STUDIES IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures. So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath; for the wrath of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore lay aside all filthiness and overflow of wickedness, and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls.”
The giving and receiving of gifts is a long-held human tradition. We are accustomed to gift giving on special occasions like a birthday, Christmas, or anniversary. Of course, besides these noteworthy events, there are many and various reasons for gifts to be given.
When such gestures have a proper motivation, they display a good and generous spirit. And as recipients in turn appreciate the gifts bestowed on them, they show their gratitude.
Of all the gift givers, none compares to our heavenly Father. James writes of Him, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow of turning.” Every single day our Father in heaven showers upon us countless gifts without fail, both physical and spiritual. And all these many good things are absolutely flawless.
The Holy Spirit caused James to identify God’s blessings as gifts, impressing upon us that all these mercies are undeserved. They are pure grace. While we may hear people say that we deserved this or that windfall, we know this is not the case. Our sinfulness merits only God’s wrath and condemnation (see Genesis 32:10).
The Gift of Faith
Of all the gifts God so graciously grants us, the most important is Christian faith (Ephesians 2:8-9). Through faith in Christ we receive all the many spiritual and eternal blessings that our Savior purchased and won for us through His life, death, and resurrection (Ephesians 1:3-14).
Having been so richly blessed, what is our response to God? James writes of this in verse 18, “Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” In the Old Testament at harvest time, believers responded to God’s bounty by bringing their firstfruits to Him. Being sanctified by the Gospel, we are firstfruits who are to dedicate all our thoughts, words, and actions to God out of gratitude for His redeeming love.
Would that this were always the case. Sadly, all of us must confess that on countless occasions we have failed to do this. Instead of our hearts being chambers of consecrated love, very often wrathful emotions which do not make for righteous speech and behavior are kindled within us. The godless world that surrounds us can pollute our lives with all manner of filthiness and wickedness.
In spite of this, God in His infinite love and mercy counsels us how to counter our sinful response. The Spirit of God reveals that as much as we might like to speak, we need to hold our tongues and be more ready to listen to what God has to say to us in Holy Scripture. And when God makes known to us His teachings, we are to receive them with a humble spirit and a receptive mind.
Working through His Word that saves us, God instills in us a penitent spirit and believing heart that responds to His gifts with gratitude and sanctified living.
Mark Gullerud is retired from the pastoral ministry. He lives in Sunnyvale, California.