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James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,

To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:



Faith and Wisdom

2 My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, 3because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance; 4and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing.

5 If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you. 6But ask in faith, never doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind; 7, 8for the doubter, being double-minded and unstable in every way, must not expect to receive anything from the Lord.

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Jas 1:1-27. Inscription: Exhortation on Hearing, Speaking, and Wrath.

The last subject is discussed in Jas 3:13-4:17.

1. James—an apostle of the circumcision, with Peter and John, James in Jerusalem, Palestine, and Syria; Peter in Babylon and the East; John in Ephesus and Asia Minor. Peter addresses the dispersed Jews of Pontus, Galatia, and Cappadocia; James, the Israelites of the twelve tribes scattered abroad.

servant of God—not that he was not an apostle; for Paul, an apostle, also calls himself so; but as addressing the Israelites generally, including even indirectly the unbelieving, he in humility omits the title "apostle"; so Paul in writing to the Hebrews; similarly Jude, an apostle, in his General Epistle.

Jesus Christ—not mentioned again save in Jas 2:1; not at all in his speeches (Ac 15:14, 15; 21:20, 21), lest his introducing the name of Jesus oftener should seem to arise from vanity, as being "the Lord's brother" [Bengel]. His teaching being practical, rather than doctrinal, required less frequent mention of Christ's name.

scattered abroad—literally "which are in the dispersion." The dispersion of the Israelites, and their connection with Jerusalem as a center of religion, was a divinely ordered means of propagating Christianity. The pilgrim troops of the law became caravans of the Gospel [Wordsworth].

greeting—found in no other Christian letter, but in James and the Jerusalem Synod's Epistle to the Gentile churches; an undesigned coincidence and mark or genuineness. In the original Greek (chairein) for "greeting," there is a connection with the "joy" to which they are exhorted amidst their existing distresses from poverty and consequent oppression. Compare Ro 15:26, which alludes to their poverty.

2. My brethren—a phrase often found in James, marking community of nation and of faith.

all joy—cause for the highest joy [Grotius]. Nothing but joy [Piscator]. Count all "divers temptations" to be each matter of joy [Bengel].

fall into—unexpectedly, so as to be encompassed by them (so the original Greek).

temptations—not in the limited sense of allurements to sin, but trials or distresses of any kind which test and purify the Christian character. Compare "tempt," that is, try, Ge 22:1. Some of those to whom James writes were "sick," or otherwise "afflicted" (Jas 5:13). Every possible trial to the child of God is a masterpiece of strategy of the Captain of his salvation for his good.

3. the trying—the testing or proving of your faith, namely, by "divers temptations." Compare Ro 5:3, tribulation worketh patience, and patience experience (in the original dokime, akin to dokimion, "trying," here; there it is experience: here the "trying" or testing, whence experience flows).

patience—The original implies more; persevering endurance and continuance (compare Lu 8:15).

4. Let endurance have a perfect work (taken out of the previous "worketh patience" or endurance), that is, have its full effect, by showing the most perfect degree of endurance, namely, "joy in bearing the cross" [Menochius], and enduring to the end (Mt 10:22) [Calvin].

ye may be perfect—fully developed in all the attributes of a Christian character. For this there is required "joy" [Bengel], as part of the "perfect work" of probation. The work of God in a man is the man. If God's teachings by patience have had a perfect work in you, you are perfect [Alford].

entire—that which has all its parts complete, wanting no integral part; 1Th 5:23, "your whole (literally, 'entire') spirit, soul, and body"; as "perfect" implies without a blemish in its parts.

5. English Version omits "But," which the Greek has, and which is important. "But (as this perfect entireness wanting nothing is no easy attainment) if any," &c.

lack—rather, as the Greek word is repeated after James's manner, from Jas 1:4, "wanting nothing," translate, "If any of you want wisdom," namely, the wisdom whereby ye may "count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations," and "let patience have her perfect work." This "wisdom" is shown in its effects in detail, Jas 3:7. The highest wisdom, which governs patience alike in poverty and riches, is described in Jas 1:9, 10.

ask—(Jas 4:2).

liberally—So the Greek is rendered by English Version. It is rendered with simplicity, Ro 12:8. God gives without adding aught which may take off from the graciousness of the gift [Alford]. God requires the same "simplicity" in His children ("eye … single," Mt 6:22, literally, "simple").

upbraideth not—an illustration of God's giving simply. He gives to the humble suppliant without upbraiding him with his past sin and ingratitude, or his future abuse of God's goodness. The Jews pray, "Let me not have need of the gifts of men, whose gifts are few, but their upbraidings manifold; but give me out of Thy large and full hand." Compare Solomon's prayer for "wisdom," and God's gift above what he asked, though God foresaw his future abuse of His goodness would deserve very differently. James has before his eye the Sermon on the Mount (see my Introduction). God hears every true prayer and grants either the thing asked, or else something better than it; as a good physician consults for his patient's good better by denying something which the latter asks not for his good, than by conceding a temporary gratification to his hurt.

6. ask in faith—that is, the persuasion that God can and will give. James begins and ends with faith. In the middle of the Epistle he removes the hindrances to faith and shows its true character [Bengel].

wavering—between belief and unbelief. Compare the case of the Israelites, who seemed to partly believe in God's power, but leaned more to unbelief by "limiting" it. On the other hand, compare Ac 10:20; Ro 4:20 ("staggered not … through unbelief," literally, as here, "wavered not"); 1Ti 2:8.

like a wave of the seaIsa 57:20; Eph 4:14, where the same Greek word occurs for "tossed to and fro," as is here translated, "driven with the wind."

driven with the wind—from without.

tossed—from within, by its own instability [Bengel]. At one time cast on the shore of faith and hope, at another rolled back into the abyss of unbelief; at one time raised to the height of worldly pride, at another tossed in the sands of despair and affliction [Wiesinger].

7. For—resumed from "For" in Jas 1:6.

that man—such a wavering self-deceiver.

think—Real faith is something more than a mere thinking or surmise.

anything—namely, of the things that he prays for: he does receive many things from God, food, raiment, &c., but these are the general gifts of His providence: of the things specially granted in answer to prayer, the waverer shall not receive "anything," much less wisdom.