Morning Musing: James 1:16-18

“Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. By his own choice, he gave us birth by the word of truth so that we would be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (CSB – Read the chapter)

One of the cliches people who have even the most rudimentary, generic faith like to throw around when something good has happened is that there is no such thing as a coincidence. It’s one of those phrases that is common enough that you could probably trick someone into thinking it’s from somewhere in the Scriptures if you put it before them in the right list. You might be surprised to learn that while that phrase never actually makes an appearance in the Scriptures, the idea isn’t so far off from something Jesus’ own brother, James, wrote. Let’s take a look at it this morning.

God gives good things. Period. I could probably just stop this here and let you ponder on the immensity of that statement alone, but I’ll unpack what I mean in just a bit more detail so you don’t feel like clicking through was a waste of your time. Because God is fundamentally good, anything that comes from Him is a good thing. Again, that’s a pretty far-ranging idea. I realize it also sets us up to be accused of using a cop out to avoid assigning anything bad to God. After all, if something isn’t good, we can just say it wasn’t from God. But how do we know? How do we know when something is from Him and when it isn’t? We know because only the good things come from God. We could also be accused of some pretty circular reasoning here as well, so let’s clarify a bit further.

God gives good things. Wait. Didn’t we just start there. Yes, but let’s slow down a bit. Jesus’ brother, James, here calls God a giver of good gifts. “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Not only is God good by His very nature (the philosophical way of putting this is that God is ontologically good), He is the only source of good in the universe. Good doesn’t come from anywhere but Him. This is because God is the source of everything in the universe. There is not a thing that exists that He did not create. And those things which are part of extending His creation (i.e., us), were themselves created by Him. In other words, even where we make good things, those good things are a reflection of His image in us and not something that originated with us.

If all of that is true, then the idea that no good thing reflects a mere coincidence, but an active plan of God unfolding in our lives and to our benefit gains a great deal of truthfulness to its fundamental proposition. The trouble with our saying something like this is not that we are wrong in our theology, but that we don’t really believe it as thoroughly as it is true. What’s more, we don’t adjust our lives in light of it. If God really is the source of everything that is good – including all of the good things that happen to us – then we have some changes we need to make.

For starters, we need to live our lives with a great deal more gratitude and praise for the little things than perhaps we do right now. Rather than being on the lookout for things that aren’t going the way we like, we would do ourselves an enormous favor to stay on the lookout for things that are good and for which we can – and should – give thanks to God. Every single time we are the recipients of something good, that thing has come from God.

There’s more. If God really is the source of all good things, then if we want to experience more good in our lives, we need to align our lives more and more fully with His commands. The more we put ourselves under the umbrella of His goodness, the more of that goodness we will experience. Who doesn’t want to have more goodness in your life? God will always and only be the source of that.

This goodness was expressed most poignantly in the birth of a little baby. It seems like it should be such a small thing. After all, babies are born by the thousands every single day across the face of the earth. Why should any particular birth carry such significance? Because this baby was the Savior of the world. This baby was God in human flesh. This baby was Jesus. As we have been preparing to receive Jesus into our hearts and into our lives this Advent season, what we have really been preparing for is to experience God’s goodness in the most concentrated and fulfilling way we possibly could. In Jesus, we experience the goodness of God. That’s something worth celebrating.

As you prepare to celebrate Christmas in just a few more days, may you do so with confidence that every good thing you experience over the next few days (and all the other days of your life) are brushes with the God of the universe who is good. Delight in His presence and run toward it with everything you have. There’s always more where that came from. Delight in a God with whom there are no coincidences, but only His goodness made real.

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