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James 1:5-12   ヤコブの手紙1章5〜12  節
In Our Neediness 欠乏と直面して
 
   If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.
    Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
    Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.

 
     Last month, we considered the first four verses of James’ letter where James sets our goal before us: that is, to be mature, complete in Jesus who is Lord and Savior. James encourages us to rejoice with this in mind, in the midst of trials. We will said that trials test our hearts and grow us closer to God last time. In today’s passage, James mentionss a few of our trials, particularly regarding our neediness. I think we can all feel needy and lacking at times. Have you recently thought, “I need more money, I need more ideas, I need more time?” I was amused to see advertising on training to sleep short hours each night and stay healthy. I admit, it is very, very attractive to think of being able to work more hours every day by keeping a rhythmic, healthy, short-sleep lifestyle! And maybe it is possible, but no matter what resources and time we think we have, we will experience neediness and lack. How will we react?
     Today we see first in verses 5-8 our lack of wisdom—and faith. Secondly, verses 9-11 discuss our lack of wealth on one hand and the danger of wealth on the other. Verse 12 points us to our final goal and challenge us to endure. These will be our three sections today: first, lack of wisdom, second, lack (or abundance) of wealth, and third, our ultimate hope to pass our trials of neediness. James calls us to be confidence in God in our trials of neediness, for our hope is not to be in wealth or ourselves but in our perfect, enduring Savior.
 
I. Lack of Wisdom and Faith
     Recall that verse 4 told us that we Christians have our goal as maturity and completion. But reality hits in verse 5. We are very needy! How many of you have lacked wisdom? Wisdom is partly practical understanding of how we should navigate life. However, as James will discuss more later in chapter 3, wisdom is also bound to our relationship with God and our submission to Him. James 3:17 puts our responsibility to be wise this way: “the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere.” Do we act lovingly, purely, and humbly when we have to make difficult decisions and reach our goals? All the time? If you are like I am, then we certainly lack real wisdom! Yet we need wisdom if we are to live maturely and completely.
     Yet James 1:5 reminds us that God “gives generously to all without reproach.” God’s relationship to His creation is always that of Giver! He is happy and able to supply us with true wisdom. He does not wearily say, “Why, you want more wisdom? Did the wisdom I gave you last week run out already?”
[1]
He gives with love and bounty!
    However, the following few verses give a caveat. We need to have faith when we ask God for wisdom. James uses vivid illustrations to depict us if we ask for wisdom without faith in God. First, we can be “like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind.” Whereas waves normally proceed in orderly fashion until they reach a shore, when a storm breaks over them, they churn and waver. If the wind blows north, the waves moves north. If the wind turns west, the wave spins and tries to follow. When we do not have confidence in God, we are the same, depending not on God’s perfect current beneath us, but on the waves of circumstances above us. People’s opinions, the news, finances, relationships, health, and all such things drive us . . . Even if we are Christians, we tend to see those and forget God’s hand is beneath sustaining us like the deep ocean on which waves roll. God’s power and grace do not change. Therefore, we are welcome to trust in Him always, in spite of our weak faith.
     Verse 8 gives another image, the image of having two minds or hearts. James uses this word in chapter 4 to challenge people trying to love the rebellious world as well as God to repent. Those who are “double-minded” cannot hope to win at trusting or following circumstances and at depending on God. The Old Testament also challenged the people that they needed a single-minded heart for God (such as in Deut. 6:5 and Jer. 33:39), but we like they often flirt with what seems more tangible to us than God’s very being and presence and work. We like the Israelites often put our hope in the true God plus other gods or things we desire. We might trust God with our lips but when we see people’s faces change around us, we will ignore God’s will and adjust to human opinions. Or, we might trust ourselves so much that we will try to calm our fears with self-confidence instead of with God’s promises.
     Then, no matter what the thing we desire and trust most is, we are like a compass with a broken needle, “unstable in all [our] ways” as verse 8 says. I have experienced this kind of indecisiveness particularly when trying to please people or when pressed by deadlines. Have you? When your wisdom is lacking, do you find your faith lacking, too?
     Our only hope is really the very God we tend to forget. His promise in verse 5 stands: He is a God who gives happily and richly to us if we ask with faith. And even when our faith is weak and double-minded (as it is all too often), remember that God does not tell us to trust in the size of our faith but to trust in Jesus Christ, who is Wisdom in the flesh (I Cor 1:30-31) and who with the Father loves us single-mindedly.
 
II. Lack (Or Abundance) of Wealth
     Verses 9-11 next take us to face material neediness. Many of James’ hearers were most likely in poverty—even more so, for us living in a wealthy city in a wealthy country in a wealthy century. The greeting in verse 1 said that the hearers were dispersed, scattered from their homelands. Many Jews in the first century AD were at subsistence-level incomes, and famines and oppression could take all their livelihood from them. On the other hand, a few in society got ahold of wealth by fair or unfair means. Relatively many of the poor heard of and believed in Jesus as Christ and Lord. James starts by encouraging these, “Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation.” James will note further in chapter 2 verse 5, “has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?” Though here in chapter 1 verse 9 the word is not “poor” but “lowly,” these ideas were linked closely in Hebrew and Old Testament literature. What is the exaltation James is promising? It is the promise from chapter 2, that they may “be rich in faith” (which we just considered is necessary for wisdom) and inherit the kingdom of God. God’s kingdom is His presence, governing and making all things right and good, in the name of Jesus. In large part, the poor will be those who receive the kingdom. Why? Because they recognize their spiritual neediness as well as their material neediness, and humbly depend on Jesus to rule and save them. So the poor—specifically those who trust in Jesus Christ—are blessed with hope, so James encourages them to remember and talk about—that is, boast in—this hope.
     When we are in need, we are welcome to ask God for His help, but we can also remember that He has given us the greatest wealth we could need—a covenant relationship with Him. The greatest need, for peace with God, has been met, and God will give us what we need. Jesus Christ is our greatest Treasure.
     Now let us look at the rich in verses 10 and 11. The rich is supposed to boast “in his humiliation.” This is a strange expression, isn’t it? James tells us why: “because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.” Now we are even more confused! We need to consider who the “rich man” is. Some interpret him to be a wealthy Christian. Others interpret James to be speaking of the non-Christian rich who has perhaps, as chapter 2 and 5 say, oppressed the poor Christian. There are not many definite clues to lead us one way or the other. I think that probably it is speaking of the wealthy Christian within the congregation hearing the letter be read. However, in the end, the point is similar. If you or I have wealth, it does not matter when we face death. A Chinese friend told of wealthy residents in the city of Wuhan who recently despaired in the face of the novel coronavirus, and were tossing their cash out of the windows of their condominiums. I do not know if it is true or a rumor, but we get the point. Money means nothing in the face of death.
     James uses the image of his homeland in parched Palestine. Pretty flowers grow there but the wind from the eastern desert and sun are so severe that even if they are not cut down, they wither in the day. No matter how wealthy you and I become, we cannot take that money with us. If James is speaking of or to non-believers, the warning is that whereas the poor who trust in Christ have eternal life, those who are hoping to live simply with money will face loss of everything including their lives. The one thing they really need is to have peace with God through the wonderful Treasure, Jesus Christ. If it is for believers, the warning is that while the poor brothers and sisters are easily reminded they have nothing except Jesus, the rich Christian is tempted to focus on and hope in fading wealth.
     It is not of first importance to whom James is speaking. We all need to be reminded that we will die, and the only lasting, important thing is whether we are in love with God or enemies of Him when we die. As Paul wrote in I Corinthians 1:28-31, “God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, ‘Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.’
 
III. Our Ultimate Hope
     Finally, let us look at verse 12 and consider our ultimate hope in this life. “Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.” The idea of trials comes out again, linking this verse with verse 2. We need not only to rejoice in trials, but also endure through them. And to whomever can remain steadfast under trial, “the crown of life” is waiting. Crowns were prizes often given to the winner of a sporting competition or to someone who made a great contribution to society, as a symbol of glory and thanks. What an honor it would be to receive this crown, symbolizing eternal life with God, from God!
With this background in mind, we need to ask ourselves first, “Am I steadfast under trial?” I think we have to say that we fail often, if we are honest. We tire of doing good easily and we grumble. We let our eyes off the prize, and let ourselves be tossed by the changing winds. We doubt God’s goodness and provision when we need wisdom or when we need money. So we are hardly worthy of the crown of life.
Secondly, we ask, “Am I actually loving God?” If not, we cannot even begin the race to be steadfast! And again, our answers to the first question fit here. We love ourselves and comfort, not God—that is why we grumble and doubt Him. At least I realize frequently that I have loved not others or God but my plans and ease. We are hardly worthy of the crown of life.
So who is worthy of the crown of life? It is the One who holds it out to us. For He first acquired it, for not only Himself but also for His people! Revelation 2:10 tells us more about the story of the crown of life. Jesus says to a church about to go through the trial of persecution: “Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.” The crown of life is in Jesus’ hands, because He is worthy! He constantly trusted and sought His Father for wisdom and provision. In utter poverty, dependent on others for material provision, He only sought the glory of God and the good of people. In order to wear the crown of life, He accepted the crown of thorns. By rising from the dead, He opened the way of endurance to the crown of life, by being the Way for us. His Holy Spirit guides us on that way, reminding us Jesus in the Word and in our lives. Christ calls us with this assurance, “I have already bought this crown for you who could never be worthy of it. Just keep your hope in Me.”
We will never be worthy of wisdom, of material provision, or of the crown of life, in ourselves. God called us to seek wisdom with a pure faith, to trust God even if we lack physical or social wealth, and to endure through trials. This walk is not easy. It is not possible, in our own doing. Nevertheless, in our neediness, all God tells us to do is to hope in Him. In Jesus Christ, we can have joy, wisdom, sufficiency for our physical needs . . . and eternal life, glorifying God and enjoying Him forever.
 





[1]
Daniel M. Doriani, James, Reformed Expository Commentary (P&R: 2007), 25.