Written by Guy M. Richard |
Saturday, October 29, 2022
Rather than running to sin to help us cope with difficult circumstances, James challenges us to turn instead to God and to His Word. This again is incredibly practical. James understands that our tendency is not only to ignore what God says when we suffer but also to turn aside to sin.
The ESV begins a new section in James 1:19 and marks it off with a new heading entitled, “Hearing and Doing the Word.” The NIV and NKJV and other versions follow suit. By adding the heading, these translations give the impression that James is no longer talking about trials in the verses that follow but is instead shifting gears to focus on the topic of devotion to God’s Word.
But I don’t actually believe that James is shifting gears at this point in his epistle. I think he is still talking about trials and how it is that we are to remain standing in and through them. I say this for two main reasons. One, we need to remember that the headings, the verse numbers, the paragraphing, the punctuation, and even the spacing that exists between the words are all human additions to the original Greek, which contains none of these things.
That is simply to say that there is no clear break in the original text after verse 18 (or anywhere else, for that matter).
Two, there is an evident link between James 1:16 and 1:19. The phrase “my beloved brothers” occurs only 3 times in the book of James—one of these occurrences is in James 2:5, which is many verses removed from the section we are studying beginning in 1:19. The other two instances occur in 1:16 and 19. And, interestingly, on both occasions, the phrase is preceded by an exhortation. In verse 16, James says, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers” and, in verse 19, he says, “Know this, my beloved brothers.” The point is that the connection in verses, that are so closely situated in the text, would suggest that James is seeing them as parallel.
If verse 16 is still dealing with the topic of trials, then it would make sense to take verse 19 in the same way. Both verses seem to be addressing the topic of how we can endure or remain standing in the midst of trials, even debilitating ones. In vv. 16-18, James points to who God is and what God has done as one of the practical ways we can keep on going during a trial. In vv. 19-21, he points to the Word of God and the priority we assign it in difficult circumstances. And there are two main things that James is highlighting here: (1) the means of our endurance and (2) the mindset of our endurance.