James 1:17-19


"Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of his creatures.  Know this, my beloved brethren. Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger, for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God" (James 1:17-19).



In approaching any specific passage, it's important always to establish the context of the writing from which it comes. The Letter of James is really a sermon, beautifully organized and very specific in affirming the teachings of Jesus. Its author is unknown; even in ancient times it was recognized that its excellent Greek and its implied references to other epistles make it highly unlikely that its source was James the brother of Jesus. 

The entire first chapter calls early Christians to patience and forbearance in the face of challenges to their faith. In verses 17-18 the author affirms the essential divine connection that is the truth for every person. That connection cannot be dissolved or removed because in its Source there can be "no variation or shadow due to change." The issue, then, is not God's favor but our own behavior, that can create a damaging illusion of separation.

We must be careful and alert in all our choices. "Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger," he writes, "for the anger of man does not work the righteousness of God" (1:19). What's important is to stay focused on spiritual Truth and our spiritual purpose. 

Later in the same chapter the author is even more specific about the kinds of choices that will keep us clear in our relationship with the Divine: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (1:27). Throughout scripture the images of 'orphans and widows' is used to signify all those in need, unable to rely on the support of a family they don't have and therefore requiring loving consideration from everyone acting on behalf of the divine Source. It's powerful and practical advice still today, as images of orphans, widows and others adrift without homes fill our pages and screens.


Rev. Ed