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Monday, June 18, 2012

What do you think?

Going to try something a little different today and see how it works.  Take a moment and read James 1:17.  Now I have a few questions for you to ponder and to which hopefully respond in the comments.
What do you think about this?  Answer in the comments at Dads Teach the Bible...

  • What is the force of the two adjectives here, “good” and “perfect?”  
  • Do they imply that there are gifts that are not “good” and “perfect” that come from somewhere else than God?
  • How did you come up with your answer to that question?

I have always read that verse … no I will wait and see if I hear from you…


  1. You've hit a hard one here. I've wondered, studied -- even called a world-class Bible translator about this verse. I have no idea what it means.
    1. "good thing given" = "perfect gift". These are probably in parallel. We only have to figure out 1 entity.
    2. Context is going to help a lot, "Don't be deceived" indicates the audience was thinking wrongly about the origin of this "good thing/gift". Maybe their local religion taught that pleasurable things came from another origin. (American culture used to believe that "good" came from hard work -- one's own effort -- a great deception.) Maybe the author is refuting some deception like that. Or maybe the contrast is between "gift" and v.14 "temptation". But I'm still confused.

    I'd like to translate the verse as "every thing given from above is good, and every gift from above is perfect." -- but my world-class scholar friend won't allow that.

    So I have no idea what the verse means. Awaiting other replies. Sixiron

  2. Don't know if "late than never" is necessarily true, but here's a shot or two.

    I would say at the outset that James is NOT even hinting that there are any other kind of gifts that God gives, at lest to His children. Why? In my settled conviction that would be unbiblical and contrary to the very nature of God - the same reason He cannot "tempt" anyone anytime. That is the job description of the devil.

    I would assume context is significant as sixiron says. "...steadfast under trial.." is the focus of James' exhortation. Our verse seems to imply that seeing things from God in such a situation is critical - "gift," "good," and "perfect" must be defined in biblical context, according to God's wisdom.

    My first observation is that "good" and "perfect" in my normal conception can be very far from God's. I never (on my own) consider trials, tests, suffering as anywhere near "good" or "perfect," but that is the setting here and is exactly our earthly condition (v.12). Trials are good and perfect precisely because God is using them to deal with things in my life - to expose my sin and bring me to repentance (v.12b - 15).

    We know that in many ways James is the most "Jewish" of the N.T. writers in terms of explaining the believer's walk in O.T. terms - I've heard there are references to over 20 O.T. books. A feature of Hebrew O.T. literature is parallelism (not sure about the linguistic term, but I think it's the idea). In that case the two terms are not different; James is trying by use of different words to broaden and fill the concept of what God is doing in our lives under stressful circumstance, see His hand and yield to His purposes. The immediate goal is in v.18, "that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures."

    I don't think I can say conclusively that is the answer or really defend my position strongly. But I think I can confidently say that James paints a picture that I can perceive and feel as to what God is wanting to accomplish in my life. That is in the context of Him being a "good" God (by His definition, not necessarily mine). That is His nature, and the nature of all He does (Gen.50:20). Job gives a powerful testimony, I believe, to this concept in Chapter 42:1-5.