Sunday, September 12, 2010

Every Good Gift

James 1:17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

17 πᾶσα δόσις ἀγαθὴ καὶ πᾶν δώρημα τέλειον ἄνωθέν ἐστιν καταβαῖνον ἀπὸ τοῦ πατρὸς τῶν φώτων, παρ᾽ ᾧ οὐκ ἔνι παραλλαγὴ ἢ τροπῆς ἀποσκίασμα.

James is an easy book to blog because it is really a bunch of long proverbs.  James may very well be the most practical book of the New Testament in the sense that it is centered primarily on right living.  It contains a bunch of imperatives telling us how we should live.  Facing trials?  Count it all joy.  Reading Scripture?  Do what it tells you to.  And so on.

Here we get a brief theological interlude.  This verse tells us much about the nature of God.  First, we see that He is good.  How do we know that?  We see that if a gift is ἀγαθὴ or if it is τέλειον then it is from above.  I don't think that it describes gifts that are "good and perfect" because there are two different words for "gift" used here.  I think what James is going after is that if we enjoy something good it must be from God.  We also see that He is good in being described as οῦ πατρὸς τῶν φώτων.  It's pretty safe to say that "light" is a metaphor for "good" when we read Scripture.

Second, we see that He is immutable, which is the theological term for the idea that He never changes.  The phrase παρ᾽ ᾧ οὐκ ἔνι παραλλαγὴ ἢ τροπῆς ἀποσκίασμα. is difficult in English, but I would go with something like, "for him whom there is not changing or shadow of changing."  Obviously the ESV is a lot crisper from a literary sense and that is required in translating a text, but my translation gets the wooden sense of it.

But you may wonder, "so what?"  What difference does it make that He never changes?  One thing is that this informs our Christology.  We know from Hebrews that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Here we see God the Father described that way.  This is not a proof, but it sure leads one to see a commonality between God the Father and God the Son.  It also tells us that the idea of an "Old Testament God" vs. "New Testament God" is a false dichotomy.  There is God.  He does not change.  The just and wrathful God of Joshua and Judges is also the God of John 3:16.  Jesus Christ had to die to satisfy His righteous wrath.

This is a God I want to worship.  This is the God that saved me to do just that.  My prayer is that I would not stop short with distractions like sports, video games, school, and sex.  Those are all fine things enjoyed in their place, but let me worship God alone, amen?

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