[epistle of james] chapter 1

Written by Bryant Neal

Bryant is currently serving as the pastor of a rural church in Georgia and the chaplain coordinator of his community's hospital chaplaincy program. A pastor, teacher, and mentor, Bryant has a passion for helping people discover their best selves in Christ and exploring the deeper sides of spirituality. A closet philosopher, Bryant enjoys writing and publishes a periodic journal that challenges his readers in their relationship with God. Bryant is married to Cheryl and they have two cats.

April 27, 2011


Read James 1 (NASB, ESV, MSG)

OK…so sue me!!! So, I like the little wave machines. You know the ones that I’m talking about. The little rectangular glass enclosures with the blue fluid on the bottom and the clear fluid on top that do nothing other than slowly tilt from side to side allowing the heavier blue fluid to flow from low end to low end. When I go into the stores in the mall or the shopping centers that sell them I can stand there mesmerized, watching the simulated waves sloshing back and forth, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth…so you get the idea. It helps with my ADHD on steroids after I’ve had two or three mocha cafe’ latte’s from Starbucks and I’m shaking like a Chihuahua on crack.

So, by now you’re probably wondering what this is about when it comes to James chapter 1. One too many latte’s. I like the little wave simulators because they make for a wonderful metaphor of the way some people live their lives. When one circumstance tilts someone’s world, they slosh to one side. When another circumstance tilts them again, they slosh the other way. They never seem to have stability, no center, no focus always jumping from one thing to another. James actually mentions this phenomenon in chapter one, verse six where he says:

… the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. (James 1:6)

Prior to that God, through James, has reminded us that we will have trials, temptations, hardships, difficulties, disillusionments and a whole host of other negative experiences in this life due to its sinfulness, hate of God, and rejection of Jesus. He then follows this disclosure up with reminding us that anytime we don’t know quite how to respond to a situation, circumstance, person, etc, we have God’s counsel through the intercessory work of Christ (Heb 7:22-25), patient wisdom of the Holy Spirit (Eph 1:7), and the counsel of Scripture (2 Tim 3:16), as well as the counsel of other believers to guide us through this life and what it has to offer. But not only has our Heavenly Father provided these things, He does so generously, without demeaning us or belittling us. He does so with the singular purpose of bringing about His best in our lives.

The problem comes in when we seek out His counsel in the above ways and then simply walk away from it like we never even heard of the Bible, the Holy Spirit, another believer, or even Christ and keep on making the same bonehead plays in life that we always have. James reminds us that when we seek out the face of God and forget what it looks like when we’ve seen it, we remain directionless and we might as well be living life according to a compass with no needle; just wandering around, following the prevailing winds. We see a lot of this in the political correctness movement today in government, education, family, and even the church. When a principle becomes unpopular this week, but popular the next and then unpopular the week after that, we simply keep shifting our worldview accordingly; even when that worldview contradicts what we know to be God’s Truth for life, the universe and everything.

When we live life in this way, the Bible tells us that we receive nothing from God (v. 7). We most want to feel loved, safe and secure, significant in life and when we wander from one direction to the next…we can’t receive the very things that God has promised to give us. Jesus said: “those who love me will follow my commands” (even when it isn’t convenient, feeds ego, and doesn’t win us popularity contests) with the result being (in His words): “My yoke is easy, I have come to give abundant life, I am the source of peace without understanding, and the source of all joy.” (Matt 11:30; John 10:10; 14:27; 15:11). What follows is the assurance that when we persevere in what God teaches us, we become blessed. The word ‘blessed’ in the Greek speaks of the personal fullness that comes to a person when they have the palpable presence of God in their lives. When we learn from Christ, we grow in Christ and we have His grace upon us…not just His unmerited favor, but His ability to work in us and through us as we follow His leadings.

It is during these times of trust that we become gripped by His greatness, in the midst of our smallness……


  1. Keri

    So, I’m guessing you also like those little pedastals with the 4 magnetic balls? Ya know, the one where you get one moving and then it moves the farthest one?

    That waves sloshing back and forth thing…my commentary suggests that this “double-mindedness” in the Greek literally means “two-souled”. Which brings to mind for me Rev. 3:15-16, “I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot; I wish that you were cold or hot. So because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.” EEK! And another one relating to the words of Jesus, Matt 5:37, “But let your statement be, ‘Yes, yes’ or ‘No, no’; anything beyond these is of evil.”

    This “two-souled” manner is the result when we allow ourselves to be steered by the world, whose truths are subjective, temporal, and ever-changing. I think its easy to allow the world to determine my course in life without even realizing it. I have to be careful with the amount of secular media I allow into my life because I find that the values and princples will slowly start to erode my thinking and I’ll begin to buy into the lies, rather than center myself on His Truth. This is an interesting to tie in to James 1:27 where he speaks of pure religion (of the actions of faith), but also cautions us to remain “unstained by the world”.

    I love the meaning of the word ‘blessed’ you provided: personal fullness that comes to a person when they have the palpable presence of God in their lives. It’s not wealth, health, or even “good things”. It’s simply the undeniable feeling that God is with me. That is the ultimate blessing isn’t it? Because all of those other things, they also slosh about like the waves. But, He is the only constant in this sea of life.

    • @bibledude

      this is a great description of the “double-mindedness” that James speaks of… and the picture of the wave machine shows just how out of balance we can get… being tossed around…

      i love your perspective here keri! i look forward to hearing your thoughts on the rest of the chapters in James…

    • Bryantdneal

      LOL…that I do!!!! Some great life lessons to be learned there as well. It’s always amazing how God uses simple things to teach a simple mind (like mine!). I’m glad you picked up on the “two-souled” portion because that’s exactly what it means. It references trying to live your life by two sets of values, or two worldviews. The church of Laodicia could be a good picture of this type of lifestyle; but I see people in my counseling ministry who will come to me with a life issue or decision and I’ll show them what the Bible says and show them how it applies to life and then they will go out and do the exact opposite and wonder why things went badly.

      We are living in a time when more people are double-souled than ever before. They want one thing, but are unwilling to live a life that leads to another….

      Great comment…thanks for the input!

  2. Victoria

    What a great visual! I’ll be taking it and this line with me, “The word ‘blessed’ in the Greek speaks of the personal fullness that comes to a person when they have the palpable presence of God in their lives.” Perfectly put to pull out any time we need the reminder to remember!

    • @bibledude

      i love when the original Greek helps us to unpack a word like ‘blessed’ in this way! and this is the kind of presence that i want to be in! powerful dude… awesome!

    • Bryant Neal

      That’s one of my favorite take-aways from my word studies during sermon prep. I actually got ahold of it when I did my sermon series on the Beatitudes. When you look at what ‘blessed’ means with this understanding, it really does some fun things with the Beatitudes…..

    • Bryant Neal

      Hi Nance! I liked the article so thanks for posting the link. Will keep that one for a later use. He actually referenced the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament which is where I got my information, but he also used some other things that I had not seen, so thanks again!!

    • @bibledude

      this is some really great information about the word #blessed… this is some good meat to chew on…

  3. Crystal

    Thanks for this post – I love the image of being sloshed from side to side…sometimes not knowing which way is up.

    I just finished re-reading chapter 1 another 3 times today … I am struck by the end of the chapter, where he calls us to action on our faith …

    In light of Mark’s history in the introductory post, I can’t help but think about how hard it was for those very first Christians to ACT on the Word as they remembered it. Fear, trepidation, being unsure … and then I think about how hard it is for us, in today’s world, to act on the word as we hear it …

    So in the moments that we go to God in prayer and admit our weakness, we are called to act on his unconditional love and amazing grace …

    I’m just in awe.

  4. Raz

    WHERE CAN I BUY ONE OF THOSE WAVE MACHINES? I’VE LOOKED EVERYWHEREEEEEEEE and it’s literally no where 🙁 I saw something similiar in a movie or tv show and i googled for it for hours and hours until i finally found out what they’re even called….and now i see that i cant find any anywhere…ya i realize this is for bible related stuff..and not wave machine..but help me!

    • @bibledude

      I’ve done a little digging too, and can’t find anything! It seems like they pop up from time to time on e-bay, but I can’t find them in stock anywhere else… crazy!

  5. christy

    Hi I was moved by your posting… and I would love to purchase one of those wave motion machines, but no one sells them for a reasonable price anywhere. What store did you find one and how long ago was this.



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[epistle of james] chapter 1

by Bryant Neal time to read: 4 min