Criswell Theological Review 1.1 (1986) 71-84.
Copyright © 1986 by The
SUFFERING IN JAMES 1:2-12
TRACY L. HOWARD
Grace Theological Seminary,
The Christian lives paradoxically in two different worlds. By virtue
of his identification with the risen Christ, his spiritual citizenship has
been transferred from the domain of this present age to the age to
come. The Christian thus lives in an “already/not yet” tension for
although the age to come has been inaugurated, it has not been realized
in all of its fulness. This realization will occur at the Parousia at which
time the believer's spiritual citizenship will be openly manifested. As
W. D. Davies says, “Christians are already in the Age to Come ‘in
Christ' and . . . future events can only make this fact explicit.”1 Because
the Christian is no longer a part of this age, it should not be thought
strange that affliction, trials, and even persecution are not only possible
but inevitable. Nevertheless, it is easy to lose perspective in the midst
of such circumstances and thus several questions arise: How should the
Christian respond to suffering? What is its purpose for the believer?
Will there ever be a resolution to this predicament? In Jas 1:2-12, the
writer addresses the issue of suffering and attempts to answer some of
the questions facing Christians as they live as pilgrims in this present
evil age. Therefore, the purpose of this article is to offer a brief
exegetical study of Jas 1:2-12 and extract several biblical principles for
responding to suffering which were true not only for the original
audience but which are equally valid for believers today.2
1 W. D. Davies, Paul and Rabbinic Judaism (Philadelphia: Fortress, 4th ed., 1980)
2 The focus of this article is on trials or suffering from without rather than on
temptation from within which James takes up in 1:13. Certainly trials from without, if not
responded to properly, can lead to temptation from within. However, in Jas 1:2-12
attention is given to undeserved suffering from without, namely, suffering which is not
the result of the violation of some natural or moral law of God. In this article both "trials"
and “suffering" are considered synonymous terms.
72 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
While several views exist on the nature of the recipients,3 the most
likely addressees were Jewish-Christians living in the dispersion. The
use of a]delfoi< in the vocative throughout the epistle suggests this
conclusion (cf. 1:1, 16, 19; 2:1, 5; 3:10, 12; 4:11; 5:7, 9, 10, 12, 19). The
life setting, however, is more difficult to determine. Some such as M.
Dibelius virtually abandon any attempt to discover a setting or local
situation, believing the material to be a miscellaneous collection of
traditional teachings from various sources without any coherence in
theme or theology.4 However, P. Davids has responded to this con-
clusion by proposing that the epistle is primarily Leidenstheologie,
namely, a theology of suffering.5 This would be true particularly in
connection with Jas 1:2-12 in which the writer sets forth the subject of
"trials from without." It is possible that these believers had been
encourage them in the midst of suffering in the dispersion (cf. Acts 8:1
Exhortations Regarding Suffering (1:2-8)
The believer in this present world is embroiled in a war between
good and evil. The consequences of war is that one faces battles, in
which case one must be prepared. James exhorts the believer that
when he faces the battle of trials he should respond two ways: 1) with
an attitude of joy and 2) with prayer for wisdom.
Exhortation to Respond with Joy (vv 2-4). A proper response to
trials is essential for any hope of victory. The believer is thus exhorted
3 For example, J. Adamson
(The Epistle of James [NIC;
1976] 49-51) interprets tai?j dw<deka fulai?j tai>j e]n t^? diaspor%? as including both
Christian and non-Christian Jews. Others take the phrase figuratively as denoting
in general which is conceived as the true
of the ancient people of God (cf.. James Moffatt, The General Epistles
Commentary on the Epistle of St. James [ICC; Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1916] 118).
4 M. Dibelius,
A Commentary on the Epistle of James (Hermeneia;
Fortress, 1975) 47.
5 Peter H. Davids, The Epistle of James (New International Greek Testament
on the Epistle of James," JETS 23 (1980) 97-103.
6 Donald W. Burdick, "James," in The Expositor's Bible Commentary (12 vols.;
Howard: SUFFERING IN JAMES 1:2-12 73
“to consider" the occasion of the trial with “pure joy.” By the employ-
ment of the aorist h]gh<sasqe rather than the present, James may be
thinking of each special case when one encounters a trial.7 The word
translated “pure” (pa?san) refers to the degree by which the joy is to be
expressed.8 The NEB renders it “supremely.” When it is used with
“joy" (xara<n) the idea moves beyond the expression of simple emotion.
There is no facade here either. Rather, the believer can consider the
occasion of a trial as supreme or pure joy because there is the inner
awareness that God is at work in his life. Furthermore, this should be
the response whenever “any kind” (poiki<loij) of trial occurs.9 The
word for “trials” (peirasmoi?j) describes things that put a person to the
test. It can describe either a trial or difficulty from without, such as
physical persecution or even economic oppression, or an inner moral
test, such as the enticement to sin. From the context, it would appear
that 1:2-4, 12 refer to the former sense and 1:13-18 describe the latter
meaning.10 The reason for this is that trials are endured whereas
temptation is resisted and in both vv 3 and 12, James discusses the
importance of enduring trials when they occur.11
The basis for the exhortation is given in v 3 through the use of the
causal participle ginw<skontej. The NASB translation obscures the
semantic connection with the preceding clause by rendering it simply
“knowing." A more precise connection might be “because you are
aware.”12 Specifically, these believers are aware that the means of
testing their faith produces endurance (to> doki<mion u[mw?n th?j pi<stewj
katerga<zetai u[pomonh<n). James shifts his terminology from peirasmo<j
(v 2) to doki<moin, thus creating a shift in tone13 This shift is necessary
7 Cf. J. H. Moulton, '.Prolegomena," in A Grammar of New Testament Greek (4
8 BAGD 631; see also
Joseph B. Mayor, The Epistle of St. James
Macmillan, 1913) 32; Ropes, James 129.
9 The adjective poiki<loj literally means "of various kinds, diversified, manifold"
and should include more than just physical persecution (cf. BAGD 683).
10 See Burdick,
"James" 168; D.
Moody, 1979) 72; Mayor, James 33; Ropes, James 133; R. V. G. Tasker, The General
Epistle of James (Tyndale New Testament Commentary; London: Tyndale, 1956) 40;
see also NASB NEB NIV and RSV which translate peirasmo<j as "trial"; the translation
“temptation” in the KJV is unfortunate and ambiguous in terms of what James is actually
describing. That peirasmo<j can mean "trial" in the sense of affliction or suffering is
indicated by its use in some of the synoptic parallels (see Luke 8:13 [peirasmo<j] par. Matt
13:21 [qli?yij and diwgmo<j]).
11 Ropes, James 133; notice the use of u[pomonh< and u[pome<nw in vv 2-4 and v 12,
12 Cf. Dibelius, James 72.
13 Davids, James 68.
74 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
because whereas peirasmo<j focuses on the trial itself, doki<mion is a
reference to the "means of testing."14 Some have interpreted doki<mion,
as "the genuineness" of one's faith.15 This would mean that when one is
tested, the testings sift out the genuine portion of his faith and it is that
aspect of faith which produces endurance.16 This idea may not neces-
sarily be absent in v 3. James might be referring not only to the means
of testing but also to the approval which remains following the refining
process, an idea latent in 1 Pet 1:7 and also in Jas 1:12 in which approval
James, however, does not say that merely the testing of one's faith
is the cause for joy, but rather, the result or "accomplishment" (kat-
erga<zetai)17 that occurs through the testing, namely, u[pomonh<n.18 The
KJV translation of u[pomonh< ("patience") is weak. A better translation is
"endurance" (NASB) or "steadfastness" (RSV). Ropes suggests the
nuance of "staying power."19 The idea is unwavering constancy to faith
in spite of adversity and suffering. This is not a single act but a state of
character that results over time when there is a faithful response to
testing. Moffatt writes, "Only trial can prove what we are made of,
whether we possess this supreme quality of steadfastness or constancy
to our convictions."20 James' statement here echoes Matt 5:11-12 in
which Jesus forges a link between joy and persecution. Jesus says that
the basis for joy is the promise of great reward in the Kingdom of
Heaven. Hence the hope of the future adds an eschatological dimension
to the endurance of trials in the present (cf. Jas 1:12).21
Thus James exhorts believers to respond to the occasion of trials
with pure joy because they are fully aware that by the testing of their
faith the character trait of spiritual endurance is achieved. Yet this is
14 Cf. Prov. 27:21 (LXX); Sir 2:5 in which the same root suggests the "means of
testing;" I agree with both Davids (James 68) and Dibelius (James 72) that doki<mion has
two meanings: in 1 Pet 1:7 the word means "genuineness" whereas here "means of
15 BAGD 203; see also Burdick, "James" 168; this understanding is based on the
papyrus usage in which doki<mion is used as an abstract substantive to denote "that which
is genuine, approved" by testing (cf. A. Deismann, Bible
16 Cf. W. Grundmann, " do<kimoj" TDNT 2 (1964) 258-59.
17 Note the perfective use of kata< (See Moulton, Grammar 1.111-15).
18 There is absolutely no external testimony to support Adamson's (James 00-92)
emendation u[pomon^?. It is pure conjecture in an effort to harmonize the uses of Jas 1:3
and 1 Pet 1:7. Hence, u[pomonh<n is preferred.
19 Ropes, James 135.
20 Moffatt, General Epistles 9.
21 The importance of endurance is likewise found in Jewish tradition (cf. Sir 2:1-6;
Jdt 8:25; 1Qs 10,17; 1 QH 5:15-17; 1 QM 16:15-17:3; T. Jos. 2; for a patristic example, see
Howard: SUFFERING IN JAMES 1:2-12 75
not the complete picture, for James goes on in v 4 to describe a work
that endurance performs.
The particle de< introduces v 4 and in this instance indicates a
transition to a similar theme. Furthermore, the repetition of u[pomonh<
serves to link vv 3 and 4. The believers are commanded to let (e]xe<tw)
endurance have its complete effect (e@rgon te<leion).22 James does not
issue an option but a command.23 According to him, endurance left to
itself is not enough. The believer must allow it to have its complete
effect, the goal or purpose of which (i!na) is to ensure the ethical
character of the mature believer.24
James states his purpose both positively and negatively. Positively,
the purpose is that the believer might be "perfect and entire" (te<leioi
kai> o[lo<klhroi). The adjective o[lo<klhroi denotes the perfect, mature,
fully developed character in a moral sense.25 Hence the perfect effect
of allowing endurance to work is the perfect character of the one
tested. The parallel adjective o[lo<klhroi also conveys the notion of
“complete, blameless, whole."26 It is used here in a qualitative sense to
denote the ethical integrity which characterizes the mature Christian.
Maturity, therefore, is the ultimate goal of one's faith being tested.
James emphasizes this point further by adding the negative phrase
“1acking in nothing" (e]n mhdeni> leipo<menoi). If the negative is intended
to counterbalance the positive description just given, Hiebert may be
correct when he writes, "It may thus picture James' concern that in no
area of their development they should fail to reach the goal, and that no
part of their personality should fail to develop, leaving them in an
James recognizes that suffering is a reality for the Christian living
in this present age. He also knows that through experiences of suffering,
God is at work to produce endurance and ultimately maturity. For this
reason, the child of God should respond not with fear or frustration but
rather with pure joy. Thus from the analysis of vv 2-4 a principle can
be stated regarding the believer and suffering.
Principle #1: The believer should respond in joy to the occasion of
suffering, because it is by means of testing that the ultimate goal of
spiritual maturity is accomplished. Furthermore, only by faith in God is
such a response possible (cf. v 3 to> doki<mion u[mw?n th?j pi<stewj).
22 te<leion here denotes that which has "attained the end, purpose" (BAGD 809).
Consequently, e@rgon is properly rendered "effect" (cf. Mayor, James 36).
23 e]xe<tw is a present active imperative third person singular; the force is thus
stronger than simple permission or allowance.
24 Hiebert, James 77.
25 BAGD 809; G. Delling, "te<leioj" TDNT 8 (1972) 74.
26 BAGD 564.
27 Hiebert, James 78.
76 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
Exhortation to Respond with Prayer for Wisdom (vv 5-8). The
problem which faces the believer who is going through suffering is that
there is a tendency to lose perspective and direction. It is easy for one's
attention to be diverted from God to the circumstances surrounding
him. For that reason James offers the additional exhortation to pray for
God's wisdom. This discussion must be viewed in light of vv 2-4. This
is not some unconnected exhortation. The command to seek wisdom is
quite specific in terms of the suffering James has just described.
Although some hold that no link exists between vv 2-4 and 5-8,28 there
seems to be an intentional connection through the repetition of lei<pw in
v 5 (cf. v 4b). Furthermore, the particle de< is frequently used in a
transitional sense without any contrast intended.29
V 5 begins with the conditional phrase "now if any of you lack
wisdom" (Ei] de< tij u[mw?n lei<petai sofi<aj). While this condition does
not necessarily imply the certainty of a given situation, the likelihood of
such a condition existing seems evident.30 The readers lacked God's
perspective. They were given the exhortation in vv 2-4 to respond to
suffering in joy. Yet the question remains, "how am I to see trial in this
light, and make this use of it? it needs a higher wisdom."31 The believer
in suffering does not simply need more knowledge. Instead, he needs
spiritual insight in applying what he knows in the particular situation.
Specifically he needs sofi<a. The word basically means, "Good judg-
ment in the face of demands made by human and specifically by the
Christian life, (practical) wisdom."32 It involves the divine quality of
the soul whereby one knows and skillfully practices righteousness.33
Also wisdom is to be sought "from God" (para> tou? qeou?). This idea is
thoroughly Jewish being found particularly in wisdom literature (cf.
28 Dibelius, James 77; he feels the connection with what precedes is superficial; see
29 BAGD 171.
30 Hiebert notes that the condition "assumes the reality of need and views it as a
standing fact," James 79. He cites as justification for such an interpretation A. T.
Robertson and W. Hersey Davis, A New Short Grammar of the Greek Testament (Grand
Rapids: Baker, reprint 1977) 350-51. However, J. L. Boyer (see "First Class Conditions:
What Do They Mean?," GTJ 2 :75-114) has done a thorough inductive study on
first class conditions and concludes that the correct explanation of the first class condition
is a simple logical connection between protasis and apodosis. Hence, while the condition
in Jas 1:2 is probably considered certain, the use of ei] with the indicative does not
31 Mayor, James 38.
32 BAGD 759.
33 A similar idea is found in Wis 7:7ff; 8:7; 9:10-18. The Hebrew word for wisdom
(hmkH) is frequently rooted in a right attitude toward God (Prov 9:10; 15:33; Ps 111:10;
Howard: SUFFERING IN JAMES 1:2-12 77
Prov 2:6; Eccl 2:26; Sir 1:1; 39: 5, 6; 51:17; Wis 7:7; 8:21; 9:6). The
command to seek wisdom is given through the use of the present
imperative ai]tei<tw, suggesting that this plea is not to be a one time
action. It is to be done continually. In some ways it is reminiscent of
Matt 7:7 in which Jesus exhorts his audience to “Keep asking. . . keep
seeking . . . keep knocking.” In a similar fashion, the prayer for wisdom
should be continually offered for it is that spiritual insight which
enables the believer to maintain perspective and a sense of order when
everything surrounding him is in chaos.
James offers further incentive for prayer by reminding his readers
that God is one who gives to all men “without mental reservation”
(a]plw?j) and “without reproach” (mh> o]neidi<zontoj). The word a[plw?j is
a hapax legomenon and has been interpreted in two ways: “gen-
erously”34 or “without mental reservation.”35 The root certainly can
mean “generosity.”36 Yet one can supply evidence as well for the latter
definition. In fact, that nuance is preferable for the following reasons:37
1) The meaning is well testified in extra biblical material (cf. Epict.
“mental reservation" seems to fit better the parallel mh> o]neidi<zontej;
3) This nuance prepares one for the double-minded petitioner in v 6
whose divided loyalty renders his prayer ineffective. Davids correctly
summarizes the use of a[plw?j in v 5: “God is, then, one who gives
sincerely, without hesitation or mental reservation. He does not
grumble or criticize. His commitment to this people is total and
unreserved. They can expect to receive."38
Furthermore, James says that God does not reproach or scold His
children for asking or berate them for previously committed sins (cf.
mh> o]neidi<zontej). Instead, God is waiting to give wisdom to any child
of God who asks. Thus He promises to give His spiritual insight to
those who are suffering (cf. kai> doqh<setai au]t&?) without mental reser-
vation nor by reproaching or insulting the one asking. Nevertheless,
there is a condition attached to this promise.
James introduces v 6 with the adversative de< (“but”) and with it
reminds the reader that the promise outlined in v 5 is not unconditional.
He writes, “But let him ask in faith, doubting nothing." The act of
prayer alone is not effectual, but instead it is the prayer “in faith,
doubting nothing" (e]n pi<stei mhde>n diakrino<menoj) that ensures God's
34 BAGD 86; Burdick, "James" 169; Ropes James 140.
35 Adamson, James 56; Davids, James 72-73; Dibelius, James 79; Mayor, James 39.
36 See T. Iss. 3:8; Jos. Ant. 7:332; 2 Cor 8:2; 9:11.
37 For a thorough analysis of this issue, see Davids, James 72-73 and Dibelius,
38 Davids, James 73.
78 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
response. The phrase e]n pi<stei is a circumlocution for "let him believe
God when he asks." Adamson interprets the phrase as, "confidence in
prayer."39 This is a clear indicator that the life of faith is important for
James.40 Faith is that which God tests in order to bring about maturity
(v 3) and it is faith that promises God's response to one's plea for
wisdom. The phrase mhde>n diakrino<menoj serves to emphasize e]n
pi<stei. It describes one who is controlled by indecision and uncertainty
and who has difficulty making choices when faced with alternatives.41
This person wrestles with himself wanting things asked for yet then
desiring something else. In fact, James likens him to "a surge of the sea
being moved and blown by the wind" (klu<dwni qala<sshj a]nemizome<nw
kai> r[ipizome<n&).42 The passive participle a]neimizome<n& is a hapax;
legomenon and means a "surf moved and tossed by the wind,"43 while
r[ipizome<n&, also passive, denotes that which “blows here and there, the
toss of the wind that sets a wave in motion on the water."44 The picture
is that of instability or inconsistency. The person who doubts fails to
believe that God can really do what is requested and thus is the opposite
of one like Abraham who did not waver in unbelief (cf. Rom 4:20).45
James goes on to say in v 7 that such a person should “not expect
that he will receive anything from the Lord." The phrase “let not that
man expect" is emphatic. The use of mh< with the present imperative
oi]e<sqw indicates that one who doubts should stop thinking that God
will respond to his prayer.46 The reason is then addressed in v 8.47
Ineffective prayer, according to James, is due to being “double-
minded" (di<yuxoj) and “unstable” (a]kata<stataj). The word di<yuxoj
39 Adamson, James 57; a similar idea is found in Sir 7:10 which says, "be not
fainthearted when thou makest thy prayer, and neglect not to give alms" (APOT).
40 Mayor (James 38) goes too far when he says that "wisdom" is the principle thing
to which James gives prominence even as Paul does to "faith," John to "love," and Peter
to "hope." James also places great stress on faith; in fact, he mentions pi<stij 16 times
while only referring to sofi<a 4 times.
41 Adamson, James 57; see also Hiebert, James 84.
42 Ropes (James 141) renders klu<dwni qala<sshj as "the billowing sea"; the idea is a
succession of waves which are being swept along by the wind.
43 BAGD 64.
44 Ibid. 736.
45 See F. Buchsel, "diakri<nw" TDNT 3 (1965) 947.
46 Since James describes God the Father as the one who responds to prayer in v 5,
the phrase para> tou? kuri<ou (v 7) most likely is a reference to the same person.
47 There is a question regarding the precise connection between vv 7 and 8 since no
verb is expressed in v 8 in the original. Two alternatives have been suggested: 1) to
supply an equative verb "is," and read v 8 as a separate sentence (either "he is a double-
minded man" [
v 8 as standing in apposition to v 7, best marked with a dash at the end of v 7 ("-a
Howard: SUFFERING IN JAMES 1:2-12 79
literally means "double-souled" and describes one whose soul is divided
between faith in God and a preoccupation with the world.48 As Burdick
writes, "It is as though one soul declares, "I believe," and the other in
turn shouts, "I don't!'49 Regarding the character of the double-minded
person S. Kierkegaard said, "If it changes continually, then he himself
becomes changeable, double-minded, and unstable. And this continual
change is nothing else than impurity."50
A parallel description of this person is found in the word a]kata<-
stataj. It contains the idea of "unstable, restless" and is used "of
vacillating persons."51 This kind of person lacks foundation. Such
instability, according to James, extends to every area of life ("in all his
ways"). This would not include just his life of faith but his dealings in
everyday affairs with others as well.
In summary, James says that when the believer encounters suffer-
ing, he should pray for wisdom from God to enable him to respond
correctly. However, such prayer must be offered in faith if it is to be
effectual. Doubt only demonstrates instability and double-mindedness,
and hence, such a person should stop thinking that God will respond to
prayer offered in that manner. Based on the analysis of vv 5-8, a second
principle can be proposed regarding the believer and suffering.
Principle #2: God promises to give the believer wisdom to respond
properly to suffering if the believer offers his prayer in faith, not in
Eschatological Perspective Regarding Suffering (1:9-12)
James shifts his focus slightly to how eschatological reward comes
to bear on enduring present suffering. He reminds the believer that in
the midst of suffering he should rejoice in the fact that his wonderful
double-minded man, unstable" [RSV]). Neither of these views, however, offers a clear
semantic connection between the two verses. It is therefore preferable to supply the
present participle of ei]mi< (w@n) and see a causal connection between the two verses
(" . . . anything from the Lord since he is a double-minded man, unstable. . .").
48 Ropes, James 143; although W. F. Moulton and Milligan (The Vocabulary of the
Greek New Testament [
that James may have coined the term, Dibelius (James 83) is probably correct by noting
that many of the Christian witnesses point to an earlier period than the first century
(cf. Ps 12:3 "they speak with a double heart" [vrbdy blv blb; LXX: e]n kardi<% kai> e]n
kardi<% e]la<lhsen]; 1 Enoch 91:4, "And draw not nigh to uprightness with a double heart,
and associate not with those of a double heart" [APOT]; for patristic citations, see
Dibelius, James 83, n. 65).
49 Burdick, "James" 169.
Kierkegaard, Purity of Heart is to Will
One Thing (
Row 1938) 60.
51 BAGD 30; see also A. Oepke, "a]kata<statoj" TDNT 3 (1965) 447.
80 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
position in Christ will be displayed at the Parousia. Furthermore, the
one who endures suffering and trials, and thus demonstrates his
genuineness, will receive the gift of eternal life.
Eternal Perspective is Necessary (vv 9-11). Davids summarizes
well the issue in vv 9-11:
Now the author introduces the topic of the rich and the poor. . . . The
poor, he argues, are highly honored when they are Christians, for God has
given them a high position despite their low state in the world. The
wealthy, however, may seem powerful now, but God will bring them low
in the end unless they humble themselves now. Here is the reversal of
This subsection is again introduced by the particle de< (cf v 5). The
particle is mildly adversative in that it maintains the distinction between
sections, yet it still serves a transitional function and continues the
theme of suffering begun in vv 2-4.53 James first addresses "the poor
brother" (o[ a]delfo>j o[ tapeino<j ) in v 9. The article o[ is certainly generic
denoting anyone who falls within that class. Also o[ a]delfo<j indicates
that James is addressing the Christian and not humanity in general. The
adjective tapeino<j can refer to humiliation as an experience such as
economic breakdown or poverty, or in a figurative sense, can be a
reference to one's ethical character of humility.54 Here as in Luke 1:52
the adjective is a reference to economic poverty in contrast to wealth
(cf. plou<sioj; in v 10).55 Thus, James is addressing the Christian who is
In paradoxical fashion, James exhorts the poor Christian to "glory
in his high position" (kauxa<sqw . . . e]n t&? u!yei au]tou?). His use of the
verb, kauxa<sqw ("to glory" or "to boast")56 resembles the command
given in v 2 to rejoice in trials. In fact, in Rom 5:2b-5, which in many
ways is parallel to Jas 1:2-4, Paul uses the verb kauxw<meqa in the
context of afflictions (qli<yesin). The focus, however, is different in Jas
1:9. Though suffering is still in the background, the sphere for boasting
is not in affliction per se but in one's "high position." The word u!yoj
literally means "height" but here it is used figuratively of one's "high
position" in Christ. The poor Christian is exhorted to consider his
52 Davids, James 75.
53 Oesterley ("James" 424) and Dibelius (James 83) see no connection with any of
the preceding discussion. Dibelius, it would appear, has pushed his form-critical analysis
to the extreme; however, others do interpret de< as transitional (see Davids, James 75;
Hiebert, James 88; R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistle to the Hebrews and
the Epistle of James (Minneapolis: Augsburg 1946) 541.
54 BAGD 805.
55 See W. Grundmann, "tapeino<j" TDNT 8 (1972) 21.
56 BAGD 425.
Howard: SUFFERING IN JAMES 1:2-12 81
position in Christ as a reason for glory. He must overlook the present
distressful circumstances (his life of suffering) and see life from an
eschatological perspective. This perspective provides hope in the
midst of suffering, for it ensures that the one who really has the exalted
position and who truly is rich is the poor Christian (in contrast to the
rich man). The reality of such a hope will be manifested one day at the
Parousia. James clarifies this in the following two verses.
In v 10 James underscores the striking irony of the situation by
showing the contrast between the outcome of the rich man and the
poor Christian. Yet, before such a neat conclusion can be drawn, the
identity of the "rich man" (o[ plou<sioj) must be addressed. Many pro-
pose that o[ a]delfo<j in v 9 not only goes with o[ tapeino<j but also with
plou<sioj and thus should be rendered "the rich brother."57 However,
there are several good reasons for taking o[ plou<sioj as a non-
Christian.58 First, Jas 1:9-11 exhibits similarities to Jewish thought
where the rich are often contrasted with the poor remnant of Israel.59
Second, James consistently uses plou<sioj to refer to a non-Christian
(cf 2:27; 5:1-6). Third, the harsh words in vv 10-11 leave no trace of any
allusion to a brotherly relationship, and the coming fate of the rich man
is treated with great elaboration. For example, in v 10 the rich man is
exhorted to glory (kauxa<sqw implied) "in his humiliation" (e]n t^?
tapeinw<sei au]tou?). There is an ironic twist for although he lives in
luxury in this age, one day he will "pass away" (pareleu<setai) "like
flowering grass" (w[j a@nqoj xo<rtou). The contrast is clear. The believer's
poverty is temporary in comparison to the eternal glory he will possess
at the Parousia. However, the rich fool's wealth is temporary in
comparison to the eternal loss he will experience at the Parousia.
V 11 continues the description of the ultimate downfall of one
whose values are rooted in the present age. This man "in the midst of
his pursuits (e]n tai?j porei<aij au]tou?) will fade away" (maranqh<setai).
Marai<nw is a fitting description in this context for it refers both to the
withering of plants (Job 15:30;
(Jos. Wars 6.274).60 In light of Jas 5:1-7 (esp v 7), it is likely that the
realization of this event will transpire at the Parousia. The imagery in
v 11 highlights the judgment to come. James writes, "for the sun rises
'with its burning heat' (su>n t&? kau<swni)61 and 'withers the plant'
(e]ch<ranen to>n xo<rton) and its 'blossom falls' (to> a@nqoj . . . e]ce<pesen)
57 Adamson, James 61; Burdick, "James" 170; Hiebert, James 91-92; Mayor, James
45; Ropes, James 146; Tasker, James 43.
58 For a full discussion, see Davids, James 77 and Dibelius, James 84-87.
59 See Dibelius, James 87.
60 See also BAGD 491
61 It is possible that this is a reference to the sirocco which was a scorching wind
blowing in from the
82 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
and its 'beauty is destroyed' (h[ eu]pre<pia tou? prosw<pou). The language
speaks of judgment and is not descriptive of a believer. That James is
talking about the rich man himself and not just his riches is clear from
the grammar of the next clause which says, "so also the rich man
(o[ plou<sioj) . . . will pass away" (pareleu<setai). This means more
than just death. The Christian dies. However, for the non-Christian rich
man there is an eternal loss associated with death that will be recog-
nized at the future judgment. Hiebert likewise recognizes that "if the
rich man is held to be a non-Christian, the passage is probably best
understood as eschatological: in the Judgment Day, the lowly brother
will be exalted and the rich man will be brought low."62
Certainly James is not saying that a rich person cannot be a
Christian. However, the context of his discussion is trials, suffering, and
perhaps in vv 9-11 even oppression brought on at the hands of the rich.
In this age the rich man prospers and the poor Christian suffers. Yet in
the judgment and coming kingdom, God will bring about a great
reversal and the present suffering will be swept up into eternal glory.
This is the eschatological motivation for facing trial in the present,
namely, the glory of the believer's exalted position at the Parousia. A
third principle regarding the believer and suffering can now be pre-
sented from vv 9-11.
Principle #3: The prospect of future glory, in contrast to the
transitory nature of earthly suffering, serves as a motivation for endur-
ing present distress.
Eternal Life is a Motivation for Present Endurance (v 12). The first
part of v 12 is reminiscent of the beatitudes of Jesus, particularly 5:1-12,
while the latter part resembles Rev 2:10. James begins with "blessed is
the man" (Maka<rioj a]nh<r). The word a]nh<r is here generic referring to
anyone who in this case "endures under trial." Maka<rioj denotes a
distinct inner, religious joy that is not dependent on external circum-
stances.63 In fact, James goes on to say that this "happiness" is found in
one who perseveres under trials" (u[pome<nei peirasmo<n). The phrase"
echoes v 2. The word peirasmo<j, as in v 2, describes trial or suffering
from without. It is not until v 13, in which he employs the verbal form
peira<cw, that he begins to discuss temptation from within. The verb
u[pome<nei is closely related to u[pomonh< in vv 3 and 4 and refers to the
steadfast endurance of the Christian under the difficulties and tests of
hours. However, the force of the metaphor is unchanged whether one interprets kau<swni
as "burning heat" (KJV,
62 Hiebert, James 92.
63 F. Hauck, "maka<rioj" TDNT 4 (1967) 367.
Howard: SUFFERING IN JAMES 1:2-12 83
the present evil age.64 The reference does not refer to one who never
fails. The present tense here is customary or habitual and thus refers to
one who by the quality of their character endures tests and refuses to
give up.65 This person is called maka<rioj. The reason (o!ti) is that such an
individual by virtue of his endurance "stands approved" (do<kimoj
geno<menoj). In fact, Ropes comments that, "'having shown himself
approved' is another way of saying u[pome<nei."66 The phrase do<kimoj
geno<menoj is not to be construed as a condition ("if he stands the test"),
but rather must be translated temporarily "after" or "since he is
approved." As Dibelius notes, "no doubt can surface with regard
to his confirmation, for here the subject is strictly 'he who endures'
Following the endurance of trials, by which one is confirmed or
approved, comes the reception of "the crown of life" (to>n ste<fanon
th?j zwh?j). The metaphor to>n ste<fanon most likely is not a reference to
the Greek athletic games but instead grows out of Judaism.68 In this
passage it symbolizes special honor which goes to the one who has
endured trials; specifically, the honor consists of "eternal life" (th?j
zwh?j).69 This phrase is quite similar to Rev 2:10 in which the Lord
promises the crown of life to the one who is faithful even to death. In
that passage the promise likewise occurs in the context of trials (cf.
qli?yij). The life promised is certainly a reference to eternal life to be
experienced in the age to come.70 The future tense in lh<myetai likewise
indicates that James has his focus on the consummation of the age.71
life is promised "to those who love Him," i.e., the Lord (toi?j a]gapw?sin
au]to<n). Some have regarded this phrase as an agraphon of Jesus.72
64 Ibid., "u[pome<nw" TDNT 4 (1967) 586.
65 Cf. H. E. Dana and J. R. Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New
Testament (New York: Macmillan, 1953) 183.
66 Ropes, James 150.
67 Dibelius, James 88.
68 For various occurrences of the metaphor ste<fanoj in the LXX, see Ps 20:4; Prov
12:4; 16:31; Lam 5:16; Ezek 16:12; Zech 6:11; see also T. Levi 8.2, 9 ("crown of
righteousness"); T. Beni. 4.1 ("crowns of glory"); As. [sa. 9.7ff., 9:24ff., and 11:40
("crowns of glory"); in the NT the reception of the crown is sometimes associated with
the Parousia (cf. 2 Tim 4:8 in which Paul says that he expects "on that Day" to receive the
"crown of righteousness;" in I Pet 5:4, the believer is promised the "crown of glory"
when the Chief Shepherd appears).
69 The genitive th?j zwh?j here is a genitive of apposition. The entire phrase should
be translated "the crown which is life."
70 BAGD 341
71 Davids, James 80.
72 Cf. Adamson, James 68; Mayor, James 50.
84 CRISWELL THEOLOGICAL REVIEW
However, the phrase perhaps finds its background in OT promises,73
for "those who love Him" frequently refers to the pious.74 One could
argue that the phrase is James' own theological extrapolation based on
sayings of Jesus like John 14:21, 23. In any case, the genuine believer is
the one who stands the test and thereby demonstrates through such
action his love for God. To that person is promised the glory of eternal
life. It is clear that James points the believer to future hope in order to
encourage endurance in the present. Hence, for the genuine child of
God, future life in a very real sense, comes back and envelops present
distress. A final. principle can be proposed regarding the believer and
Principle #4: The hope of eschatological life serves as a motivation
to endure and remain faithful in present suffering. Principles 3 and 4 are
similar in their eschatological concern. However, the former focuses on
the temporary nature of both life and suffering, while the latter focuses
on the glory of eternal life with God in the age to come.
The purpose of this article has been to set forth several important
principles from Jas 1:2-12 which serve to encourage and instruct
believers who deal with suffering in this present evil age. While
suffering remains a constant reality, the Christian does not have to
buckle under its pressures. In the present, the believer should respond
to suffering with joy because he knows that God is using that experience
to produce endurance and ultimately maturity. However, God has not
left the believer helpless but will provide wisdom if the believer asks
for it in faith. Furthermore, James reminds the believer that suffering is
transitory and that at the Parousia there will be a reversal of his present
situation. Until that time, the believer is exhorted to endure suffering as
he anticipates eternal life in the age to come.
73 Cf. Exod 20:5-6; Deut 7:9; see also Pss. of Sol. 4:25; 1 Enoch 108:8.
74 Davids, James 80.
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