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James 1:16–17

What are you thinking? Perhaps you’re thinking about some problem from the past week, which is festering like an open sore. Perhaps you’re thinking about a relationship that you hope will bring you the happiness you’ve been craving for years. Perhaps you’re thinking about your latest status update on Facebook or Twitter. Perhaps you’re thinking about a new home, car, pet, or dress. Perhaps you’re thinking about what a perfect marriage would look like — the one you’ve always wanted. Perhaps you’re thinking about how you’re going to cope with your grief, loneliness, despair, abandonment, frustration, loss, etc. Perhaps you’re thinking about hunting, playing golf, or watching football.

Innumerable things occupy our thoughts, competing for our attention. But the Bible says that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps 111:10). That is to say, God ought to capture our thoughts. There’s such an absolute perfection in his nature that nothing can be added to him or subtracted from him. Because he’s a perfect being, he’s satisfied in himself. his happiness lies in knowing himself, in loving himself, in delighting in himself. Do we have any effect upon this God? Does he need us? Does he gain anything from us? Our effect upon him is that of a snowball hurled at the blazing sun.

James describes this great God in James 1:16–17. He begins with a command in v. 16, “Do not be deceived!” In the previous verses, James talks about the origin of temptation (vv. 13–15). He makes it clear that temptation doesn’t come from God, but from us. God isn’t the author of evil because he’s the author of good: “Every good and perfect gift is from above” (v. 17).

 

God is essentially good

God is the source of good because he’s goodness itself. The Bible compares God to that good which is essential to us; he’s life, light, food, water, and rest (Ps 36:9; 116:7; Jn 1:4, 9; 4:10; 6:51). The Bible compares God to that good which is beneficial to us; he’s home, health, peace, fire, and refuge (Ps 42:11; 57:1; 90:9–10; Zech 2:5; 2 Cor 13:11). The Bible compares God to that good which is delightful to us; he’s wealth, honor, wine, joy, and pleasure (Job 22:24–25; Ps 43:4; Isa 25:6; 33:21; Zech 2:5). God’s goodness is evident in what he says: his truthfulness. It’s seen in what he does: his faithfulness. It’s seen in his condemnation of sinners: his righteousness. It’s seen in his justification of sinners: his lovingkindness.

 

God is immutably good

God is “the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (v. 17). Here, James is thinking of the creation narrative. Moses tells us that God made the lesser light and the greater light and the stars too (Gen 1:3–5). These lights cast shadows as they move in their orbit. But God isn’t like that. There are no processes active within God’s nature that can cause him to change; moreover, there are no forces outside of God’s nature that can cause him to change. He declares, “I am the LORD, I do not change” (Mal 3:6). God is immutable — forever the same. What he was, he is; and what he is, he will be. God’s life doesn’t change. He doesn’t grow older, nor does he grow wiser or stronger. God’s purpose doesn’t change. What he does in time, he planned from eternity; and all that he planned in eternity he carries out in time.

 

God is beneficially good

How does God manifest his goodness toward us? He manifests it in creation: “And God saw everything he had made, and behold, it was very good” (Gen 1:31). He manifests it in providence: “The LORD is good to all, and his mercy is over all that he has made” (Ps 145:9). Most importantly, he manifests it in redemption: “When the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his mercy” (Titus 3:4).

 

Application

Do you believe that God is good? Most of us think there’s something in this world that’ll make us happy. When I finish school, I’ll be happy. When I get married, I’ll be happy. When I get that promotion, I’ll be happy. When I have three kids, I’ll be happy. And on it goes. But God “has put eternity into man’s heart” (Eccl 3:11). This infinite abyss can only be filled by a good God. And this is the beginning of wisdom.

 


Dr. Yuille is Teaching Pastor/Elder of Grace CommunityChurch in Glen Rose, Texas.  He has served the Lord as a missionary, preaching elder, and as a seminary professor at Toronto Baptist Seminary in Toronto.  He is the author of several books including The Inner Sanctum of Puritan Piety:  John Flavel’s Doctrine of Mystical Union with Christ and others. 


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