Friday, June 14, 2019

The giving God

The epistle [of James] begins with the vision of how a believer’s life should progress: The audience members should rejoice as they face trials because of what they know, which is that God is at work in perfecting them through these times. In order to gain this perspective, however, the believer is cautioned to turn in faith to God, because God will give what is needed for one to have that correct perspective. Here James’s utter trust in God’s good and generous nature makes its first appearance: “ask of the giving God [tou didontos theou]” who gives “to all generously and without finding fault, and it will be given to him/her” (Jas 1:5). James places the present participle between the article and noun rather than after the pair, placing the emphasis on the participle (“giving”) as God’s nature, not merely an action that God does. It becomes, as it were, almost a title describing God’s character: “the giving God” rather than simply “the God who gives,” although translationally the latter works better. It is God’s character to give—and to give to all (pasin)—as James counters any preconceived notion that God gives only to those who have some special reason for receiving (Vlachos 2013, 25). To drive this point home, James then uses both a positive and negative description, “singly” or “generously” (aplōs) and “without finding fault” (mē oneidizontos); the repetition provides rhetorical emphasis. God’s inherent nature as generous should not be questioned: he is unstinting in his very nature.—"Salvation in James: Saved by Gift to Become Merciful," by Mariam Kamell Kovalishyn in Reading the Epistle of James: A Resource for Students, ed. Eric F. Mason and Darian R. Lockett, forthcoming

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