James wants to give us a faith that matters. He will cover a very wide range of subjects in his letter, but the very first one that he jumps into is suffering. Our faith is a faith that matters for the many ways we suffer.
This section at first glance seems a little disjointed, like James is jumping from one unrelated subject to another. However, everything in this section is in some way related to the theme of how Christians can face the many trials and difficulties come our way. James begins the letter with, “whenever you face trials of many kinds….” When, not if! The Christian life is not one free of hardship and pain, floating from one ethereal cloud to the next. To the contrary, James wrote to a young Christian community that was suffering trials of many kinds: poverty, injustice, religious persecution, sickness, bereavement, disappointment. The Bible is a real book, honest about the hurts and pains of life. The trials will come- how will you handle them?
James urges us toward a changed perspective on our trials- that God is the midst of our suffering, helping us become the whole and complete people that He wants us to become. Through our suffering, he is shaping us to become wise, empathetic, loving, dependent people, who know and rely on the love of God. Our trials can help make us whole.
Yet this doesn’t happen automatically. “Trial” is also the same Greek word as “temptation,” and in verses 13-15, James suggest that when we are in trials we are easily tempted into sin. Our trials do not automatically make us into better people- they can actually make us more selfish, bitter, or vengeful. Suffering can lead us into destructive habits as we seek to self-medicate our pain. So in response to these temptations, James urges us to persevere. Stay dependent on God as we seek wisdom from him (v.5-8), remember our true identity in Christ and don’t compare yourself to others (v.9-11), and stay focused on the loving Father who has given himself to you in the person of Christ (v.16-18). James wants to give us resources to help us in our suffering so that our trials can produce the good fruit in us that God intends.
2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance.4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. 6 But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind. 7 That person should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Such a person is double-minded and unstable in all they do.
9 Believers in humble circumstances ought to take pride in their high position.10 But the rich should take pride in their humiliation—since they will pass away like a wild flower. 11 For the sun rises with scorching heat and withers the plant; its blossom falls and its beauty is destroyed. In the same way, the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.