Temptation in the Book of James

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When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away 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

Dragged Away and Enticed by Sin

Three launchpads for meditation. The first is all about the metaphor of fishing that comes out of the phrase ‘dragged away and enticed’. It’s the idea of a fish in its retreat swimming about freely, enjoying its life. But all of a sudden bait appears and it looks enticing. But underneath the juicy bait is a hook, pulling the fish away from its retreat, leading to incredible pain.This is the experience of temptation leading to sin. Excited enticement at the beginning but only hurts and disappointments at the end. It looks appealing in the moment, but it will pull me and it will pull you further away from God.

So in my life, although I experience an intense joy and enjoyment of God there are still hooks and baits in my life that would draw me away from Him. My prayer is that the baits in my life would look less and less appealing as I enjoy more and more of who God is and this abundant life that He has graciously given me.

Sin Gives Birth to Death

The second launchpad for meditation is all about seeing this childbirth image: desire being conceived, giving birth to sin, and sin when it is full grown giving birth to death. There is a natural progression here from desire to sin to death. And what should be conjured up in our minds when we read the phrase ‘giving birth to death’ is a stillborn birth. The excitement and subsequent sadness that parents experience with a stillborn birth is being used as a metaphor for the experience of temptation leading to sin.

Just like there is a hopeful expectation for the birth of a child, there is excitement and anticipation when we give into temptation. We’re thinking that this thing will be satisfying for us, anticipating enjoyment. But ultimately we discover that it is a misplaced hope, leading to sadness because sin is ultimately unsatisfying. Because God is the source of satisfaction, sin is fully unsatisfying. Because God is the source of life, sin leads to death.

Trials vs. Temptations

The third launchpad for meditation is about the context of these verses: trials vs. temptations. In the preceding set of verses James has explored trials, external pressures. But in these verses James is exploring temptations, internal pressures. So God does not want us to sin but he will place trials in our lives to help us grow closer to Him.

Reading from the Zondervan exegetical commentary of James, “Christians should not respond to trials or temptations by blaming God but by acknowledging him as the source of everything good. When Christians respond to external trials with proper perseverance, they will be blessed. When they allow such trials to turn into seductions to sin, they have only themselves to blame.”

So I am excited about all of the potential in my life, of difficulties leading me to God. That when I face challenges, they would not turn into seductions to sin, but that they would instead lead me to realize my utter dependency upon God so that I would rely upon Him as my source of strength and of life as I continue to abide in Him.

James 1:13-15 Study Resources

Francis Chan Sermon:

Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on James (Blomberg and Kamell 2008):

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