In the passage you studied yesterday, James takes up the question where of temptation comes from. God allows trials to come to His children, He works through them, and He rewards those who are victorious over temptation. Therefore, some of James’ readers might have thought that God was the source of temptation. James corrects that error in this passage:
Jam. 1:13-16 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: (14) But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. (15) Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. (16) Do not err, my beloved brethren.
God Doesn’t Temp
God doesn’t want His children running around saying, “Well, I wouldn’t have done wrong if God didn’t put me in this hard situation. It’s God’s fault I fell.” James makes two plain statements that contradict that kind of talk. “God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.”
It’s contrary to God’s nature to be tempted. This is true for many reasons. He is utterly holy and sin disgusts Him. Also, because He is all-knowing, all-powerful, and self-existent, there is nothing He needs outside Himself. No offer of evil entices Him. How does this relate to the fact that He does not tempt others?
Since temptation is utterly foreign to God, and God’s goal is to make us like Himself (Rom. 8:29), it is foolish to think that God would tempt us. Why would He entice us to do what He has commanded us not to do? God doesn’t tempt any man!
In fact, God will not let you face any temptation that more than you can handle with His help:
1Co. 10:13 There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.
It’s encouraging to know that your Father will never let you face a battle you can’t win. He has promised that there is a way to escape the temptation and come away victorious. (It’s a little discouraging, too, to realize that every time you have given in in the past, you could have defeated temptation.)
Drawn Away of His Own Lust and Enticed
So what is the source of temptation? The first thing I noticed here is that the devil is never mentioned. While he is certainly involved in this process (Mat. 4:1, 1Pe. 5:8), he is not the believer’s focus.
Every one of us is tempted in the same way. The phrase drawn away is an interesting Greek word. According to Strong it means “to drag forth.” We are dragged into sin by our own lust – our cravings, especially for that which is wrong. We may want something that is wrong. Sometimes our desires are right, but we satisfy them in wrong ways. Finally, we can pursue right things, in right ways, at wrong times.
When our desires meet with sinful opportunities to fulfill them, we are enticed. That enticement, or temptation, is the offer to fulfill our desires in ways that are contrary to God’s will. It would be great if we had no internal desires that external opportunities could appeal to. Until that day comes, it’s a good practice to avoid as many external enticements to sin as we can.
Our lust, though, is the centerpiece of temptation. Without it, the external opportunity to do wrong doesn’t entice us. People set their trash out along the road and it stays there until the garbage man comes to pick it up. Why is that? Because no one wants it. (Except for the occasional stray dog.) Plenty of opportunity – no desire. So you can be sure that every time you’ve ever given in to sin it is because the enticement touched some internal lust in your heart. Why does that matter? Well, if you can’t be honest with yourself about the cause, you won’t ever find the cure.
Sin Bringeth Forth Death
When lust and sin get together, they conceive a child named death. Paul said the old man is driven by “deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22). Ever since Adam we’ve believed the lies sin tells. We’ve trusted its promises to fulfill and satisfy us. In the end, though, it separates us from God – the true and ultimate meaning of death.
You might like to think that your sinful choices only affect you, but you’re wrong. Your sins can bring death to others, too. That’s true physically and spiritually. When it is finished, in the end, this is where sin leads.
You might translate the last verse in this passage, “Make no mistake about it.” Make no mistake about it, these are the facts about temptation:
- God’s not enticing you to do wrong.
- Your lusts combined with sinful opportunities to satisfy them are the source of your temptations.
- You think you’re life will be better if you give in to temptation, but it won’t – sin leads to death.
How’s It Going?
- Have you been blaming God for your temptations and sins?
- Can you identify the lusts that keep dragging you, personally, into sin?
- What is sin promising you, personally, that it can’t deliver?
We’re going to do something a little different for the next couple of days. I’d like you to do some research and post your answers to the following questions on tomorrow’s blog post.
- James said, “God cannot be tempted.” How do you explain verses like Num. 14:22, Deu. 6:16, and Psa. 95:8-9 in light of James’ statement?
- As a corollary to the previous question, how do you explain the temptation of Christ (Mat. 4:1)? We believe Christ was God. We believe God can’t be tempted. Christ was tempted.
- James told us that God doesn’t tempt any man. How do you explain verses like Genesis 22:1 and 2Sa. 24:1in light of James’ statement?