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The crown of life

“Happy is the one who endures testing, for when he has proven to be genuine, he will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him.” James 1:12

The letter of James barely made it into the bible. At least it was the last book to be admitted into the canon of scripture although being written earlier than most others. Martin Luther did not really like it because it sounded a little short on grace compared to Romans. It must have been verses like this which make it sound like God’s favor is earned by testing or genuine endurance. Prove yourself, then collect your crown.

God does seems like a reward sticker chart parent at times. Obey and reap rewards. Pass your test, turn in your behavioral log and cash in. Ignore your responsibilities, and you’ll be sorry. Or leave empty handed. Or maybe it’s just the way of wisdom, the way life works with cause and effect. Or maybe God is the one chasing me with the crown and if I’ll stop, sit and believe, he’ll put it on my head.

What is the crown of life? I am not sure so I checked to see if it’s mentioned elsewhere in scripture. It does appear one other time, in Revelation 2:10.

Do not be afraid of the things you are about to suffer. The devil is about to have some of you thrown into prison so you may be tested, and you will experience suffering for ten days. Remain faithful even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown that is life itself. [NET]

The context sounds similar here although the crown is life itself, presumably a future life after mentioning death.

Either way, James returns to his opening statement only two paragraphs back which urged believers to hold up and endure under trial and tests. Perseverance under difficult circumstances must have had its own narrative in his story which we will not learn by reading his letter.

Is every trial a test? I think not. It would be convenient to know when and how and if you are being tested. James concerns himself with the testing of faith. From this perspective, every trial turns into test because it pushes us to sort through what we believe about ourselves, God and life in the face of resistance. Do people receive equal testing opportunity? I think not. Some individuals are spared great troubles while difficulties compound for others.Either way, our difficulties will reveal what we’re made of. Victim or victor. Genuine or false.  Enduring hardship promises happiness, perhaps not during the process but later when the promise is realized. The crown. True life. A promise of love.

I don’t so much care about receiving a crown if I am picturing this literally. But being found genuine and resilient? I’d love to be known for that.

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