James continues to instruct us on living the Christian life. He spends some time correcting deceptions about the Christian life. God gives gifts, so should we. James teaches us true gifts based on God’s examples. One of the best gifts He gives is self-control. We must listen carefully before speaking. What we say is not the most important, but what we do.
My translation and notes on James 1:16-27
Believers Should Know That God Is Steadfast
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.
[Eve told the truth to God: Genesis 3:13 NIV Then the LORD God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, The serpent deceived me, and I ate. Adam blamed Eve and God, while Eve told the truth. Deception is common. It is the devil’s greatest tool to destroy (John 8:44). Jesus said: John 8:31-32 Then Jesus said to the Jews who believed in him, If youp continue in my teaching, youp are truly my disciples, 32 Then youp will know the truth, and the truth will set youp free. Truth is reality. We must read, study, and believe truth. We must test everything (1 Thessalonians 5:21). It is most reasonable that the Bible is 100% truth. We must be a little skeptical about everything. Trust takes time. Our relationship with our Savior grows in trust the longer we live. Compare ‘truth’ in verse 18.
Deception can be in any of our senses:
- Sight (optical illusions, facades, photoshop), scent (deodorant), taste (imitating chemicals), hearing (subliminal), and touch (leather-like in place of leather)
- Mind (illogical arguments versus logical argument and linguistic tricks)
- Emotional (lust)
- Spiritual (experiences)
The deceiver can enhance the message by beauty, charisma, and oratory skills. Being deceived can be enhanced by desires and attitudes].
17 Every good giving and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights with whom there is no changeableness, neither flickering.
[Everything about God—character traits, worldview, lifestyle, rules, etc. never change. God is immutable. See 1 Samuel 15:29, Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 13:8, and Psalm 119:89. See The Immutability of God for more information. God loves giving gifts. Gifts are not something earned. The first word for ‘gift’ is δόσις dósis (G1394). It means a ‘giving’. Compare Philippians 4:15. The second word ‘gift’ is δώρημα dṓrēma (G1434). It means the gift itself. There are many gifts that God gives as forgiveness of sin, eternal life, heaven, His promises, the abilities to do the mission He sends us on, and the greatest gift is Jesus Christ. Father of lights refers to the creator of lights as stars and sun].
18 Purposefully, he gave birth to us by the Word of Truth, so that we should be a type of first fruits among his created things.
[‘Word of truth’ in this passage refers to the Gospel. ‘First fruits’ refers to the first harvest. Whedon (COMMENTARY ON THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS) adds: The first gatherings of the harvest were by the Hebrews gratefully consecrated to God. Hence the word firstfruits symbolically indicates pre-eminent excellence and divine consecration. We are regenerated by divine, unchanging will, through the promulgated word, that among the creatures of God we may be the consecrated and truly first in rank and value. By creation man is first among lower creatures; by regeneration and consecration the sons of God are first even among human creatures].
Believers Should Listen Quickly, Hesitate Speaking
19 So then my beloved brothers, all must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger,
[Listening is a hard trait to learn. We want to give our opinion, not listen to others. God is quick to listen as well (Psalm 62:8 and Psalm 34:4). Compare Psalm 5:3 and Psalm 34:15. There is foolishness in answering before listening (Proverbs 18:13)].
20 Because human anger does not bring about the righteousness of God.
[Anger is a communicable character trait of God that humans have as well. Notice the difference. Instead of being quick tempered, we are to be quick listening. If we are a good listener, then we will be slow to speak. We have to understand fully or at least as much as possible, what the other person is communicating before we respond. Compare Proverbs 18:13, Proverbs 18:2, Proverbs 17:27-28, Matthew 11:15, etc.].
21 Therefore, get rid of all moral filthiness and all types of wickedness. With humility, accept the implanted word, which is able to save yourp souls.
[The Greek word for ‘get rid of’ is ἀποτίθημι apotíthēmi (G659). It means to take off as taking all your clothes off. We do not need sin to be part of our life. The Greek word for ‘moral filthiness’ is ῥυπαρία rhyparía (G4507). It means a state of moral defilement or corruption, moral uncleanness, vulgarity (BDAG). This would include actions, thoughts, desires, and deeds. By the grace of God, we resist. The Greek word for ‘wickedness’ is κακία kakía (G2549). It means a wickedness done without shame, breaking laws without any worries, and wanting to hurt someone. To ‘accept’ is to believe and live. Doing so doesn’t bring salvation, because these people are already saved, but it does bring a sense of life instead of death to the soul. God doesn’t want us to do evil. We need to substitute ‘the implanted word.’ See Psalm 119:9, John 17:17, and Matthew 4:4].
22 Be doers of the word, not just hearers only, deceiving yourselvesp.
23 For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks at himself in a mirror.
24 He looks at himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was.
25 But whoever carefully looks at the perfect law of liberty and continues in it—not being a forgetful hearer but a doer who applies it—will be blessed for what he does.
[The Greek word “liberty” is ἐλευθερία eleuthería (G1657) and is translated “liberty” because freedom is a release from something and an internal attitude while liberty is a permission still under accountability. Barclay (beware) writes (DAILY STUDY BIBLE): Again James presents us with two of the vivid pictures of which he is such a master. First of all, he speaks of the man who goes to the church meeting and listens to the reading and expounding of the word, and who thinks that listening has made him a Christian. He has shut his eyes to the fact that what is read and heard in church must then be lived out. It is still possible to identify church attendance and Bible reading with Christianity but this is to take ourselves less than half the way; the really important thing is to turn that to which we have listened into action].
Believers Should Realize Actions Speak Louder Than Words
26 If anyone among youp seems to be religious and does not control his speech, he deceives his own heart. This man’s religion [is] useless.
[Self deception is a very sorry state. Got Questions article on Self-Deception notes:
Our own hearts are deceitful—so much so that we easily fool ourselves (Jeremiah 17:9). Isaiah 44:20 speaks of an idolater who is misled by his own “deluded heart.” The prophet Obadiah identifies arrogance as one of the roots of self-deception: “The pride of your heart has deceived you” (Obadiah 1:3). Human pride always blinds us to truth. It promises honor, but it delivers disgrace: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18).
The church of Laodicea was the victim of self-deception concerning their spiritual condition. This lukewarm church had convinced itself that everything was all right: “I am rich; I have acquired wealth and do not need a thing” (Revelation 3:17a). Jesus, who always speaks truth, set them straight: “You do not realize that you are wretched, pitiful, poor, blind and naked” (verse 17b).
Freedom comes from THE truth—the Scriptures. We need to read, study, and live the Christian faith].
27 Pure and undefiled religion before God, even the Father, is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unblemished from the world.
[The fatherless and widows are probably congregational members whom we must help first (James 2:15). Words without actions are worthless and fake. James writes about self-controlled speech (Colossians 4:6), helping needy congregational members (Acts 6:1 and Acts 9:39-41), and practicing holiness (Hebrews 12:14). See 1 John 3:18, Ephesians 4:29, and 2 Peter 3:11. There is also a need for preaching the Gospel through rescue mission ministries].