Matthew Henry's Commentary
This epistle of James is one of the most instructive writings in the New Testament. Being chiefly directed against
particular errors at that time brought in among the Jewish Christians, it does not contain the same full doctrinal statements
as the other epistles, but it presents an admirable summary of the practical duties of all believers. The leading truths of
Christianity are set forth throughout; and on attentive consideration, it will be found entirely to agree with St. Paul's
statements concerning grace and justification, while it abounds with earnest exhortations to the patience of hope and obedience
of faith and love, interspersed with warnings, reproofs, and encouragements, according to the characters addressed. The truths
laid down are very serious, and necessary to be maintained; and the rules for practice ought to be observed in all times.
In Christ there are no dead and sapless branches, faith is not an idle grace; wherever it is, it brings forth fruit in works.
ow to apply to God under troubles, and how to behave in prosperous and in adverse circumstances. (1-11) To look upon all evil
as proceeding from ourselves, and all good from God. (12-18) The duty of watching against a rash temper, and of receiving
the word of God with meekness. (19-21) And of living according thereto. (22-25) The difference between vain pretences and
real religion. (26,27)
Verses 1-11: Christianity teaches men to be joyful
under troubles: such exercises are sent from God's love; and trials in the way of duty will brighten our graces now, and our
crown at last. Let us take care, in times of trial, that patience, and not passion, is set to work in us: whatever is said
or done, let patience have the saying and doing of it. When the work of patience is complete, it will furnish all that is
necessary for our Christian race and warfare. We should not pray so much for the removal of affliction, as for wisdom to make
a right use of it. And who does not want wisdom to guide him under trials, both in regulating his own spirit, and in managing
his affairs? Here is something in answer to every discouraging turn of the mind, when we go to God under a sense of our own
weakness and folly. If, after all, any should say, This may be the case with some, but I fear I shall not succeed, the promise
is, To any that asketh, it shall be given. A mind that has single and prevailing regard to its spiritual and eternal interest,
and that keeps steady in its purposes for God, will grow wise by afflictions, will continue fervent in devotion, and rise
above trials and oppositions. When our faith and spirits rise and fall with second causes, there will be unsteadiness in our
words and actions. This may not always expose men to contempt in the world, but such ways cannot please God. No condition
of life is such as to hinder rejoicing in God. Those of low degree may rejoice, if they are exalted to be rich in faith and
heirs of the kingdom of God; and the rich may rejoice in humbling providences, that lead to a humble and lowly disposition
of mind. Worldly wealth is a withering thing. Then, let him that is rich rejoice in the grace of God, which makes and keeps
him humble; and in the trials and exercises which teach him to seek happiness in and from God, not from perishing enjoyments.
Verses 12-18: It is not every man who suffers, that is blessed; but he
who with patience and constancy goes through all difficulties in the way of duty. Afflictions cannot make us miserable, if
it be not our own fault. The tried Christian shall be a crowned one. The crown of life is promised to all who have the love
of God reigning in their hearts. Every soul that truly loves God, shall have its trials in this world fully recompensed in
that world above, where love is made perfect. The commands of God, and the dealings of his providence, try men's hearts, and
show the dispositions which prevail in them. But nothing sinful in the heart or conduct can be ascribed to God. He is not
the author of the dross, though his fiery trial exposes it. Those who lay the blame of sin, either upon their constitution,
or upon their condition in the world, or pretend they cannot keep from sinning, wrong God as if he were the author of sin.
Afflictions, as sent by God, are designed to draw out our graces, but not our corruptions. The origin of evil and temptation
is in our own hearts. Stop the beginnings of sin, or all the evils that follow must be wholly charged upon us. God has no
pleasure in the death of men, as he has no hand in their sin; but both sin and misery are owing to themselves. As the sun
is the same in nature and influences, though the earth and clouds, often coming between, make it seem to us to vary, so God
is unchangeable, and our changes and shadows are not from any changes or alterations in him. What the sun is in nature, God
is in grace, providence, and glory; and infinitely more. As every good gift is from God, so particularly our being born again,
and all its holy, happy consequences come from him. A true Christian becomes as different a person from what he was before
the renewing influences of Divine grace, as if he were formed over again. We should devote all our faculties to God's service,
that we may be a kind of first-fruits of his creatures.
Instead of blaming God under our trials, let us open our ears and hearts to learn what he teaches by them. And if men would
govern their tongues, they must govern their passions. The worst thing we can bring to any dispute, is anger. Here is an exhortation
to lay apart, and to cast off as a filthy garment, all sinful practices. This must reach to sins of thought and affection,
as well as of speech and practice; to every thing corrupt and sinful. We must yield ourselves to the word of God, with humble
and teachable minds. Being willing to hear of our faults, taking it not only patiently, but thankfully. It is the design of
the word of God to make us wise to salvation; and those who propose any mean or low ends in attending upon it, dishonour the
gospel, and disappoint their own souls.
Verses 22-25: If we heard a sermon
every day of the week, and an angel from heaven were the preacher, yet, if we rested in hearing only, it would never bring
us to heaven. Mere hearers are self-deceivers; and self-deceit will be found the worst deceit at last. If we flatter ourselves,
it is our own fault; the truth, as it is in Jesus, flatters no man. Let the word of truth be carefully attended to, and it
will set before us the corruption of our nature, the disorders of our hearts and lives; and it will tell us plainly what we
are. Our sins are the spots the law discovers: Christ's blood is the laver the gospel shows. But in vain do we hear God's
word, and look into the gospel glass, if we go away, and forget our spots, instead of washing them off; and forget our remedy,
instead of applying to it. This is the case with those who do not hear the word as they ought. In hearing the word, we look
into it for counsel and direction, and when we study it, it turns to our spiritual life. Those who keep in the law and word
of God, are, and shall be, blessed in all their ways. His gracious recompence hereafter, would be connected with his present
peace and comfort. Every part of Divine revelation has its use, in bringing the sinner to Christ for salvation, and in directing
and encouraging him to walk at liberty, by the Spirit of adoption, according to the holy commands of God. And mark the distinctness,
it is not for his deeds, that any man is blessed, but in his deed. It is not talking, but walking, that will bring us to heaven.
Christ will become more precious to the believer's soul, which by his grace will become more fitted for the inheritance of
the saints in light.
Verse 26,27: When men take more pains to seem religious
than really to be so, it is a sign their religion is in vain. The not bridling the tongue, readiness to speak of the faults
of others, or to lessen their wisdom and piety, are signs of a vain religion. The man who has a slandering tongue, cannot
have a truly humble, gracious heart. False religious may be known by their impurity and uncharitableness. True religion teaches
us to do every thing as in the presence of God. An unspotted life must go with unfeigned love and charity. Our true religion
is equal to the measure in which these things have place in our hearts and conduct. And let us remember, that nothing avails
in Christ Jesus, but faith that worketh by love, purifies the heart, subdues carnal lusts, and obeys God's commands.
Each day we walk through the Bible chapter by chapter making
an application of our text to help us grow in the Lord. Many applications can be made from each day's text. Today we start
the book of James with Chapter 1 and in our text we see James giving us practical instruction on Genuine Religion as he explains
how we should endure trials and temptations as we not only listen but do what the Bible Instructs with a goal of wisdom. In
making application we see that a relationship with the Lord is the key to a successful Christian Life. How about you? Do you
see how you need a relationship with the Lord? Let us learn from our text today and the Words of James who gives us great
instruction for us to seek a relationship with the Lord as we can ask the Lord for wisdom as he giveth to all men liberally,
and upbraideth not.
a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
2My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;
3Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience.
4But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting
5If any of you lack wisdom, let him
ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
6But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave
of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.
let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord.
8A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.
9Let the brother of low degree rejoice in that he is exalted:
10But the rich, in that he is made low: because as the flower of the grass he shall
11For the sun is no sooner risen
with a burning heat, but it withereth the grass, and the flower thereof falleth, and the grace of the fashion of it perisheth:
so also shall the rich man fade away in his ways.
is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised
to them that love him.
13Let no man say when
he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
14But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.
15Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth
forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.
not err, my beloved brethren.
gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither
shadow of turning.
18Of his own will begat
he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
19Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak,
slow to wrath:
20For the wrath of man worketh
not the righteousness of God.
lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save
22But be ye doers of the word,
and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
24For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what
manner of man he was.
25But whoso looketh
into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man
shall be blessed in his deed.
26If any man
among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.
27Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless
and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.