2 We all stumble in many ways. If anyone is never at fault in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to keep his whole body in check.
This is kind of a good news/bad news verse. The bad news is that we sin. The good news is that we aren’t alone in this. James isn’t identifying what a sinless person looks like. Instead he is implying that there is no perfect person, there is no person who is always able to keep themselves in check.
There is a strange paradox with sin. The Bible makes it clear that we are all sinners. We are born sinful. We can’t help but to sin. But here’s the thing – every sin is a choice. Every time we sin, we are given an option, sin or don’t sin. Sometimes we choose properly, sometimes we mess up big time. We could, in theory, choose not to sin. There is never a time when we come to a fork in the road and the options are go right and sin or go left and sin. There is always the option not to sin.
Even with the Holy Spirit we still struggle with the issue of sin. James isn’t writing to non-Christians who need to repent, he’s informing Christians that they stumble in many ways. When Paul looks back on his life he doesn’t decide that he was the chief of sinners, he says that he is the chief of sinners.
So, the Christian life is a struggle, even with the help of the Holy Spirit. If you’re an optimist you can take heart in knowing that you’re not alone and that your fellow Christians struggle with sin. If you’re a pessimist, you throw up your hands and say that you may as well not even struggle with sin if you’re not going to win.
Of course that’s not the reason for James’ writing. He wants to encourage Christians and he goes on to discuss one of the most prevalent sins. Even though we all sin, if we are aware of some of the slippery slopes that exist, then we can avoid them as best as we can. We will still miss the mark every so often but hopefully we can continue to improve and learn from our past mistakes.