Book of James Lesson two
by Dr. Michael Cochran
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BOOK OF JAMES BIBLE STUDY
LESSON # 2 - (James 1:9-18, NIV)
TITLE: THE CROWN OF LIFE
DR. MICHAEL COCHRAN
APPLICATION: If I learn to persevere under trial, I will be ultimately rewarded by God.
9 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. 10 But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich man will fade away even while he goes about his business.
James continues to urge his readers to keep their lives, and especially their lives under difficulty, in perspective. Thus it is that he speaks to the two broad spectrums that made up ancient society: the rich and the poor. The poor can rejoice because their intrinsic worth is not gauged by their marketability in the economy but by their exaltation in the purposes and plan of God.
Of course, the rich, too, can be members of God's Kingdom, but they must guard themselves against temptation. If the poor are tempted to think too little of themselves, the rich are tempted to think too highly of their place in life and of their possessions.
The complacency of the rich should be understandable. Possessions do give a sense of security. They often seem so permanent. In emphasizing the impermanence of earthly enterprise. James speaks of a flower that soon fades. It is interesting to note another metaphor from nature used in an opposite sense: the tree in Psalm 1. Here the Psalmist compares the godly person to an enduring plant “whose leaf does not wither.” The difference in the two metaphors is that James is showing how temporal things fade while the Psalmist is speaking of the godly man's inner life, which is nourished by “streams of water.”
Such a dependency on God's provision is the common ground of all Christians, rich or poor That God should exalt the poor person in planting him by streams of water is a high position in which the humble one can take pride. And that the ostensibly self-sufficient rich Christian must depend for enduring life on the water that God provides is a lowly position in which he or she can take pride.
12 Blessed is the man who perseveres under trial, because when he has stood the test, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
Although there seems to be an abrupt change of topic here, that is not really the case, because to the brother in “humble circumstances” the very circumstances themselves may be part of the trial.
But James assures his readers that there is a reward for enduring. The “crown of life” may well refer to the eternal life each believer has presently as a foretaste, but will possess even more fully at the consummation of the age. In any case, its reception far outweighs the travails of the current distress (see Rom. 8:18).
The admonition that “no one should say, 'God is tempting me' ” is a timely one, since, conceivably, persevering under trial may require that we not rail at God and blame Him when we are heavily tempted. James reveals that although some temptation is outside ourselves (see Jas. 4:7), we are also tempted by our own evil desires. Naturally, it would be doubly evil to blame these on God who does not tempt anyone”!
The problems with evil desire is that we nourish, protect and encourage it. Allowing it to grow in our hearts; then comes the day when it is stronger than we are, and it gets the best of us – whipping us completely.
Yes, sin when it is conceived, gives birth to death. But of course, when temptation presents itself, the promise of it is attractive. By showing its ugliness, James reminds us of temptation's ultimate end, which is contrasted with the end of those who are faithful to receive the crown of life.
16 Don't be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.
The admonition is, “Don't be deceived.” Just as the rich are passing away, though they may seem permanent; and the flower is passing away, though it is beautiful; so God is not the author of evil, but of every “good and perfect gift.” So, how strong is our desire for God's gift? If our desire is not strong, any little thing will deflect us from the path of obedience. We will be like the seed that falls on rocky ground that sprouts for a little while and then, because it has no root, withers and dies away (Mt. 13:5, 6).
James is continually reminding his readers to take the long view and judge by appearance only. It may well appear that one would be better off to forget about the life of faith, but every truly permanent blessing comes from God. As he prepares to exhort his readers to practice a rigorous, active “working faith,” James must first dispel all grounds for double-mindedness in regard to the God who is the object of that faith.
Returning to the theme of verses 5-8, James reiterates that God's giving nature demands unwavering trust from us. Verse 13 tells us that God is not the giver of temptation. Verses 16-18 say that He is the giver of all that is good. The gifts He gives “from above” are enduring. They are like He is, full of light, not shifting shadows. There is no darkness in Him (1 John 1:5). God's eternal constancy contrasts with the uncertainty and transience of all that passes away.
What is real is the new birth that God has given us through the word of truth, a birth that Jesus chose to give us, an outright gift. This proclamation is another foundation stone for the “working faith” message of this epistle.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER:
1. How would you help someone who was having trouble understanding how God could be Creator of the universe yet not be guilty of tempting people?
2. If you can think of a time when you were enticed by your own evil desires, how did you resist them?
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