God who gives to all generously . . . (James 1:5)
James’ letter can read like a long list of advice, kind of like a supersized to-do list: be joyful when you suffer. Persevere perfectly. Ask in faith. Recognize you will fade like a flower. But James doesn’t give us a bunch of “shoulds” and then leave us to work away at it. He reminds us of something very important: God is generous and ungrudging with his grace.
God is not a stingy accountant looking for our shortcomings, and we are not slaves to a list of rules, left to sweat away on our own strength. God has given us his grace, and he delights in giving us even more of it. There’s no reason to doubt that.
As an exhortation on ethical conduct, the Letter of James has much in common with the Wisdom books of the Old Testament. James describes what the “just man” looks like, not simply by virtue of obeying the Law, but by virtue of the grace he receives in Christ. That’s the lens through which James speaks to us. And that’s why he is quick to remind us how much Jesus loves to give us good gifts.
You have received this grace James talks about. How can you tell? As you continue to grow in prayer, you might find yourself becoming more willing to forgive a coworker or friend. You might find yourself just a bit more patient with your children than you were last year. You might be more likely to pray for someone in need rather than shrug your shoulders or feel powerless. These are all signs that God is continuing to pour grace upon grace into your heart.
A to-do list might leave you feeling discouraged, especially when you struggle to accomplish everything on it. But listen to James: God never tires of giving us his gifts. You can ask him for the wisdom you need. You can ask him for help when you find yourself lacking. So go ahead and try to follow James’ advice, but be sure to seek out the grace and help you need. You don’t have to do it on your own!
“Father, I trust your generosity. I believe that you have poured grace into my life and that you have even more grace waiting for me!”
Psalm 119:67-68, 71-72, 75-76
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"It is like a mustard seed that, when it is sown in the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on the earth. But once it is sown, it springs up and becomes the largest of plants and puts forth large branches, so that the birds of the sky can dwell in its shade." Mark 4: 31-32