A friend recently posted on his social page the following:
“Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, … (James 1:2)
James doesn’t pull any punches.
Doesn’t start his letter with any flowery promises that this will be your best life now. He doesn’t lead us to believe that being a Christian entitles you to the best things in life.
Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. (James 1:12)”
I know this individual personally. He is a pastor, sincerely loves the Lord, is loving to his family and friends, and walks in humility and gentleness. We disagree on our interpretations of scripture, but maintain enough of a cordial relationship to ‘agree to disagree’.
What I find fault in this post is the result of taking individual scriptures for the benefit of teaching your own mini-lesson or devotion while denying the original intent of the writer. Not only that, but it goes against the very heart of the canon as a whole. This is the danger of selectively pulling scriptures, sometimes multiple verses from various books of the bible, and lumping them out of context to attempt to illustrate a point that was never meant to be made. It sounds good, it sounds right, but it’s not.
So let’s begin with context. Who was James’ (or whomever really penned this book. Not only do scholars disagree who wrote it, but this book almost didn’t make it into the final canon of scripture) audience? It was not the Gentiles, but rather the Jewish converts that were dispersed throughout the land (James 1:1). What were the the ‘trials’ they were enduring? They were enduring the most extreme forms of persecution from both Jewish leaders and Roman officials that included being evicted from their homes, imprisonment, physical torture, lack of food and water, and death. Many of these Jewish converts were scattered because of the persecution, forced to leave their homes because of it.
So let’s keep things in perspective. Posting this scripture and attempting to say that we here in the United States could possibly be experiencing the same ‘trials’ is an insulting slap in the face to the ‘twelve tribes’ of the first century. Yes, there are plenty of people here in our own backyards that may not have enough to eat, not have the best homes. Yes, it may be nearly impossible to pay that gas bill because it’s been a cold winter and gas prices are up. Yes, the car may be grounded because it needs repairs. Yes, a family member may have died recently making things difficult. But I will stress again that these are NOT the trials that James is addressing. These trials mentioned above are not the result of living out the gospel of Jesus Christ. They didn’t happen because you choose to live a life for Christ.
I agree that becoming a Christian doesn’t mean that we won’t face our own unique challenges, setbacks and disappointments. The difference is how we overcome and with what resources. The post above says that being a Christian doesn’t entitle you to the best things in life. The problem with that statement is that it implies we are to simply accept a less than desirable life here on earth. I disagree. Let’s look at some other verses:
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ. Ephesians 1:3
“Remember this: Whoever sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and whoever sows generously will also reap generously. Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work. As it is written:
“They have freely scattered their gifts to the poor; their righteousness endures forever.”a
Now he who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will also supply and increase your store of seed and will enlarge the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
This service that you perform is not only supplying the needs of the Lord’s people but is also overflowing in many expressions of thanks to God. Because of the service by which you have proved yourselves, others will praise God for the obedience that accompanies your confession of the gospel of Christ, and for your generosity in sharing with them and with everyone else. And in their prayers for you their hearts will go out to you, because of the surpassing grace God has given you.Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” 2 Corinthians 9:6-15
God’s gifts are overflowing! They are indescribable! We have EVERY spiritual gift in heaven!
The first verse refers to spiritual gifts, and the second for tangible resources. These are 2 verses (and many more throughout the Bible) that indicate that it is the pleasure of God to richly bless His children. We don’t receive because we don’t ask. When people are sick, we have the spiritual gift of healing, the authority in Jesus name, to release health and wellness. When we lack, He is Jehovah Jireh, the great provider.
To state that we are not ‘entitled’ to have the best things in life implies we are to expect the worst. That is not the Gospel message. We are not helpless victims, but are overcomers, because of the Gospel of Grace and Power.
“My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit’s power, so that your faith might not rest on human wisdom, but on God’s power.” 1 Corinthians 2:4-5
I fully and expect that my loving Father in heaven, Papa, desires to bless His children with the fullest and abundant life we can imagine, with riches, so we can be counted faithful to grow an inheritance for our children and to bless all those in our sphere of influence. We are not orphans destined to live a life of poverty and hardship. We are sons and daughters, heirs, priests and kings of the most Holy One.