Perseverance, Wisdom, and Spiritual Growth (James 1:1–3)

Bible Commentary / Produced by TOW Project

James begins by emphasizing the deep connection between daily life and spiritual growth. Specifically, God uses the difficulties and chal­lenges of daily life and work to increase our faith. “My brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of any kind, consider it nothing but joy, because you know that the testing of your faith produces endurance, and let endurance have its full effect, so that you may be mature and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4). “Any kind” of trial can be an impetus for growth—including troubles at work—but James is particularly interested in challenges so intense that they result in “the testing of [our] faith.”

What kinds of challenges do we face at work that might test our faith in—or faithfulness to—Christ? One kind might be religious hostility. Depending on our situation, faith in Christ could expose us to anything from minor prejudice to limited job opportunities to dismissal or even bodily harm or death in the workplace. Even if others don’t put pressure on us, we may tempt ourselves to abandon our faith if we think that being identified as a Christian is holding back our careers.

Another kind of trial could be ethical. We can be tempted to abandon faith—or faithfulness—by committing theft, fraud, dishonesty, unfair dealings, or taking advantage of others in order to enrich ourselves or advance our careers. Another kind of trial arises from failure at work. Some failures can be so traumatic that they shake our faith. For example, getting laid off (made redundant) or dismissed from a job may be so devastating that we question everything we previously relied on, includ­ing faith in Christ. Or we may believe that God called us to our work, promised us greatness, or owes us success because we have been faithful to him. Failure at work then seems to mean that God cannot be trusted or does not even exist. Or we may be so gripped by fear that we doubt God will continue to provide for our needs. All of these work-related challenges can test our faith.

What should we do if our faith is tested at work? Endure (James 1:3–4). James tells us that if we can find a way not to give into the temp­tation to abandon the faith, to act unethically, or to despair, then we will find God with us the whole time. If we don’t know how to resist these temptations, James invites us to ask for the wisdom we need to do so (James 1:5). As the crisis passes, we find that our maturity has grown. Instead feeling the lack of whatever we were afraid of losing, we feel the joy of finding God’s help.