Summary: A reminder to Christians of the character of God is necessary when we are enduring trials.
GOD WHO IS GOOD
“Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”
It appears to me that people are willingly deceived about the character of God. That precise contention is not only implied in our text, but I suggest that it is the consistent observation of students of anthropology. The Word of God is quite clear in presenting God as good. Likewise, the experience of all who know God as Father is as recipients of His goodness. Nevertheless, mankind often ascribes to God a character utterly devoid of reality.
Apparently, the suffering saints to whom James wrote were discouraged as a result of the extreme persecution they were experiencing. In their discouragement they seem to have begun to ascribe to God characterisations that were out of step with reality and at variance with their own experience. However, when an individual is beset by trials, that person has a tendency to become focused on his or her own situation to the exclusion of all else. Therefore, what James wrote concerning the nature of God will be valuable even to us as we prepare ourselves to worship and serve God who is good.
GOD GIVES GOOD GIFTS — “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights.” Our English term “God” shares the same root as our word “good.” It is tacit recognition throughout society during the period that the language took shape that God is good. In other words, underlying our understanding of God is the knowledge of His goodness.
There is an aspect of what James is saying that may be obscured by the English. When he speaks of “every good gift and every perfect gift,” it sounds almost redundant to our ears. A gift that is perfect is good; and a good gift approximates perfection in light of what James is saying. However, when I review the original language, I see that James is saying something even more powerful than making a mere rhetorical statement.
The NET Bible translates James’ affirmation, “All generous giving and every perfect gift is from above.” The first phrase refers to the action of giving, and the second phrase refers to the gift. In other words, James is making a statement of God’s character, even as he reminds us that God delights to give good gifts.
Throughout the Word of God are statements pointing to the goodness of God. Jesus, speaking during the Sermon on the Mount, urged those who would follow Him to love those who were enemies and to pray for those who persecute His people. He urged this as a duty on His people because the Father is good. Jesus said that God “makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” [MATTHEW 5:45].
Did you absorb the import of Jesus words? God rules over the earth, and if you enjoy the goodness associated with this life, it is God who has provided what you enjoy. Speaking to pagan worshippers in Lystra, Paul pointed to God’s goodness as evidence that He should be worshipped as the True and Living God. Of God, the Apostle said, “He did not leave himself without witness, for he did good by giving you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness” [ACTS 14:7]. God’s creation is good, despite the fact that it gives evidence of man’s fall and subsequent plunge of all creation into ruin. Despite the harshness revealed through this fallen condition, God has nevertheless shown man great goodness through giving us His bounty to enjoy and through showing us continued mercy.
The Psalmist declared of God:
“The LORD will give what is good,
and our land will yield its increase”
In other words, the bounty of the harvest is a gift from God. The increase we enjoy—both the increase of the fields and the growth of all that God has entrusted to us—serves as proof that God is good.
In another Psalm, we read the declaration:
“The LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favour and honour.
No good thing does he withhold
from those who walk uprightly.”
In a similar vein, the Psalmist declares that “those who seek the Lord lack no good thing” [PSALM 34:10]. God gives good gifts and man is the blessed recipient.
Writing the 136th PSALM, the Psalmist incorporates at the conclusion of each strophe of the Psalm the refrain, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Throughout the Psalm, the evidence cited to demonstrate His steadfast love is that He alone does great wonders [VERSE 4], and that He brought into being all that man observes [VERSES 5-9]. Repeatedly, throughout history, God has delivered His people, and that is an evidence of His steadfast love [VERSES 10-22]. God’s continual intervention to provide endurance, escape and provision for His people demonstrated His continual goodness [VERSES 23-25]. The “steadfast love” of which the Psalmist wrote is God’s kindness—His covenant love revealing His essential character. Indeed, “God is love” [1 JOHN 4:8; 16].