1* James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes in the dispersion, greetings.a
II. The Value of Trials and Temptation
Perseverance in Trial. 2b Consider it all joy, my brothers, when you encounter various trials,* 3for you know that the testing* of your faith produces perseverance. 4And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. 5But if any of you lacks wisdom,* he should ask God who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and he will be given it.c 6But he should ask in faith, not doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed about by the wind.d 7For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord, 8since he is a man of two minds, unstable in all his ways.
9The brother in lowly circumstances* should take pride in his high standing,e 10and the rich one in his lowliness, for he will pass away “like the flower of the field.”f 11For the sun comes up with its scorching heat and dries up the grass, its flower droops, and the beauty of its appearance vanishes. So will the rich person fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
Temptation. 12g Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation,* for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him. 13* No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one.h 14Rather, each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.
16* Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers: 17all good giving and every perfect gift* is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change. 18i He willed to give us birth by the word of truth that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.*
III. Exhortations and Warnings
Doers of the Word. 19Know this, my dear brothers: everyone should be quick to hear,* slow to speak, slow to wrath,j 20for the wrath of a man does not accomplish the righteousness of God.k 21Therefore, put away all filth and evil excess and humbly welcome the word that has been planted in you and is able to save your souls.l
22Be doers of the word and not hearers only, deluding yourselves.m 23For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at his own face in a mirror. 24He sees himself, then goes off and promptly forgets what he looked like. 25But the one who peers into the perfect law* of freedom and perseveres, and is not a hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, such a one shall be blessed in what he does.n
26* If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue* but deceives his heart, his religion is vain.o 27Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to care for orphans and widows* in their affliction and to keep oneself unstained by the world.p
* [1:1] James, a slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ: a declaration of the writer’s authority for instructing the Christian communities; cf. Rom 1:1. Regarding the identity of the author, see Introduction. Dispersion: see Introduction.
* [1:2] Consider it all joy…various trials: a frequent teaching of the New Testament derived from the words and sufferings of Jesus (Mt 5:10–12; Jn 10:11; Acts 5:41).
* [1:3–8] The sequence of testing, perseverance, and being perfect and complete indicates the manner of attaining spiritual maturity and full preparedness for the coming of Christ (Jas 5:7–12; cf. 1 Pt 1:6–7; Rom 5:3–5). These steps require wisdom (Jas 1:5).
* [1:5] Wisdom: a gift that God readily grants to all who ask in faith and that sustains the Christian in times of trial. It is a kind of knowledge or understanding not accessible to the unbeliever or those who doubt, which gives the recipient an understanding of the real importance of events. In this way a Christian can deal with adversity with great calm and hope (cf. 1 Cor 2:6–12).
* [1:9–11] Throughout his letter (see Jas 2:5; 4:10, 13–16; 5:1–6), the author reaffirms the teaching of Jesus that worldly prosperity is not necessarily a sign of God’s favor but can even be a hindrance to proper humility before God (cf. Lk 6:20–25; 12:16–21; 16:19–31).
* [1:12] Temptation: the Greek word used here is the same one used for “trials” in Jas 1:2. The crown of life: in ancient Palestine, crowns or wreaths of flowers were worn at festive occasions as signs of joy and honor. In the Hellenistic world, wreaths were given as a reward to great statesmen, soldiers, athletes. Life: here means eternal life. He promised: some manuscripts read “God” or “the Lord,” while the best witnesses do not specify the subject of “promised.”
* [1:13–15] It is contrary to what we know of God for God to be the author of human temptation (Jas 1:13). In the commission of a sinful act, one is first beguiled by passion (Jas 1:14), then consent is given, which in turn causes the sinful act. When sin permeates the entire person, it incurs the ultimate penalty of death (Jas 1:15).
* [1:16–18] The author here stresses that God is the source of all good and of good alone, and the evil of temptation does not come from him.
* [1:17] All good giving and every perfect gift may be a proverb written in hexameter. Father of lights: God is here called the Father of the heavenly luminaries, i.e., the stars, sun, and moon that he created (Gn 1:14–18). Unlike orbs moving from nadir to zenith, he never changes or diminishes in brightness.
* [1:18] Acceptance of the gospel message, the word of truth, constitutes new birth (Jn 3:5–6) and makes the recipient the firstfruits (i.e., the cultic offering of the earliest grains, symbolizing the beginning of an abundant harvest) of a new creation; cf. 1 Cor 15:20; Rom 8:23.
* [1:19–25] To be quick to hear the gospel is to accept it readily and to act in conformity with it, removing from one’s soul whatever is opposed to it, so that it may take root and effect salvation (Jas 1:19–21). To listen to the gospel message but not practice it is failure to improve oneself (Jas 1:22–24). Only conformity of life to the perfect law of true freedom brings happiness (Jas 1:25).
* [1:25] Peers into the perfect law: the image of a person doing this is paralleled to that of hearing God’s word. The perfect law applies the Old Testament description of the Mosaic law to the gospel of Jesus Christ that brings freedom.
* [1:26–27] A practical application of Jas 1:22 is now made.
* [1:26] For control of the tongue, see note on Jas 3:1–12.
* [1:27] In the Old Testament, orphans and widows are classical examples of the defenseless and oppressed.
b. [1:2] Rom 5:3–5; 1 Pt 1:6; 4:13–16.
c. [1:5] Prv 2:2–6; Wis 9:4, 9–12.
g. [1:12] 1 Cor 9:25; 2 Tm 4:8; 1 Pt 5:4; Rev 2:10.
h. [1:13] Sir 15:11–20; 1 Cor 10:13.
i. [1:18] Jn 1:12–13; 1 Pt 1:23.
j. [1:19] Prv 14:17; Sir 5:11.
n. [1:25] 2:12; Ps 19:8; Rom 8:2.