Exploring the Book of Ya’aqov, Pt. 5
Every good act of giving, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of the lights, with whom is no variation or turning shadows. Having so intended, He brought us forth with a word of truth, for us to be a certain kind of first-fruit of His created things. (יַעֲקֹב Ya’aqov 1:17-18, mjlt)
Far too many of today’s followers of Messiah are plagued by a tendency toward self. In many quarters, what currently passes for a gathering of sincere believers is, in actuality, just a biblically-laced, motivational-speaker-led self-help seminar. Whether the auditorium seats fifty, five hundred, or five thousand, too many of us continue seeking and coming back for these existential encounters because they shroud our own self-oriented motives under a spiritual-ish garment—and we believe we are benefitting and growing from what we are being fed. No one can fault a disciple of Messiah who desperately desires to find spiritual health and wholeness, but—believe it or not—a sense of well-being or self-worth, while important, is not the goal of our faith in Messiah. No, the purpose of your life in Yeshua is far greater than you realize.
When we focus too much on ourselves and our own needs, we naturally become takers and consumers. This not only feeds our spiritual unhealthiness and general ineffectiveness for Yeshua, but short-circuits our ability to become conduits for the outpouring of God’s gifts to the world. Paradoxically, our wholeness is not dependent upon what we take in order to nourish ourselves, but how we selflessly give of ourselves to others. Our orientation, then, should not be one of a taker, but a giver—one who gives abundantly of himself, knowing that he is giving the gift of God.
When we give, then, as disciples of Messiah, “Every good act of giving, and every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of the lights.” While the taker in us wants to give with selfish motives—to feel good about ourselves, to curry favor, to gain influence—we are instead supposed to recognize that if the gift is indeed good and perfect, then it actually doesn’t come from us. As Messiah-followers, we are mere caretakers—we’re just the delivery guy—and it is the Father Himself who is the original sender. And because it is “coming down… from above,” no earthly gift can ever compare. Every dollar, euro, yen, and shekel in the world pales in the splendor of the gift given “from the Father of the lights.”
We know that such giving is good and perfect because “with [the Father there] is no variation or turning shadows.” His light is brilliant and pure. His way is straight and level. He does not promise, then waver; He does not offer, then withhold. If the Giver and the Gift share these unbending, uncompromising qualities, how much more are we beholden to the very same goodness and perfection in our giving. Only in this way can the recipient be certain of the nature of the gift, and receive it in confidence and awe. Only in this way can we be trusted as the intermediaries of such a divine transaction.
This is why, “[h]aving so intended, He brought us forth with a word of truth.” We cannot be authentic representatives of Messiah while we are consuming the spiritually evocative and the Scripturally deficient, all in pursuit of personal betterment or supernatural experience. The “word of truth” says that any inward focus must eventually turn outward.
The reason the Father has brought us forth, then, is not so that we can be happy, or safe, or mended, or fulfilled. No, we have been brought forth “for us to be a certain kind of first-fruit of His created things.” God has done something miraculous for you that He wants to do for others through you. Anything that the Master grants to you is ultimately in support of this singular goal. When He fixes you, it is so that you, in turn, can take part in fixing others.
As those who are “first”—going before all those who are yet to believe—we, the disciples of Messiah, have an unmitigated responsibility to put ourselves last. Our mandate is clear: to selflessly represent God and His interests by freely and selflessly giving of ourselves, and by faithfully delivering His gifts—unadulterated—to the world.
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