Jas 1:4 And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. [ESV, emphasis added]
Telios is the Greek word used here. This term translated “mature” in NIV is translated “perfect” in the KJV and ESV. It literally means to be brought to an end, finished, wanting nothing, perfect, consummate human integrity and virtue, or to be mature as a full grown adult. Given the context and the definition, “mature” is at least a plausible rendering. The word “perfect” is also a very acceptable word and is likewise suitable in context. To many, “perfect” tends to have a different connotation. Perfection is something unattainable outside of God. Thus, it stands to reason we need God in order to even approach perfection. Maturity implies seniority. Perfection implies being utterly and completely remade—new, whole, and complete. Scripturally speaking, we are called to first be regenerated then with time we are to grow mature in our faith.
Holokleros is translated “complete” in except KJV which uses the word “entire.” Either word seems reasonable in the English. Combined with telios, holokleros adds emphasis to the concept of fullness of being.
Finally, the phrase “lacking in nothing,” or “not lacking anything,” or “wanting nothing” all mean you don’t need anything else in order to be complete, whole, mature, or to have fullness of being.
In context with the balance of the passage, James is talking about how God uses the challenges we face to show us how to persevere. Perseverance refines us, leaving us whole and complete. When we are made whole through life experiences walking with God, through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, through study of God’s Word, and through the shedding of what is worldly within us, we are purified, perfected and made whole, we lack nothing and have nothing extra which is unnecessary.
It is this last concept I want to dwell on a moment longer. We talked earlier about the refinement process, how God uses trials and tests to refine us as gold or silver. These elements are found in the earth as ore. Most of the time the ore, while it contains what is pure, also contains a lot of other rocks which must be burned away in order to obtain a sample which is only made of the pure elemental substance. Being whole, entire, complete, mature, and perfect all imply that the debris (all the impurities) has been removed. Please do not let this aspect be lost on you when considering what James is telling us.
The perfecting work of God not only adds all that which is good, but removes all which isn’t good.
This post is an excerpt (Question 4.10) from my book Ask James one.