After a brief exhortation that all believers should focus on their eternal condition and not their temporal status, James continues with the topic of trials and temptations. As believers, we know that hardships are not only a part of life in general, but because we follow Christ, we face many additional trials. We know that enduring through trials will develop perseverance and grow us spiritually. We should also be aware of the dangers of approaching or responding to those trials and temptations with the wrong attitude.
“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.” (James 1:13-15)
It is clear throughout the Old Testament that God tested not only the Nation of Israel but also men and women called into His service and ministry. These tests were designed to strengthen their faith and establish their resolve of obedience and faithfulness. Never were these tests about inducing sin or destroying their faith.
James makes the point that we are not tempted by God to sin based on two arguments. First, God is both holy and righteous; therefore, he is neither affected by sin nor does he cause His creation to sin. Second, humanity’s nature is to sin because of the Fall and the efforts of Satan on this earth.
The bottom line is that temptation is really on us. When we do not resist the temptations that come into our lives, but instead are enticed by them and allow our evil desires to grow, the results are disastrous.
There are two simple realities in this passage: God is not the cause of our temptation, and we must guard ourselves from our own evil desires. Remember that God desires that we offer our bodies as living sacrifices, and we must resist conforming to this world by renewing our minds (Rom. 12:1-2). If we sacrifice our bodies, we will not be enticed by its evil desires. If we renew our minds, we will be able to identify temptation and learn how to overcome it.
Let me challenge you today to be honest with yourself about how you deal with sin and temptation. Do you blame God for it or do you acknowledge your responsibility to put it to death? Have you come to realize what evil desires still lurk in your mind and body? What are you currently doing to deal with those temptations?
It is important that you have a trustworthy friend who can hold you accountable in these areas. It is also valuable to be involved with a group of believers who desire to overcome sin and temptation in their lives as well. God designed us to live in community. Seek out a group of believers who can stand with you as you take responsibility and make an effort to overcome sin in your life.