Believing in God’s Unchanging Goodness to Us
We are tempted to believe that God holds back from us.
Notice the way James draws our attention to this tendency:
Don’t be deceived, my beloved brothers. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, in whom there is no variation or shadow of turning. (James 1:16-17, my translation)
James warns us strongly that we can be deceived into thinking of God as fickle or intermittently uninterested in us. I think that’s what the “variation or shadow of turning” refers to.
It’s like being at a party with someone you enjoy, and you have all their attention. Then, they see someone else in the room they want to connect with, and suddenly your friend turns toward them instead of keeping their face and posture toward you. And it hurts when our friend turns from us.
And as James brings this up, he doesn’t just say, “It is very important for you to remember this,” or something like that. He uses the strong phrase, “don’t be deceived.” To doubt God’s goodness toward us is to be deceived.
But what’s at stake?
First, when I stop trusting that God will provide what is good for me, I will look somewhere else. I might start to be overly reliant on money or planning ahead, for example. Going down this road a bit, I might become more open to self-help gurus. Or I might double down to be pleasing to God as a way to earn his approval, when in fact I already have it and cannot earn it. I think we all inevitably become more self-protective when we doubt God’s goodness toward us. I really see that theme in the Sermon on the Mount: self-protection vs trust in our good Father.
Second, if we are duped by this deception and think that God is shifty or not solidly good toward us, then we are believing what is unworthy of God. I’ve been listening to an audio book of Augustine’s Confessions. He often points out how easy it is to believe lesser things about God, which dishonors him. To believe that God is pretty good or somewhat faithful to us his children is basically to call him a bad Father and an uncaring or incompetent Provider. Ouch.
But God IS good to us
For those of us who are trusting Christ as our Savior and Lord, we can be sure that God is unwaveringly, unhesitatingly good to us.
He has already given over his Son to suffer and die in our place; therefore, we know he is NOT holding back any good from us!
He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? (Romans 8:32 ESV)
James points out that this Father of Lights gives us not only a gift or even gifts, but good and perfect gifts. And not only that, he gives us every good gift and every perfect gift. In fact, he is the source of all the truly good things in our lives! James helps us remember that our new birth into God’s family, our salvation itself, is the gift of this good Father.
16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift 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. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (James 1:16-18 esv)
Let’s resist the deceptive thought that God is sometimes ambivalent toward us. Let’s hold onto the truth that God is for us as our Redeemer and our Father.
He never looks away from us.
He never turns his back to us.
In him, “there is no variation or shadow due to turning.” He is for us.
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