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.
First off, I have to say, I love BibleGateway.com. It is really nice being able to find a verse and then read it in several different versions of the Bible. It really is an eye opener to see how information changes. The Contemporary English version says, “He wanted us to be his own special people, and so he sent the true message to give us new birth.” and refers to God as “always the same and never makes dark shadows by changing.”
The Message, while I realize it is quite popular with the youth in our church, leaves me with a 60’s hippie version of God:
16-18So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.
I’m sorry, I just can’t see James telling us not to “get thrown off course” and that God isn’t two-faced or fickle. It’s just a little too new-age for me–oh dear, I’m showing my decade.
I found this Bible verse through a web site that literally shows random Bible verses and I find it ironic that it is the first verse I received. As you well know, I have considerable concern regarding my gifts and using them to the best of my ability. I love the imagery of gifts that are “rivers of light, cascading down from the Father of Light” that the Message uses. And I love the NIV version that says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above.” It feels so intentional and special. I usually hate shopping but every once in a while, I’ll be out, and find something that is SO perfect for someone that I love that I just can’t wait to buy it. As I hold the item I can just imagine their face when I give it too them and how I hope that their heart will take a little leap every time they see it or use it. I even feel that way about some things in my house. While I appreciate all the things that people have given me, there are a few things that I just see and I smile. I think, “wow, that person really knew me when she/he was picking it out.” And seeing the item makes me think of the person and how much they care about me.
That’s how I feel when I read this passage. I think that God what up there and thought, “Wow, this is the perfect gift for Rebecca. It’s the right size and won’t make her look to hippy. The color is perfect for her and I know it is so perfect for her that it won’t ever go out of style. I can’t wait to give it to her.”
And then I sit there–here–at my keyboard–with this beautifully wrapped present. I know that God gave it to me, but I’m afraid to open the wrapping paper and mess up the ribbon. I think, “it’s so perfect, that I don’t want to mess it up and so I’ll just leave it here where I can look at it.”
But that isn’t doing anything for either of us. It’s like thank you cards you never wrote. Every time you see the present you think, “Yikes! I don’t think I thanked him for that. And now too much time has passed and it’s just going to be awkward.” and instead of being thrilled and enjoying something perfect, you feel guilty for not using the present that someone spent time and money and energy to get for you.
I’m certainly glad I’m not you. Wow. That’s a tough position to be in. Only I am in that position. We all are. We all have gifts that we aren’t using. Some of us aren’t convinced the gift is really for them. They have the box sitting by the door, waiting to take it back to the post office, marked “undeliverable.” Some of us opened the box but think that it ISN’T the right size, color, style or pattern but we haven’t even tried it on to be sure.
But, as James says, “EVERY good gift and EVERY perfect gift is from above…rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light.” What are you waiting for? Open your gift.