Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏩ ⏹️
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.
— James 1:2-4
More than any other epistle of the New Testament the book of James seems closest in spirit to the Jesus we meet in the gospels, especially in Matthew and Luke. Offered to messianic jews1 as a book of wisdom, a way to live a Christian life, it has something of a Taoist flavour to it, which also makes it similar to the non-canonical gospel of Thomas. This opening counsel, to embrace temptation is paradoxical in nature, at first appearing contrary to Jesus' prayer, lead us not into temptation but then zooming out to show us the bigger picture: strength in faith through adversity, and the development of patience.
When life is too easy we just cruise along, and as a wise friend once pointed out to me, if you're freewheeling you're probably going downhill. It is the effort to push against gravity that builds physical strength; it is the effort to overcome adversity that builds mental strength; it is the effort to overcome temptation that builds spiritual strength. The book of James speaks to life's balance, which is perhaps the basis for any kind of spiritual life. Balance is certainly something I have struggled with most of my life, and still struggle with today. I am inclined towards too much in one direction, and nothing in the other. I understand balance in theory, and find it elegant and beautiful. I have yet to apply it in any long term way, frequently being drawn away, tempted. The consolation is that my faith is alway being tested, so therefore always on my horizon, like the winter sun in far-northern lands. I patiently await the morning.
1 ...to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting. James 1:1