by Mike Ratliff
Πᾶσαν χαρὰν ἡγήσασθε, ἀδελφοί μου, ὅταν πειρασμοῖς περιπέσητε ποικίλοις, γινώσκοντες ὅτι τὸ δοκίμιον ὑμῶν τῆς πίστεως κατεργάζεται ὑπομονήν. ἡ δὲ ὑπομονὴ ἔργον τέλειον ἐχέτω, ἵνα ἦτε τέλειοι καὶ ὁλόκληροι ἐν μηδενὶ λειπόμενοι. (James 1:2-4 NA27)
Consider it all joy my brothers whenever you fall into various trials knowing that the testing of your faith works endurance; let endurance work to fulfillment, that you be mature and complete lacking in nothing. (a personal translation of James 1:2-4 from the NA27 Greek text)
The company for whom I work has sent me to training through Friday so, as today, my response to emails and comments will be spotty. The commute from where I live to where the training facility is not that much further than where I work, but to get there I must traverse some of the busiest freeways in our metro area. My commute to work usually takes between 15 to 20 minutes since I go in around 7am, but now I am driving in the rush hour both directions. I spent about two hours driving in very heavy traffic today. Well, actually, a lot of that was just sitting in my car waiting for my turn to move. I had some time to meditate on the passage I placed at the top of this post.
The word joy in my translation is the Greek noun χαρὰν, which is the Accusative, Singular of χαρά or chara, “is an antonym of grief and sorrow. It denotes ‘joy, happiness, and gladness.’” In other words, James, inspired by the Holy Spirit, is telling Christians to not grieve or be sorrowful, but to be glad and full of joy when they “fall into various trials.” The words “you fall” translates the verb περιπέσητε, which is the Aorist tense, Subjunctive mood, and Active voice of περιπίπτω or peripiptō, which is a compound of περί or peri, “properly through (all over), that is, around” and πίπτω or piptō, “fail, fall (down), light on” with the result coming to mean, “to fall into something that is all around, that is, light among or upon, be surrounded with: – fall among (into).” Doesn’t that “figuratively” describe how we so often have found ourselves in the midst of something that seems “overwhelming?” The word trials translates the noun πειρασμοῖς, which is the Dative, Plural of πειρασμός or peirasmos, “refers either to a testing or a temptation to do something wrong.”
What do we have so far? James is telling us who are His brothers and sisters in Christ, to be joyful and glad when we find ourselves to have fallen into circumstances that are causing a testing or temptation. This would make little sense if we stopped there. He then tell us much more. He begins v3 with the participle γινώσκοντες, which I translated as “knowing.” It is the Present, Participle, Active voice of γινώσκω or ginōskō, “to know absolutely.” What truth do Christians know absolutely concerning the tests and trials in which they find themselves? The word “testing” in v3 translates δοκίμιον or dokimion. “that by means of which anything is tried, proof, criterion, test; trial, the act of trying or putting to proof.” And, what is it that is being tested or proved? The word “faith” in v3 translates the noun πίστεως, which is the Genitive, Singular of πίστις or pistis, “assurance, belief, believe, faith, fidelity.”
This actually defines the meaning of a trial for the Christian. I look with suspicion upon the authenticity of a professing Christian whose faith is never tested. Just as Jesus was “tested” in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-13), we who are in Christ are tested. The word δοκίμιον, which is translated as “testing” denotes a positive test intended to make one’s faith “genuine” (cf. 1 Peter 1:7). What is the result? I translated ὑπομονὴ as “endurance,” however; “steadfastness” would have been a good translation there as well, which is a life of faithful endurance amid troubles and afflictions. What does a life of endurance or steadfastness lead do? It leads to completion or perfection. We grow in holiness, but are not yet perfected in it. Such perfection will be realized only when Jesus returns, which I pray will be soon.
Even so, come soon Lord Jesus!
Soli Deo Gloria!