Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. ~ James 1:13-15
Explanation of the Text:Where does sin come from? For some, this is a question that plagues their belief in God while others simply see it as the key to undermining God. The truth of the answer though, reveals a reality that few people want to admit; sin comes from us.
In the Greek text, the word used for tempt in this passage is the same word translated as trials in the previous passage. How is it that translators can utilize both words for the same original word? There are two logical rationales for this. First, is a simple matter of context that dictates the meaning of the word. Just like any language, one word can have multiple definitions and therefore it is important for one to read the context carefully in order to determine the exact usage. Furthermore, God’s character as holy, holy, holy makes it impossible to associate God with temptation.
James reveals two aspects of God’s relationship with temptation. First, God cannot be tempted. Such a temptation would be contrary to his character of holy, perfect, and sinless. More than being without sin, God cannot even be in the presence of sin, which creates man’s great need for reconciliation with God through the work of Christ. Not only can God not be tempted, but he also does not tempt others.
Instead, temptation comes from within each of us from our own sinful nature. Even more, the Epistle of James outlines the process of temptation first noting that it comes from within our own desires. That truth indicates the gravity of the sin of covetousness and idolatry which if left uncontrolled leads one down a deeper path of sin and ultimately, bearing the full consequences for sin it can bring death. James’ use of imagery in this text creates a precise picture of sin and its dangers.
Examination & Application of the Text:A revelation of God’s character should always bring comfort to believers and that truth asserts itself here as well. It is comforting for believers who struggle so intensely with sin to know that God is not tainted by sin, and thus neither are his dealings with us tainted by sin. Specifically, God’s character is revealed by not tempting believers. In his goodness, his rejection of such an activity should draw us into a deeper relationship. Trusting this to be true, believers draw nearer to God knowing that he is working in the lives of believers so that they may grow (see James 1:2-12 that we previously studied) and that he is not working against them hoping for failure through the engagement of temptation and sin.
More than recognizing God’s lack of role in temptation, it requires something else: an acknowledgment of man’s role in temptation. Human propensity is to blame others, including God, yet, by this verse alone tough, we see that temptation is sown through the desires of individuals. Recognition of this truth allows each of us to be aware of the danger, an important aspect of spiritual preparation and guarding against Satan’s solicitations. However, to recognize one’s role in temptation, humility must be present.
Questions to Consider:
What role does God play in temptation? What role do humans play?
How does this understanding help in our confrontation of temptation?
Practically speaking, what will you do in order to confront temptation?