The Greatest Giver

Bible Book: James  1 : 17-18
Subject: Giving; Stewardship; Christmas; Gift, God's
Series: James - Wagers
[Editor's Note: This is not a Christmas sermon, per se, but it can be adapted for that purpose very easily. With all the emphasis on giving gifts during the Christmas season, this message can serve as a reminder of the greatest giver! Also, the wonder of light at Christmastime is fitting for the One who is the Father of Lights in whom there is no shadow of turning.]

The story is told of a well-known preacher who made an appeal to his congregation for money to build a new building. He invited everyone to bring their gifts and lay them on the altar. Immediately, the altar was filled with people and their offerings. A little crippled girl came slowly to the front, pulling a little ring from her finger, laying it on the altar. Adjusting her crutches, she turned around, and began to walk back to her seat.

After the service, an usher sent for her, and brought her back to the pastor's study. The pastor said, "Dear girl, I saw the thing you did tonight. It was a beautiful gesture; however, the response of the people was so great, that we received enough money to build our new building. Therefore, we don't need your ring, and we want to give it back to you." The little girl, with a sternness in her eyes, replied, "I didn't give that ring to you, I gave it to God!!"

We like to think of ourselves as being generous givers. However, statistics tell us that:

The average household contributions to churches, last year was: $1,017.

Thirty-one percent of Christians didn't give at all, last year.

With an average income of $20-50,00, only 1.3 percent of income was given [Editor’s Note – This was several years ago].

In these two verses, James turns our attention to our God, the great giver. In spite of all of his other notable and worthy credentials, James beautifully depicts God as being the "GREATEST OF ALL GIVERS", and he does that by showing us the:


James seeks, in this verse, to outline the gracious character of the giver. In the previous section, vv. 13-16, we focused upon the evil of temptation. Now, we see, the goodness of God. James, having pointed out error, now, underlines truth! He warned us, in verse 16, to not "be deceived" into thinking that God is the cause of temptation. It seems as if, now, he warns us to not "be deceived" into not recognizing the Gracious Character of the Giver. He illustrates his point by showing the gifts that God gives, and we see the:


What a large word to describe the point he is going to make.

He introduces this section to us by addressing a vast scope.

That which he is going to explain to us, about the gifts which come from heaven, is introduced by the largeness, and vastness of the word "every". We move from the scope to the:

B. STATUS OF THESE GIFTS "..good..perfect gift.."

He, in introducing the section, included a vast scope.

Now, James narrows down the field to not just "every gift," but, "Every good and perfect gift.."


1:4----"mature, complete"

1:17—"ultimate, something which cannot be bettered"

Thus, James is wonderfully describing the gifts from heaven.

They, in contrast to earthly gifts, are Sincere gifts, Sensible gifts, Sufficient gifts, and Suitable gifts.

They are free from any earthly defect---THEY ARE PERFECT!!

Man's handiwork may look good on the surface; however, the closer you examine it, the more it will reveal it's flaws and failures. The closer you examine anything made by man, the more imperfect you see it to be.

Take a needle, for example, one made by the most modern manufacturing process. To the naked eye, it is perfection, it's smooth surface tapering to an exquisite point. Put it under a microscope, and you will immediately discover that it's surface is scarred, and it's point no better than a jagged stump.

On the other hand, take a common flower. As you behold it with the naked eye, you immediately recognize it's perfection. However, put it under a microscope and the perfection you saw in passing is as nothing compared with the perfection you now see.

The closer you examine God's handiwork, the more you see it to be perfect.

His Work(c.f. Deut. 32:4), His Way(c.f. Psalm 18:30), His Will(c.f. Romans 12:2), and His Word(c.f. Psalm 19:7) are perfect, because He Is Perfect! The wonderful words of John Wesley turn our hearts into the right direction:

"Leave to his sovereign sway,

To Chose and to Command;

So shalt thou wondering own his way,

How wise, how strong, his hand,

Far above thy thought

His counsel shall appear,

When fully he the work hath wrought

That caused thy needless fear!"

The gifts from heaven not only include a vast scope, but a wonderful status. They are perfect in every way! James now moves to show us the:


In the previous section, he pointed out that God was not the source of anything evil. Now, he points out, in contrast, that HE IS the source of everything good. Blanchard: "Nothing good comes except from God, and nothing except good comes from God!"

COMETH DOWN—continuous present participle: denotes a continual action

James explains Him as the source of these gifts by making mention of:

1. HIS NAME "…the Father of lights…"

By this description of his name, James illustrates a wonderful truth.

If we were to look out over a city, at night, we would see countless thousands of lights, coming from homes, factories, street lamps, advertising signs, etc. Yet, all of them would have one thing in common: they have one main power source.

However, we belong to the REAL SOURCE of light. He is the creator, and the "Father of lights."

c.f. Psalm 8:3—"..the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained."

Daniel 2:22—"…light dwelleth with him."

Amos 5:8---"Seek him that maketh the seven stars and Orion…The Lord is his name."

1 John 1:5----"…God is light, and in him is no darkness at all."

He is the source of Intellectual Light, of Theological Light(c.f. Psalm 119:105), and of Spiritual Light(c.f. I Peter 2:9).

HE IS THE FATHER OF LIGHTS! A truth revealed from Genesis to Revelation. But, we not only see his name, but:

2. HIS NATURE " variableness..shadow of turning."

VARIABLENESS(lit.): "change, or alteration"

James points out that He is a God who never changes(c.f. Mal. 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). SHADOW OF TURNING(lit.): "shifting shadows"

lit. rendering: "in whom there is no variation, or change like shifting shadows." PICTURE: Of one standing under a street light where no shadow is cast

If you stand directly under the light, there is no shadow. Take one step away, and you will see the shadow in front of you. Take a few more steps, and the shadow grows. If you go far enough, you will be in total darkness. Thus, James points out that it's when we move that we get out of the light. He doesn't move, He doesn't change! The shadow grows because of our movement. It is not because god, the light, has moved.

Unlike the stars, sun, and moon, which change—HE NEVER CHANGES!!! A.W. Pink: "God cannot change for the better, for he is already perfect; and being perfect, he cannot change for the worse!"

T.O. Chisholm: "Great is thy faithfulness, O God my Father,

There is no shadow of turning with thee,

Thou changest not, thy compassions they fail not

As thou hast been, thou forever will be."

The scope, the status, and the source of these gifts all reveal the Gracious Character of the Giver!


In this verse, James informs of the greatest ever giver from the Greatest of all Givers: the new birth. Thus, we see, the:


1. These words are sufficient to tell us that the new birth is infinite.

2. It cannot be contained in terms of earth, time, and space.

3. It belongs to heaven, eternity, and infinity.

4. James informs us that we were born again "of his own will."

c.f. John 15:16—" have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and

ordained you…"

c.f. Eph. 1:11—"..who worth all things after the counsel of his own will"

Phil. 2:13---" is God that worth in us both to will and to do of his

good pleasure."

5. Thus, the new birth is something wholly rooted by, and in the Eternal Counsel of God---IT IS INFINITE!!

c.f. Jeremiah 1:5—"Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee…"

This refers to the Eternal Foreknowledge of God! Lest we get into a deep theological discussion of predestination, and election, let us just rest in that the new birth is infinite.

c.f. Eph. 1:4---"According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world…"


James is clear to point out the tool, or the instrument used to bring about this new birth.

The "word" being referred to, is undoubtedly "the gospel."

c.f. Eph. 1:13—"…in whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation."

1 Peter 1:23—"Being born again, not of corruptible seed, but of incorruptible, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth forever."

The word is the mighty weapon that the Holy Spirit uses to bring light and life to men.

The word is Completely True, Constantly True, Convincingly True, and Convertingly True!

Thus, it is the "word of truth", the "gospel of Christ" which brings a man to repentance.

c.f. Romans 10:17—"…faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God."


James draws from the Old Testament,(c.f. Leviticus 23:10), where the Israelites were required to bring the firstborn of cattle, and the early fruit of the ground, which belonged to God(c.f. exodus 22:29;23:16; 34:26). These firstfruits were very special, a crop set apart for God.

The use of this word "firstfruits" is to show that as recipients of the new birth, as Christians, we, like the early fruit of the ground, belong exclusively to God.

Thus, he's addressing the doctrine of Sanctification. In that, we have been set apart to God, from the rest of humanity.

c.f. Titus 2:14—"…purify us unto himself a peculiar people.."

1 Peter 2:9---"Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people…"

We are people with a great dignity, and a great duty.

We have been set apart to live In Him, By Him, Through Him, and To Him! Thus, the Infinity, Instrument, and the Intention of the New Birth all reveal the Glorious Conversion from the Giver!


American Family Publishers sent out it's computer generated notices to those entered in their sweepstakes. One such entry was addressed to God, "the God of Bushnell", at the Bushnell Church of God in central Florida. The notice read: "God, we're searching for you. You've been positively identified as our $11 million mystery millionaire." The fine print showed that God was merely a finalist, but the letter encouraged him to try his luck anyhow.

James informs us that he has no need of $11 million for he owns it all. He is also generous in his giving of it, because of the GRACIOUS CHARACTER OF THE GIVER, and the GLORIOUS CONVERSION FROM THE GIVER. Without a doubt, it is He who is the GREATEST OF ALL GIVERS!

"Praise God from who all blessing flow,

Praise Him all creatures here below,

Praise Him above, ye heavenly hosts,

Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. AMEN!!"