Friday, December 2, 2022

All Good Comes From God (James 1:16-17)


Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. [James 1:16-17, ESV]

    One of the most fascinating things that I have read in my most recent study of the Bible is what it says about the origin of sin, of temptation, of suffering, and of all else that is bad. In the previous part of this series, we went over James 1:13-15, and we examined how our temptation to sin comes from our sinful desires, and how sin leads to death. James 1:16-17 was eye-opening for me when I was first trying to understand God’s Character. It is no secret that God is good, but I had never realized that all that is good comes from God. This passage has encouraged me for such a long time, and it is one that I have kept in the back of my mind as I go through each day, serving God in everything that I do. In this essay, we will examine what James says about all that is good, where it comes from, and how it reflects God’s Character.

Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.

    This verse is shorter than many of the verses that we have covered thus far into our study of the book of James, yet it says so much. When James tells the recipients of his epistle that they should not be deceived, we can reasonably infer that they had been (at least, in part) deceived by the type of thinking that James will go on to correct. During the days of the early Church, there were many issues that arose among the various churches that had been recently created. James is trying to correct the incorrect beliefs that have found their way into the Church, so that the people to whom he writes can become more effective Christians. By telling his “beloved brothers” not to be deceived, James is being direct, but he is doing so in love. James does not refer to them as “you all”, “you people”, or anything like that. Instead, James addresses them as people that he truly cares about. Not only does James call them brothers, he refers to them as being his beloved brothers, so that the people reading James’ letter know that James is correcting in love, not attacking in anger. Furthermore, by telling them not to be deceived, James avoids blaming anybody for the type of thinking that James is going to address. If somebody has been deceived, they have been tricked into believing something. James begins this part of his letter by addressing the recipients as his beloved brothers, so that they understand that he is not attacking them, blaming them, or talking down to them. James shows that he has an incredible amount of wisdom when it comes to showing love to all, even in difficult situations.

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above,...

    The first part of James 1:17 tells us that all that is good comes from above. James uses the word “above” to refer to Heaven. As for why Heaven is where all good and perfect gifts come from, James will now explain.

…coming down from the Father of lights,...

    I had to do some research into this part of verse 17 in order to fully comprehend its meaning. When I read how James referred to the “Father of lights”, I knew that he was referring to God, and I knew that James was describing God’s goodness, but I was not sure what James meant, exactly.

    When I looked at other translations, I found that the meaning of James referring to God as the “Father of lights” made a lot more sense. God is the Father of lights, as He created all the lights in Heaven, which the previous part of verse 17 mentions when James tells us how all good things come from above.

    I also want to mention how, as I read James 1:17, I am reminded of how Jesus tells us that He is the “light of the world”, and that whoever follows Christ will not walk in darkness, but have the “light of life” [John 8:12]. Light is often used to symbolize things that are of God, or (as previously mentioned) God, Himself.

    My understanding of why the Bible associates God with light is because God is perfect, He knows all, sees all, and loves us all. Furthermore, the opposite of light is darkness, which is the opposite of God. God created all the “heavenly lights”, which ties into the first part of verse 17.

…with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

    Not only is God the Father of lights, not only is God the source of all that is good, not only do all good things come from above, God is the same today as He has always been, and He will be the same forever. God is unchanging.

    As for the meaning of James saying that with God there is no “shadow due to change”, I had to refer to another translation or two to fully understand. The meaning of this phrase is that God does not create “shifting shadows” (in the words of the NLT), which is another way that James describes the unchanging Character of God.

    In conclusion, James 1:16-17 is incredibly important to understanding Who God is, what God does, and where good comes from. As I pondered the meaning of this passage, I became increasingly curious as to how I managed to overlook such an important fact about God’s Character, especially considering that James has been my favorite book of the Bible for a while now. God is good, God does good, and all that is good comes from God. After all, where else could good come from? Could good come from mankind? Jeremiah 17:9 tells us that the heart of man is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked (who can know it?), and the Mosaic Law proved to us that, without the grace of God, no matter how hard we try, we will always fall short of His glory, we will always sin, we will always act in sinful and evil ways, and we cannot save ourselves from being punished. If mankind could produce good on its own, if mankind was good, Jesus’ sacrifice would have been unnecessary. Jesus Christ died for our sins because we are all sinful, we are all born into sin, and unless we accept Him as Lord and Savior, we shall die in our sin as well.

    Where else could good come from? Could good come from the deceiver? Surely not! The devil is everything that God is not, and the devil only brings suffering, sin, and eternal death.

    Good must come from God because good cannot come from anywhere else.


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