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Simplicity and Duplicity in Prayer, Part 2

May 25, 2007

Now to encourage you in this praying, we see something wonderful about God in verse 5.  This is one of James’ pregnant phrases of theology proper that I was talking about last week.   God is a giving God.  He is a gracious God.   And this verse describes his giving in two ways.   First he gives generously, but the word used here for generous is a word rich beyond simple translation.   It is the same word that some of you may remember we considered in detail last spring in 2Corinthians.  It is the word that is translated generosity in 2Cor 8 and 9, but also sincerity or simplicity in 2Cor 1 and 11.  Remember Paul was concerned that the Corinthians would be led astray from the simplicity of their devotion to Christ.  This idea of simplicity, single-mindedness, integrity, sincerity, this is the basic meaning of the word, and it only comes to mean generosity when applied to the subject of giving.  One who gives simply, without duplicitous motive, is one who will give without hesitation, without misgivings, and thus he will be generous.   Now God’s giving is like this.  God is singularly committed to doing good to you.  He has no reservations about it, he is wholeheartedly devoted to blessing you, and therefore he gives generously to you when you ask for good things from him. 

I am reminded by this consideration of God’s wholehearted single-minded commitment to good of one of my favorite promises of God in Scripture.  Jeremiah 32:39-41 “I will give them singleness of heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40 I will make an everlasting covenant with them: I will never stop doing good to them, and I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will never turn away from me. 41 I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly plant them in this land with all my heart and soul.”

And we will see in the end this morning that James chose to describe God’s wholehearted commitment to loving us with this word simplicity, because he means to contrast the simplicity of God’s good will toward us with our double-mindedness, the duplicity of our will towards Him. 

But for now let’s keep our eyes fixed on God’s character, because there is a second way that verse 5 describes God’s giving.  He gives simply and generously, but he also gives without reproach, or without finding fault, the NIV says.  Now this is an interesting word study, because when you do it you find that there are some places in Scripture where God reproaches people.  For example, Jesus in Matthew 11 denounces (same word) the cities where he did his miracles because they did not repent.  So if you do not repent and believe in Him, God will reproach you, but if you do turn to him in humility and ask him in faith for wisdom, He’s not going to bring up your sins and say “Why would I give to the likes of you?”  No, he gives generously to all who ask him.  It’s only those who don’t ask who receive nothing but reproach, although James will qualify that statement in verse 6 saying we must ask in faith, but we’ll come to that in a moment. 

For now let’s just exult in this attribute of God.  He’s not a faultfinder!  He gives generously without finding fault. 

And let us seek to imitate this attribute of God.  Sadly, with miraculous exceptions, human giving is not like divine giving.  People often have great hesitations and reservations that stifle their generosity because they can’t get past their compulsive faultfinding.  Or when people do give, they will give with strings attached.  It’s as though they believe their giving entitles them to indulge in faultfinding.  They haven’t really given; they’ve purchased the right to criticize.  

Now I’m going to quote a verse from the book of Ecclesiasticus.  Not the book of Ecclesiastes, but the book of Ecclesiasticus.  This isn’t a book of the Bible.  This isn’t Scripture.  This is Jewish intertestamental wisdom literature from about 200 BC, but it is corresponds so appropriately to James 1:5 that it is hard to believe James wasn’t familiar with it and alluding to it here. 

Ecclesiasticus 20:14-15 The gift of the fool shall do thee no good: for his eyes are sevenfold. He will give a few things, and upbraid much: and the opening of his mouth is the kindling of a fire.

He gives a few things, and upbraids much.  Upbraids is the same Greek word used in James 1:5 for reproach or faultfinding. 

The opening of his mouth kindles a fire, even as James will warn us in chapter 3 that the cursing tongue is a fire. 

The eyes of the foolish giver are sevenfold.  That’s the opposite of the simplicity of James 1:5.   When foolish people give, their motives are all a jumble.  They have an agenda, they are buying influence.  But when God gives he gives simply.  His will is all good.  And that kind of grace is an influence for good all by itself. 

Let us adore and imitate this wonderful attribute of God.   He gives generously/simply without finding fault. 

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