Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. 18 Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.James 1:16-18
When I run across the phrase, “Do not be deceived,” in Scripture my antennae go up. God is warning us about some potential deception. The question we need to answer then is, “What is the deception God is warning against?”
The book of James isn’t generally looked at as a book of theology like some of Paul’s writings. However, in this first chapter of James, we are told of three fundamental characteristics of God: He is a giving God who gives wisdom, he does not tempt men to sin, and now we learn that he does not change. Theologians refer to God’s unchangeability as his immutability. So, it turns out that James is quite a theologian after all.
Not only is God the giving God in reference to wisdom, but in this passage, James says that every good and perfect gift comes from God. Again, he is a giving God.
God is referred to as the father of lights. What’s that? It refers to him as the creator of the heavens and the heavenly bodies. What he created is used to contrast to his character. The heavenly lights (stars, moon, sun, etc.) change constantly due to movement and due to shadows. The moon is the most outstanding of these examples. The moon never appears exactly the same from one night to the next. That is because of the lunar cycles with the moon circling the earth and it rotating on its axis. The moon is always either on its way toward a full moon or away from a full moon. God’s character is contrasted to the moon. He never varies. Using the moon analogy, God is always a full moon. He doesn’t change because of shadows and rotation of the solar system. Which, by the way, he made.
This deception about which we are being warned is somehow tied to this idea of the unchangeableness of God. The deception wants us to think God does somehow change.
Let’s think back to the earlier parts of this chapter in James. He has written to us about how we are to count it all joy when we enter trials of various sorts. God uses these stressors to cause us to grow in Christ and become mature.
Apparently some were accusing God of tempting us to sin through these stressors of persecution and other trials. But James makes it clear that our sin is our problem, not God’s. So, is this the deception that James warns about? That God is the big trickster in the sky, on the one hand, redeeming us and then pressuring us into sin?
No, that idea is false. God does not change and it is he who “brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.”
Don’t let the difficulties of this life deceive you into distrusting God. He is working through all the tough stuff we go through.
Does God miraculously deliver us from the “tough stuff?” Sometimes, yes. And those too are glorious times of growth in Christ when we experience his divine power bringing the intrusion of the future kingdom into this world. I love to see those kinds of power demonstration of the kingdom in my mundane world. And I encourage people to look to God for his miraculous intervention. But he doesn’t always choose to work in us in that manner.
Many times we are allowed to discover the miraculous power of God as he holds us together through the tough times of life. The fact that we can come out on the other side of trials with greater faith and greater maturity in Christ is no less miraculous than the miracle deliverance from a disease or other trial. In either case, it is the working of his power that conforms us to the image of Christ.
So, do not be deceived. God is like a full moon all the time. No turning. No shadows. He always is.
It was by the will of this Unchangeable One that he brought us forth by the word of truth, that is, the gospel. He will see us through any of the various trials that we are in or will come into in the future.