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James 1:13-18 - Temptation

James 1:13-18 – When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone, but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the Word of Truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.


James makes the shift from trials (v. 2-12), which we have seen come in all kinds, to temptations in verse 13. James reminds us that God is sovereign in our trials, and God, in His sovereignty, uses trials to test our faith, and He does this for our own good.

Trials, testing, and temptation are all closely related in that every test brings the potential of temptation with it. For example, James showed us that without the proper perspective, when we face financial difficulty, we might be tempted to distrust God’s provision. In fact, any kind of stress can tempt us to put our trust in something or someone else rather than trusting in God.


However, when it comes to the matter of temptation, James tells us God does not operate in the same way as he does with trials. Despite the connections between them, there is an essential difference between the concepts of “trials/testing” and “temptation.” Temptation, at its core, is an enticement to sin and evil. And evil is that which is contrary to God’s law and God’s will. It is that which runs in the opposite direction to what God has declared for His children.

James, in verse 13, states quite categorically that God is not the author of temptation. God may test people, but He never tempts them in the sense of enticing them to sin and evil. God could not and would not ever lure anyone into sin, as He is holy, and that is entirely inconsistent with His character. This is what James is telling us here: God Himself “cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone.”


Who, then, is the source of temptation? James leaves no doubt and states clearly that temptation begins within each of us. He offers a stern rebuke to those who want to find an easy excuse for their sinning. We cannot blame God. We cannot blame our environment. We cannot blame someone else, or our predicament, or whatever it may be. Everyone, says James, “is dragged away and enticed” by their “own evil desire.”


It may seem easy to blame others and make excuses for evil desires and wrong actions. This has been evident since the very beginning of humankind. From as early as Adam and Eve, we see that no one wants to take responsibility for their sin. Adam blamed Eve. “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree...” (Gen 3:12). Eve blamed the serpent. “This serpent deceived me …” (v.13).  In the Garden of Eden, we find that both Adam and Eve try to put the blame on someone else. And this is common in the lives of people today—even in our children at the youngest of age. As Christians, however, we need to know that, apart from Christ, there is nothing good in us. We must recognize our capacity for sin, accept responsibility for our wrongs, repent, and ask God for forgiveness.


In verse 15, James sets out the progression involved in temptation. We are told that after we are dragged away and enticed by our own evil desires, and once desire has been conceived, “it gives birth to sin, and when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.” Temptation begins with an evil thought and becomes sin when we dwell on it and allow it to become an action. The best time to stop a temptation is before it is too strong or moving too quickly to control it. We must deal with temptations immediately, honestly, ruthlessly, and consistently.


Satan is very cunning, and he knows exactly where our weaknesses lie. He hates the Lord and wants to discourage and destroy His people and Kingdom work. He will do anything he can to keep us enslaved to the things that get in the way of our effectiveness for the kingdom of God. And James reminds us of this. He tells us not to be deceived or led astray. Just as a proper response to trials can result in growth to full spiritual maturity, so a wrong response to temptation will result in a decline to spiritual poverty and ultimately to death itself.


Sin doesn’t just happen out of the blue. There is a process. We need to recognize this process and not be deceived into believing anything other than God’s truth for us. There is nothing better for us than that. That’s why it is so important to know God’s WORD, as it is our number one defense against temptation.


Finally, in verses 17 and 18, James provides us with the antidote to the lies and temptation - to enjoy a deep-rooted relationship with the absolute, unchanging goodness of God. A God so good that He chose, not because of anything we have done, but out of His own goodness and mercy, He chose to give us birth through the Word of truth. He chose to give us birth! He chose to take His Word and write it on our hearts. Why? So that we might be utterly set apart to God as “a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”


We often believe our ability to fight temptation must be of our own efforts. However, God is the true source of power in our war against temptation. Yes, we have real choices to make, but we can only win the battle because God sets limits on our temptations and provides a way out so that we can endure. As Paul confirms in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “God is faithful. He will not allow you to be tempted more than you can take. But when you are tempted, He will make a way for you to keep from falling into sin.”


Therefore, amid trials, tests, and temptations, don’t be deceived by the lies. Remember that God is the source of everything good and wants what is good for you. So, trust Him in your trials and turn to Him in your temptations. HE WILL ALWAYS PROVIDE A WAY OUT!  

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