Temptation to sin is a struggle all of us experience. Sadly, a natural tendency of people is to shift the blame away from themselves. In doing so, they wrongly diagnose the problem and ignore the symptoms and therefore don’t receive the biblical solution. In this brief post, I want to look at temptation from the lens of James 1:13-16.
The Source of Temptation
James makes it clear that God is not the source of our temptation. He can’t be tempted becauseHe has no capacity or vulnerability to temptation (Psalm 5:4; Isaiah 6:3; Habakkuk 1:3) and therefore He does not tempt (James 1:13). So then, where does temptation come from? Verse 14 says, “But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire”. He illustrates the source of temptation with fishing metaphors. Like a fish that is enticed by the bait and then lured away, we fall into temptation when our “own desire”drags us to the bait. The problem is within us (Matthew 15:19). Again, notice that the text says, “his own desire”. We all have different tendencies, which come from our different upbringings and personal choices in life. One person’s temptation isn’t always the same as an others. Nonetheless they are still real.
The Succession of Temptation
Consider the succession or sequence of temptation. In this verse 15, James changes metaphors from fishing to gestation. “Desire” represents the mother and its child is “sin”.The gestation period of a human is nine months,whereas the gestation process of temptation instantaneous. Once mother “desire”has given birth to her child “sin”,it grows, and if allowed to become mature it“brings forth death”. The apostle Paul said on the same lines, “the wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). Sin should not become the object of our entertainment. The results of allowing our desires to conceive are devastating, and must be avoided.
James concludes this section with a firm yet pastoral warning, “do not be deceived, my beloved brothers” (James 1:16). It is not God who brings such evils in our life; the problem is with our own desires. Though we may find ourselves in a difficult and trying situation, we are to inform our desires so as to trust God. In the words of John Owen, “Temptations and occasions put nothing into a man, but only draw out what was in him before” –John Owen.
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