Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. Every 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. In 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 reason James tells his “beloved brethren” to “not be deceived” harkens back to his previous warning to “let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’” (1:13a). After telling us why (“for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” – 1:13b) and showing us how sin comes about (1:14-15), he pleads with us to not be deceived into embracing the false notion that God is the source of our temptations or sin. For some reason, mankind is generally very susceptible to believing lies. We seem willing to believe just about anything if it sounds good to us and goes along with our predilections (cf. Gen. 3:2-6). This is true in all areas of life, including religion. It is very easy for Christians to be deceived if their knowledge of God’s Word is poor. As God pointed out to Hosea, “lack of knowledge” was the reason “My people are destroyed” (Hos. 4:6). However, it is harder for Satan to deceive us with his lies when our knowledge of Scripture is vast and we are willing to heed the instruction and teaching of God’s Word with humility and faith (cf. Eph. 4:13-16). The example of our Lord resisting Satan’s temptation with His knowledge of Scripture is noteworthy for this reason (Matt. 4:1-11).
Here’s the truth about what comes from God (1:17). Every gift in our lives which is “good” (agathos, of benefit) and “perfect” (teleios, complete, mature) is from “above,” a reference to the location of the throne of God: heaven (Ps. 11:4). These gifts which benefit and complete us come down to us “from the Father of lights,” a fitting description of God. For one, God created light in general as well as the lights in the heavens such as the sun, moon, and stars (Gen. 1:3-5, 14-19). Yet God is also the source of all spiritual light (John 1:4-5; 9; 8:12; Ps. 36:9; Acts 26:18; 1 Pet. 2:9). As Christians we must walk in His light by penitently confessing our sins so we can continually be forgiven (1 John 1:7-9).
There is “no variation or shifting shadow” with “the Father of lights” (1:17). The heavenly “lights” which the “Father” created change and shift continually. The sun which rises in the morning and sets in the evening allows for more shadows during those times of day than when it shines at high noon on a cloudless day. Depending on the time of month, the moon might not shine at all or give very little light, thus creating many shadows in the night…or it may give enough light so that one can see very clearly at night and there are no shadows in which to hide. Yet God is different. He does not change (Mal. 3:6). “Variation” (parallage) has to do with the concept of being fickle, indecisive, and inconsistent. There is no “variation” with Him, no changing, no inconsistencies, no “shifting shadow.”
It was His wish (“in the exercise of His will”) that He “brought us forth” (apokyeo, produced us) by the word of truth” (1:18). Just as our lust, once conceived, “gives birth to ” (apokyeo, produced) sin” (1:15), the word of truth – God’s Word (John 17:17) – produces us, Christians. Peter would say that we “have been born again…through the living and enduring word of God” (1 Pet. 1:23; cf. John 3:3-5; Tit. 3:4-5). Why? “…so that we would be a kind of first fruits among His creatures.” In the Old Testament, the literal first fruit was the first portion of the crop or livestock which was offered to God before the rest would be used (cf. Deut. 18:4; Num. 18:12). Christians are a type of first fruit (“kind of”) in a spiritual sense, the “cream of the crop” of all of God’s creation (cf. Matt. 5:13-16; Phil. 2:15).
We’ll talk more of this next week, Lord willing…