Do not be deceived: Devotional Commentary for May 17-23
This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us Wisdom and Insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.
16Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
17Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
18In the exercise of His will He brought us forth by the word of truth, so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.
The opening verse of this passage stands as a pivotal statement between the preceding verses and those following. Basically, James exhorts us not to be fooled by what we might feel about God in light of the hardships and trials we might face. God might refine and discipline us when necessary, but would never tempt anyone with sin.
James recognizes the powerful subtleties of the flesh. He cautions us not to be deceived by our painful experiences and consider God unmoved by the predicaments distressing His children. He reminds us always to beware of the insidious imaginations of the flesh. Never at all should the flesh be allowed to shape our perception of God. Do not be fooled, says James.
He continues to enlighten us with certain fundamental truths concerning God. God is the source of everything we have. Therefore, everything we are given by God is good because God is Good. Our imaginations cannot recast God in the mold of our bitter imaginations or natural reactions.
God's gifts are good and perfect. They come out of His perfect goodness. He is Just, Righteous, and unwavering in the bestowal of His gifts. His bestowal is the expression of His infinite Grace. He gives the sunshine and the rain both to the just and the unjust.
God’s gift is inherently good and perfect because He dispenses all things out of the good pleasure of His own perfect counsel. He does not determine worthiness by earthly criteria. He is not partial to anyone nor the respecter of any. He is influenced by no one or nothing. He is not obligated to anyone. He is complete in Himself and perfect in all of His ways. He is God. He alone is God. Therefore, every gift from God is a reflection of His sovereign Grace.
James brings up God's gift of salvation to illustrate His good and perfect gift. Redemption is not merely a good gift. It is the supreme bestowal of divine Grace upon the most undeserving of God’s creatures. This is beyond anything we know about good. It is exceedingly far above what we perceive as perfect.
God subjected His Son Jesus Christ to His judgment under the Law to satisfy the penalty for our transgressions, so that by His Grace He might rescue the lost from sin’s bondage and reconcile us to Himself. The redemption of the lost reflects the magnitude of God’s Grace.
God extended his redeeming Grace of His own Will. In doing that, He imparted His Grace, dispensed His Mercy, and expressed His Love. He did not spare His own Son from death on the Cross. Nor did He save fallen angels. But He gave us a new life in His Son, out of the goodness of His loving heart. So do not be fooled, says James. God will never commit to evil those whom He redeemed for Himself.
19This you know, my beloved brethren But everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger;
20for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.
Once again, James declares a fundamental principle regarding our response to God. Earlier, he told us to let patience accomplish its purpose as we go through trials and hardships. He exhorted us to ask for wisdom to help us understand the meaning and the significance of our experiences. He encouraged us to have faith and stay the course of our journey with a focused mind.
And now, he tells us to be quick to listen but slow to speak and slow to be angry. That is, we must be always ready and alert to listen to God and slow to be driven by our own natural reactions and imaginations. He tells us to be active, attentive, swift in hearing but restrained in speech and indignation.
In fact, our ungodly reactions and unrighteous indignations must be suppressed so that we heed the Word of God and respond to circumstances in compliance with the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Thus as Christians, we should heed God’s truth and deny the flesh the occasion to express its defiance, however good the intentions or intense the zeal might be. Man's anger could never accomplish God's righteousness. The best of men are men at best.
James is not seeking to persuade us to be inert and unresponsive. He simply wants us to understand that nothing resulting from the sin-nature is useful to God’s Purpose. The sin-nature is inherently wicked. So are its reactions and impulsive responses. Therefore, we must be slow to speak and to react so that God's voice would have enough room and time to echo the sweet message of His Love, Grace, Mercy, and Redemption to our parched soul.
A casual reading of James' epistle might suggest that his teachings are simple yet sweeping series of pastoral precepts touching on issues relating to daily struggles of the Christian. But upon a closer scrutiny, we realize that he is particularly concerned with the practical aspects of Christian living and the manner in which consequent behaviors are expressed. So the questions to the pastoral exhortations that make up his epistle might be posed as: How should life be viewed in the Christian sense and how are such perspectives expressed? James seriously addresses the serious issues of Christian pilgrimage, here and now.
James directly deals with troubling issues relating to concrete situations in Christian living. How should a Christian view life? How should a Christian react to troubling conditions in one's experience as a Christian? How should the redeemed respond to God without being influenced by the troubling events in the Christian's daily walk? James writes from experience both as a persecuted disciple and as an inspired apostle. There is nothing casual about the precepts in his letter.
Life is incomplete until it is genuinely lived in every concrete situation from the same perspective and with the same set of principles. When perspectives and principles contradict as in Christian perspectives operated by ungodly principles, Christian living becomes a miserable enterprise. Two important and effective precepts are offered here by our teacher to help the Christian press on to the mark of the finish line with the sure hope of Christ's redemption.
First, we must recognize, accept, and believe in our hearts that every real and intangible thing we have is a gift from God. God's gift is not limited to possessions. It includes experiences, relationships, and every other detail of life and living. God's gift also includes our lifespan and every split moment during which we deliberate in our minds, make decisions, take actions, and respond or react to life's demands.
Second, we must understand that God's way is the only way to handle His gifts. We have a moral obligation to God to handle His divine gift in a morally responsible way, God's way. All that we have and we are is God's divine gift. There is nothing suitable in our natural ways that is appropriate for handling God's gift.
When we come to understand that we have nothing except what God gave us, and we are nothing but who God made us, our perspectives change into godliness so that our thoughts and actions are a fitting response to God's goodness. Our sin-nature can no longer lead us astray by focusing on trials, persecution, poverty or riches, or sin's deadly influence. When we are quicker to listen than to speak or react, we shall know the truth before we consider our response to any particular situation. We shall no longer consent with evil and blame God.
Do not be deceived by the spiritually superficial events of our lives that cast aspersions on God's character. God does not do anything ungodly to hurt or destroy His own children. He gives us wisdom, patience, and faith so that we are able and willing to wait for the fulfillment of His divine Purpose, in His time, through His means. God's goodness is our hope. We are secure in His redemption. We are preserved in His Providence. A divine gift is only preserved by divine Power, while we safely stand in the sustaining Power of sovereign Grace.