KJV Below (Link to NIV)
16 Do not err, my beloved brethren.
17 Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.
18 Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
James wants us to be sure that everything good comes from God. The term “Father of lights” is likely another reference to God being the source of all good things. Yet, it also allows him to have a play on words between light and shadow. Shadows shift as the light comes into them (i.e. this world is fading away and yielding to the light of God). Unlike the shifting of shadows, though, God is constant (that is faithful) to us and for us and in himself.
The last verse, in particular, strikes me. Being “begotten” or born of the “word of truth” seems to be less a reference to initial creation, and more an act to his redemptive work. He gave from himself to give us a second birth. And in so doing we became the “firstfruit” of this seed of creation. Wow. This world, and everything in the universe, is just the seed that God planted, and he is waiting for the harvest (the imagery runs throughout scripture), and he wanted to make us the firstfruits (that is the best part) of that. On the one hand it means we are not yet complete, we have yet to be harvested. On the other it means God wants us to be at the forefront of his redemptive work. Finally it means that this universe as it is now, it’s not even the beginning. Real life comes from him and hasn’t even really started yet.
What does it mean to you to think of the faithfulness of God? What do you think it means to be the “firstfruits” of the created world?