James 1:17 - The Verses Project

Bible James 1:17

Posted August 04, 2014

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.

This well known verse comes to us in the context of James speaking to a people going through trials & difficulties (James 1:2-18). What is a mature Christian’s response to the trials of life? What truths do we recall in such times? While the author has already pointed out some responses in prior verses (count it all joy, ask God in faith for wisdom, understand the nature of temptation, etc.), here in verse 18, James finds it appropriate to bring to mind a few things about God’s character:

Good & Perfect Giver

In verse 5, we learn that God gives generously to those who lack wisdom and ask for it. In verse 12, the steadfast are promised the crown of life; to receive such crown, God must give it. In verse 13-15, we learn that God does not give us temptation. Finally, in verse 17 we learn that every good & perfect gift we receive is given from God Himself; He is the source. Even in difficulty, we must learn to trust that God is not giving us evil but rather is a good Giver and Father (Romans 8:28). He’s not divided, like the double-minded unstable man of verses 6-8, but rather always good.

Creating & Unchanging Father

The word “lights” found in the term “Father of lights” points us to the celestial lights (sun, moon, & stars). They remind us that the God who powerfully created and sustains the universe is our Father. He’s not the Father of darkness and shadows, but rather of light. His character is not fickle; He is not a capricious God whose mood marks His interaction with us. He is always good, and his gifts are good. He is variation-less, shadow-less, and change-less. This attribute of God is known as His immutability. In his book “Knowledge of the Holy”, AW Tozer commented:

“For a moral being to change it would be necessary that the change be in one of three directions. He must go from better to worse or from worse to better; or, granted that the moral quality remain stable, he must change within himself, as from miniature to mature or from one order of being to another. It should be clear that God can move in none of these directions. His perfections forever rule out any such possibility.

God cannot change for the better. Since He is perfectly holy, He has never been less holy than He is now and can never be holier than He is and has always been. Neither can God change for the worse. Any deterioration within the unspeakably holy nature of God is impossible. Indeed I believe it impossible even to think of such a thing, for the moment we attempt to do so, the object about which we are thinking is no longer God but something else and someone less than He. The one of whom we are thinking may be a great and awesome creature, but because he is a creature he cannot be the self-existent Creator.”

In times of turbulence and in times of stillness, may we cling to these foundational truths about the God we serve and may they fill our hearts with faith, hope, and love!


Song & artwork by Matt Shelton.