to share something with 1 John. Both books seem to move in concentric circles, picking up a topic and then discarding it and then picking it up again in a few verses later.
James has a more clearly defined topics. This gives the impression of more clearly-defined progression, more discrete sections. But I think some of that is illusory, also.
3. I think the most interesting thing to do with 1.1-18 is to notice what it teaches about God:
- He gives (wisdom? needed things?) to all without finding fault. (v 5)
- He promises reward to those who love him & persevere through trial. (v 12)
- He is not tempted nor does he tempt others. (v 13)
- He gives only good gifts? Or he is the only giver of good gifts? (v 17)
- He chose to give us rebirth through the word. (v 18)
- He did this so we would be “firstfruits” of all he created. (v 18)
4. “Firstfruits” is interesting. The term refers to Old Testament sacrifices, where the first part of the harvest was offered to God. They made this offering in recognition of the fact that the entire harvest was really God’s property. “Firstfruits” therefore recognizes that God is the Lord at all.
As Christians, our job is to be this first statement of God’s ownership over everything. We are his image-bearers who do his work and his will in the world, praying, “Let your kingdom come, let your will be done in and through us, on earth as it is in heaven.”