“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.
Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.”
(James 1:13-18 NIV)
James addresses the age-old question of temptation and sin head-on: where does the temptation come from?
This was certainly not a new question or new thought. All the way back in Genesis 3:1-19, when God confronted Adam and Eve in the first sin, we see mankind deflecting the blame, trying to pass off the problem. In verse 12, Adam blames God for his sin; in verse 13, Eve blames the serpent (Satan) for her sin.
James clears the misconception about God’s character right up front – God cannot be tempted, nor does He tempt anyone. Boom! There we have it. No spin-doctoring of this truth.
So whose fault is it? James answers that question as well. Simply stated – we must look in the mirror and face our sin.
In fact, verse 13 is emphatically clear – the Greek word behind the phrase “cannot be tempted” literally means that God has no experience with evil – he has nothing to do with evil in any way, shape, or form.
The key verse, the linchpin of this section is verse 16: Don’t be deceived.
James does not issue this command / warning while yelling or with a blaring megaphone. Instead, he uses a term of endearment: “… my beloved brothers and sisters.”
In a similar tone, the apostle Paul reminds the Ephesian church to “speak the truth in love” (Ephesians 4:15). Jesus was careful to be sure that both the content of His message (truth), as well as His delivery (in love) was appropriate to the audience. This is advice that we should heed as well. We will discuss more about this when we get to Chapter 3.
James has addressed the wrong belief about God being temped, and being a tempter. In verses 17 – 18, James goes on tho show God’s real nature, that of goodness and righteousness, of steadfastness and consistency and constancy.
James calls God “the Father of heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows“. James is telling us that no evil comes from God, and that all good comes from Him.
James reminds us that we are God’s “first fruits”, first through Adam as being made in God’s image, and secondly, redeemed, through Christ. In the Old Testament, “first fruits” were the tithe, the offering of the first part of the harvest. In the agrarian economy of the Jews, this was their way of showing their faith in God. In essence, they were saying, “God, we give you the first portion of our harvest. In faith, we trust You to provide for and protect the rest of the harvest to meet our needs… that You, God, will protect the harvest from the weather, from predators, from fire and flood, and disease.” And so we are God’s creation, His workmanship, His consecrated ones, set aside for His good purposes.
So how is your reaction to temptation and sin? Do you pass the test of blame? Do we look in the mirror and face our sin, repent, and by God’s grace, move on to maturity? Or do we blame God?