Jesus Creed

James sees the testing of faith — the ability to see through a bad situation to what God will make of it — as an opportunity to set off a chain reaction:

2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. 4 Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

The person is a messianic believer; the person faces suffering of some kind; the person chooses to see through the situation to what God will make of it. That person sets off a chain reaction for moral formation:

1. Perseverance leads to…
2. Maturity and completion…
3. Lacking nothing …

Suffering for James was an education in moral formation. Again, we are unwise to think James would say this for all suffering; after all, he protests much against some kinds of injustices. He’s talking about either something they can do nothing about or a temporary situation. But he knows that suffering has an impact on character. It is educational. And anyone who has suffered knows the same thing.

A thought: James does not say here that God brings the suffering; he does not say everything they suffer is an act of God. Instead, his focus is on God as one to whom they can go for wisdom and one in whom they can trust and that God, in spite of the suffering, can use that suffering to make something of it.

Much has been made, of course, of James’ use of the word “perfection” (??a ?te t??e???). He’s not talking here about sinlessness or sinless perfection. As the teacher who can control his tongue is perfect (3:2), so the sufferer can learn the same by learning to look through the situation to what God can do. Perfection here is about righteousness, wholeness, maturity, holiness, love, peace, etc. and not about attaining a level below which one will never fall again. One learns maturity through the maturation process. The way college students learn to work and take responsibility through the freedoms and assignments and decisions of college years.

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