God, the Giver of Every Good and Perfect Gift
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 lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 By his own choice, he gave us birth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:16-18)
From our passage yesterday, James established the point that believers are not to think that they are tempted by God to do evil, but rather, to overcome the temptations that stem from the desires of the heart to do sin. Closing this section on facing internal trials, going along those previously established points, James warns the believers to not be deceived into believing that misconception about God’s character, as seen in verse 16, “Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters.” James is not giving these words to distant acquaintances, but fellow believers in Christ whom he deeply cares for and wants to succeed in overcoming any trial they face.
In verse 17, James pivots from the negative false thoughts about God and shows that God is instead responsible for all things that are good: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” As Max Anders writes, “Every kind of good has its ultimate source in God. Gifts are perfect because they fully meet the needs of the recipients.” God, who knows everything about you, for He created you, knows exactly what you need physically, emotionally, and spiritually to overcome any trial you face. James emphasizes the Creator aspect of God, stating that He is the “Father of lights,” the Creator of the universe and celestial bodies. He also “does not change like shifting shadows,” meaning that He is constant. He will always be good and holy and will do only good. Anders says, “The light of his truth and holiness remains constant.” It is a foundation that you can be sure will never break if you trust in Him.
Finally, in verse 18, we can overcome these internal trials because God gave us new birth: “By His own choice, He gave us birth by the Word of truth so that we would be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” The Word of truth is Jesus Christ, as seen in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” God sent His Son Jesus to provide the gift of salvation to us through His death on the cross and resurrection. Once someone accepts Christ as their Savior, as Paul writes in 2 Corinthians 5:17 they are a new creation: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has passed away, and see, the new has come!” Therefore, the believer now has the ability to shrug off the old sinful life that has died away and pursue holiness as a child of God.
As a quick historical portion, James calls the early church believers the “firstfruits.” Firstfruits were the first portions of a harvest season which were offered to God. The firstfruits were a sign of the future crop that was to grow. Because of Christ’s working through the early church believers with the help of the Holy Spirit, the gospel message spread throughout the world and has now reached us in our present day. We are the later harvest that came, and there are more to come in the future, as long as we remain faithful and be sent out, like the words in Matthew 9:37-38, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
God is the source of all that is good and will provide the perfect gift necessary to overcome internal and external trials. May we rely on God’s gift, and not on our own strength, to overcome the trials and temptations to sin in our lives, for we are new creations and a part of God’s family, given power through the Holy Spirit to pursue holiness and truth.
Isaac De Guzman