“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” (James 1:17).
In the 1960s a Yale researcher performed a famous experiment on obedience. Stanley Milgram had participants turn a knob that they believed would electrocute someone in another room. Although the people in the next room were merely actors, the participants believed that they were actually shocking the people who had given a wrong answer on a verbal test.
Recently, another researcher looked back at this experiment and concluded that people change who they are based on their circumstances. The kind and harmless can become dangerous when they are placed in a position where they are pressured to do something wrong by a person in authority. This was the case in Milgram’s experiment.
James, a half-brother of Jesus, understood the instability of human nature firsthand. He had experienced a positive change when he went from being one of the doubting brothers of Jesus (John 7:5) to one of
the pillars of the church (Galatians 2:9). Yet he had some growing to do. During the Jerusalem Council, he sided with Paul and Peter in declaring that Gentile converts should not have to be circumcised (Acts 15:19). However, when Paul later returned to Jerusalem, James, along with the elders, “encouraged him to tone down the gospel he was preaching out of fear of persecution” (Acts 21:21, 25).
The author of the epistle of James, whom many scholars believe to be the half-brother of Jesus, understood this danger. Among his admonitions he spoke about the instability of doubting during prayer (James 1:6), seeing weaknesses and forgetting to correct them (verse 24), and using the same tongue to bless and curse (3:8, 9). Thankfully, he also pointed to the joy of stable perseverance because of the Lord’s compassionate mercy (5:11).
Almighty God, please make me as consistently compassionate as You are.
For Further Study: Jam. 5:7–11; 1:5–7; 3:17; Deut. 32:36; 2 Kgs. 13:23