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: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. Do not err, my beloved brethren.
While writing to give comfort during trials, James writes a strict warning. God does test us, but He cannot tempt us. He is too holy to be tempted and too loving to tempt others.
Here are some example scenarios:
1. Exams in School: It is not wrong to pass an exam, this is a good thing. It is wrong to cheat to pass the exam. Doing a bad thing to accomplish a good thing is still a bad thing. God cannot tempt, while He does test.
2. A friend asked me to pray with him regarding his sin. He knew he had sinned, and shouldn’t have. He’s willing to admit it to God and ask forgiveness. After, he says, “You know…I guess if we never sin we might forget how gracious God is.” I quickly reminded him that God doesn’t lead us to sin to help us remember how much we need him. My friend was trying to confuse or justify his temptation to sin within with a test to prove without. Therefore, James writes the warning here to fend off those who might try to apply his point earlier in the chapter with their own inner conflict with sin.
How then do we:
Count temptation “without”…. all joy while still…
Handling temptation “within”…. without sin?
Consider God’s Judgment
James is writing to God’s scattered people, not His sheltered people. “God does not want us to yield to temptation, yet neither can He spare us the experience of temptation.”
So first, to handle temptation: Consider God’s Judgement. We think of sin as one act, God sees it as a process. Adam committed one act of sin. Yet, that act brought: sin, death, and judgment on all of us.
Here in James, we get this process of sin in 4 stages:
Desire. The word lust means any kind of desire, and not necessarily sexual passions. The normal desires of life were given to us by God and, of themselves, aren’t sinful. Without these desires, we couldn’t function. Unless we felt hunger and thirst, we wouldn’t eat and drink, and we would die. Without fatigue, we would never rest and would eventually wear out. It’s when we want to satisfy these desires in ways outside God’s will that we get in trouble. Eating is normal; gluttony is a sin. Sleep is normal; laziness is a sin. Some try to be “spiritual” by denying these normal desires or seeking to suppress them. This only makes them less than human. The secret is in constant control. These desires must be our servants, not masters.
Deception. No temptation appears as a temptation; it always seems more alluring than it really is. James used two illustrations from the world of sports to prove his point. Drawn away carries with it the idea of the baiting of a trap. Enticed…“to bait a hook.” The hunter and the fisherman have to use bait to attract and catch their prey. No animal is deliberately going to step into a trap and no fish will knowingly bite at a hook. The idea is to hide the trap and the hook. Temptation always carries with it some bait that appeals to our natural desires. The bait hides the fact that yielding will bring sorrow and punishment. “The bait keeps us from seeing the consequences of sin.” When Jesus was tempted by Satan, He dealt with the temptation on the basis of the Word of God. Three times He said, “It is written.” When you know the Bible, you can detect the bait and deal with it decisively. This is what it means to walk by faith and not by sight.
Disobedience. Disobedience moves from desire/deception to will. We lust…desire. We are deceived…baited. James changes the picture from hunting and fishing to the birth of a baby: Desire conceives a method for taking the bait. The will acts; and the result is a sin. The baby is born, and just wait until it matures! Lust=Sin=Death. All of this from simple disobedience. But notice, not just one act…a process.
Death. Disobedience gives birth to death, not life. It may take years for the sin to mature, but when it does, the result will be death. If we will only believe God’s Word and see this final tragedy, it will encourage us not to yield to temptation. So James gives us four stages of God’s judgment. When faced with temptation, take your eyes off the bait and look ahead to see the consequences of sin: the judgment of God.
“For the wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23)
Pastor Chance Strickland
Harpeth Baptist Church
Kingston Springs, TN