Scratchpad: James, Wisdom, Doing

Classwork, kept it brief. Did my job:

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This passage, 1.1-8 is speaking to those who are undergoing trials (v2) in their dispersion (v1). The author is commending to them a joy which comes from enduring the trials, and their full reliance upon God in all matters. Further, wisdom is something which is sought, and asked for, from God (v5). Perhaps it is what is missing from the ‘perfect effect’ (v4 – NET). James 1.6 is the key verse in this passage. The Greek word, διακρινόμενος, is often translated as ‘doubting’ which for many, seems to be the opposite of ‘faith’ and yet, if we were to take this entire passage in context, we find that James is not condemning doubting but actually is speaking to the divided loyalty, a loyalty divided between God and the human condition. I briefly note that in the Old Testament, idolatry is the opposite of faith, not doubt. After a brief survey of English translations, only the NLT uses the phrase ‘divided loyalty.’ The root of the word means ‘to judge’ which fits well with the theme of 1.9-11. (I would also contend that ‘faith’ here may be better understood as faithfulness.)

For context in translating διακρινόμενος as ‘divided loyalty’ in v6, I would look at v8 and 4.8 in which we find the person in question called ‘double-minded’ (δίψυχος). This double-minded individual is not as he is because she doubts, but because this person has not fully surrendered to God. The endurance, then, through the trial is not having the ‘perfect effect.’ As a matter of fact, but dividing loyalties, the person indeed may not actually be enduring anything. Further, this divided loyalty is causing all sorts of other issues for the person, and indeed the congregation, when he is led to choose the wealthy over the poor. The opposite of this person is the person who endures testing and is proven to be δόκιμος (v12), or tested and approved (I note the connection here to Paul’s use of ἀδόκιμος in 1st Cor 9.27).

This passage is calling for us to choose God over the human condition, whether it is weakness in trails and persecution or in trying to differentiate between the wealthy and the poor in our synagogues (2.2). Further, in giving our loyalty to God completely, this will prove that we are indeed genuine. We must settle our minds on God, which doesn’t exclude doubt, but includes the fact that in all things, our focus is on God.

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