James 1: 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 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.
Those who encounter particularly challenging circumstances, as these poor messianists were, are tempted to call into question the fundamental goodness of God. In fact, many are tempted to blame God for the stresses. Some go further and contend that God actually tempts humans into sin. We dare not make light of what conditions can do to serious Christians with serious questions, but James cuts right to the chase:
God, he says, is neither temptable nor does he tempt. The last clause of v. 17 shows that James’ logic involves this: God does not change; God is always good; therefore everything we experience in life comes from a God who is good. Therefore, God does not tempt. Therefore, don’t walk down that path that suggests that the trials of life are God’s way of tempting us into sin.
For those plagued by doubts about theodicy, James offers little consolation in this paragraph. Perhaps a way for the doubting to hear James is for them to seek a way, through his wisdom, through their conditions and doubts to see that God is good and to let that theological lens shape what they see.