By what WE do, as well? (part 5)
James was writing to people who were feeling sorry for themselves for how hard their lives were, which had soured their view of God. They blamed God for purposely making their lives miserable (James 1:13), as though he was quite happy doing evil things to people and tempting them into sin, when in fact it was their own evil thoughts and desires they’d been “dragged away and enticed” by (verse 14).
The result for them was a wishy-washy relationship with God; flat, flavourless and watery, like cabbage that’s been boiled too long. So when they asked God for anything, they didn’t really expect an answer. The idea that “God gives generously” (verse 5) was met with “doubt,” which to James was so sad, “because he who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind” (verse 6). Their thinking was all over the place, never sure or certain about God at all (verse 8), so no wonder their view of him was sour when, with their ‘down in the dumps’ attitude, how could they expect to “receive anything from the Lord”? (verse 7).
So James sets about patching up their view of God, to add some real flavour to it – with a reminder, first of all, that it was by “God’s own wish he gave us new birth as his children through the message of the truth, to become what you might call ‘the pioneers’ of his new creation,” verse 18. In other words, they were very special to God.
Unfortunately (verse 16), their view of God had deceived them into thinking God didn’t love them and they were just victims of his odd whims. But that’s not true “my dear brothers,” James writes in verse 17; God isn’t like that at all, “he’s the Father of light, not dark and evil, and everything that comes from him is always good. Unlike the sun that affects the shape of shadows on Earth’s surface, God does not vary at all in his nature.” And where our lives are all over the place with him, he is utterly steady and unchanging with us.
So big hearted James is really piling on the good news about God and his unchanging love for us, so wherever his letter was read to “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” (verse 1), they’d be hearing an inspiring message.
But how could they know that God really loved them and they were special to him? Did James have an answer to that?…(more on this tomorrow)