The Good Gifts of James 1:17 Are Not Money and Possessions

Rich people seem to have a problem dealing with what the Bible says about money. Although the Bible is filled with verses about the dangers inherent in wealth, rich folk like to find a couple of verses that justify their materialism.

A classic example is 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.

Rich people then conclude: I think money, and the stuff I buy with it, are good. Therefore, if I get money and stuff, which are good, God must have given them to me.

Let me explain why James is not talking about money and stuff being the good gift.

Because James is not talking about money and stuff!

When James does talk about money and stuff (2:6-7; 5:1-6) he says it’s evil and nasty. Based on the general context of his epistle, James can’t possibly be saying that money and stuff are good gifts.

James, in fact, seems to be saying that bad stuff is actually a good gift.

“Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds,” is how James opens his letter. He develops the point further in 1:12-15

Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.

Our lust drags us into sin. Wanting stuff leads to sin. He then says every good gift comes from the Father. Good gifts, to be considered good, can’t lead to sin. Getting what you lust for is not a good gift.

If context means anything, there is no way that the good gift of James 1:17 is referring to money or possessions. The good gift is that God makes us new creations, not living in the entrapment of the old creation.

The good gift is that God is forming us though trials to grow into Christ, and to enjoy new life in Christ, able to love others rather than be consumed with self.

Words mean things, and it’s a good idea to find out what they mean, rather than misapplying them to feed our lust.

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