A few years ago, after memorizing the book of James, I decided to go back over each verse to extract a personal lesson from it. As in every book of the Bible, there are some verses that have an obvious and immediate application, whereas others take more time to think and pray. One of my favorite things about the Bible is that it’s inexhaustible — as soon as you find one truth, there’s countless more to discover.
For my morning devotional time, I would take one verse to really focus on. Most of James 1 came easy to me; but I got stuck on verse 17.
“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.”
Nice verse. All good gifts and perfect gifts come from God. God doesn’t change.
I couldn’t really see anything else, though. Not that it wasn’t enough; but it felt like I was missing something. And so I decided that I wasn’t going to end my devotional time until I could figure it out.
The details of that extra hour sitting there are now lost to an imperfect memory. But I do remember laughing when it finally hit me: every gift.
Notice what the Bible does not say: every thing, every reward, every response. No. Every gift. And what is a gift? Something unearned, unmerited, and given freely.
I was reminded of this verse yesterday morning when I was reading John 3:27, “John answered and said, “A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.” This was the beginning of John’s response when his own disciples tried to excite his jealousies about more and more people going to Jesus instead of John.
Both James and John reveal the secret to a life without jealousy and filled with contentment: seeing all that we have as gifts from heaven. Why should John be jealous of Jesus, when John was doing all in his power to point people in that very direction? Why should I be concerned with not getting the praise I want for an accomplishment when the goal was to bring glory to God? Why should I be jealous of what someone else has when I’m focused on the gifts that God has generously given me?
Remembering that all good and perfect things are gifts shields my heart from entitlement, taking for granted, and jealousy. And with John, when someone else tries to excite such things in my heart, I want to respond with the reality that all I have is a gift from heaven.