Friday, December 26, 2008

James - Day 3

And the journey continues...

James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ,
To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion:

We read the first verse in James and learn that the author (James) is fully devoted to God. And in the next verse, he'll say "brothers," which means he is writing to an audience that has a similar background as he does (Jewish Christians).

This is where we start.

Count it all joy, my brothers...

The first thing to notice is "all joy." My ESV and NASB translations both say it this way. James is talking about something that when we look back on things and really put them in perspective, when we "count" them so to speak, we realize that that something gave birth to nothing but joy.

... when you meet trials of various kinds...

Oh. Something = Bad times. Keep reading.

... 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 in nothing. (ESV)

For starters, I prefer the word endurance to steadfastness. It's more understandable to us today. And one of the first observations I made when I read through this passage the first time was that this endurance sort of takes care of itself. All we have to do is step aside and let it run its course.

Now James sort of gives away what the human goal is right here in the beginning: to be perfect and complete. (Naturally, if we are complete, we're not lacking anything either.) So that's what we're aiming for. With that in mind, let's go back to the beginning of that verse.

When James talks about the testing of our faith, he's referring to something mental. From what I can tell, the Greek word used there suggests persuasion and knowledge. So what he's saying is that when our minds and thoughts are challenged, we start to develop this sort of endurance.

So here's where I would make a point:

One could say that developing this mental endurance (or steadfastness) allows us to firmly and entirely hold on to truth without swaying. In other words, allowing us to gain perfect wisdom (not lacking anything) and never losing it.

This is how we start off the letter. With mentioning what the goal is, and a way in which it is attained.

But we have more questions: Is that the only way we can be perfect? Why should we be perfect? What happens to us then? What if we don't have these trials that you speak of?

Luckily, the letter keeps going. And maybe we will see some of these questions answered...

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