one day, no more

“Brothers and sisters who are poor should find satisfaction in their high status.” (James 1:9 CEB)

Wondering if what’s in the pantry will last your family the rest of the month because that’s all you’ve got. Standing in line to receive a handout of food from strangers. Wide awake with your head in your hands at 2:00 a.m. because you’re so hungry you can’t sleep. Hearing your mate’s stomach growl and knowing there’s nothing you can do about it.

Considering how rich you would be if you could choose clothes based on their color, fashion, or the seas. Calling up churches and charities to ask if they have a coat drive this year. Brought to tears over the way you see people look at how your children are dressed and you’re working two and a half jobs. Watching how people won’t sit by you because of the way you look, the way you smell, or both.

Hoping with all of your heart that this landlord is really understanding and lenient. Dodging the phone because you know who is calling and why. Choosing which bills to pay and which not to pay so you can pay the rent and not be on the street this month. Feeling the tension in the air at the other end of the line as you ask another relative for a little help.

None of that; no more. One day; some day. By his power; in his presence.

“Let all the brothers and sisters who find themselves brought low in the here and now, both economically and socially, have complete confidence they will be lifted up in the then and there.” (James 1:9 DSV)

Father God in heaven, I praise you for the genuine, living hope you hold out to us all. Especially I thank you for giving care to those for whom life seems to have passed them by. That their state will not continue forever expresses your great mercy and love. Use me in your work of reversing the fortunes of the unfortunate. Open my eyes to the possibilities of my part in this purpose of yours. For I pray in the name of him through whom you work all good change, Christ Jesus the Lord. Amen.

journey through James (9): twenty questions on James 1:13-18

This coming Sunday morning at MoSt, most of our adult classes will study James 1:13-18. We’ll use this phrase to focus our mind on the meaning of this passage: “grasping God’s goodness when you’re gripped by temptation.” To help you get ready for this encounter with God’s word and our discussion of it, here is the text and twenty questions with which to wrestle.

No one who is tested should say, “God is tempting me!” This is because God is not tempted by any form of evil, nor does he tempt anyone. Everyone is tempted by their own cravings; they are lured away and enticed by them. Once those cravings conceive, they give birth to sin; and when sin grows up, it gives birth to death.

Don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good gift, every perfect gift, comes from above. These gifts come down from the Father, the creator of the heavenly lights, in whose character there is no change at all. He chose to give us birth by his true word, and here is the result: we are like the first crop from the harvest of everything he created. (James 1:13-18 CEB)

1. What’s the difference between the “tests” God gives everyone (1:2-12) and the “temptations” he gives no one (1:13-18)?

2. What sort of thoughts could be going through someone mind that would lead them to accuse God of “tempting” them?

3. If God “cannot be tempted by any form of evil” (1:13b), how could Jesus be equal with God (something James apparently believed; 1:1), since Jesus himself was tempted (Matt. 4:1-11; Mk. 1:12-13; Lk. 4:1-13)?

4. While God and humans are discussed in James’ description of the cycle of sin, James never directly mentions Satan and his role here in this cycle (1:13-14). Why do you think this is the case?

5. In light of what is said in vs.13-14, do you believe it is possible for a Christian to mature to such a point that they can always live above temptation and never succumb? Explain.

6. What is a temptation to one person may not be a temptation at all to another. Temptations are tailor-made to the individual; one size does not fit all. Consequently, we should never belittle others for their struggling with something that is no real temptation to us. What phrase in this section (1:13-18) seems to underscore that truth?

7. Compare the wording of 1:14 in several different English translations. What other renderings do you find used for the word translated “cravings” in the CEB? How do these words help you appreciate the source of what becomes sin in us?

8. In vs.14-15a, James makes a clear distinction between “cravings” and “sin.” What does this say about our cravings, what it means to be human, our self-worth, and sin?

9. Are there any parallels between the trail toward maturity through our faith being tested (1:4) and the trail that leads toward maturity in sin and ultimately, spiritual death (1:14-15)? How are these trails similar and dissimilar?

10. How would you explain the connection between our need to pray for wisdom as God deliberately tests our faith (1:2-8) and wisely talking to God about our cravings (1:13-15), their conception (sin), and their potential for corruption (death)?

11. In your your own words, describe what it is James is concerned that Christians could be “misled” about (1:16).

12. Have you ever gone through a time in your life when you seriously questioned God’s goodness? That is, you had begun to wonder if God was part of the problem and not the solution. Can you tell us about that experience and how you came through it?

13. Understood strictly in the context in which the statement is found, to what might James have had reference when he spoke of the “good gifts” or “every perfect gift” that “comes from above?” (1:17)

14. God is depicted as “the creator of the heavenly lights” (1:17b). Of all the depictions of God that James could have chosen from to use here, why do you suppose he chose this depiction? That is, what connection is there between God as “the creator of the heavenly lights” and the surrounding context? What is this understanding supposed to do for us in terms of helping us successfully resist temptation?

15. What sort of comfort do you get from the declaration that God’s character never changes (vs.17b)? If it helps you formulate your answer, imagine what it would do to your faith in God if his character was quite flexible instead.

16. “He chose to give us birth by his true word …” (1:18a) With what word/phrase/concept would you say the phrase “his true word” is contrasted in this section (1:13-18)?

17. “He chose to give us birth by his true word …” (1:18a) List everything this single statement tells you about God.

18. With the last verse of this section in mind (1:18), what would you say is the best illustration available to the world that God gives good gifts?

19. The wording of the latter half of the last sentence of this text leaves us tantalized with a bit of open-ended mystery, doesn’t it? If Christians are “like the first crop from the harvest of everything he created” (1:18b), we’re left to wonder what the remainder of the harvest could be about. What does this say to you about God’s role as a Creator and his involvement with all of his creation?

20. How does the last verse in this section (1:18) compare with the last verse in the preceding section (1:12)?