God blesses those who patiently endure testing and temptation. Afterward they will receive the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him. And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else. Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away. These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters. Whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father, who created all the lights in the heavens. He never changes or casts a shifting shadow.He chose to give birth to us by giving us his true word. And we, out of all creation, became his prized possession. (James 1:12-18, NLT)
As James continues to counsel his audience with regards to adversity, he now challenges his readers to practice steadfastness in order to develop character and achieve maturity. The benefits are twofold: blessings in the present life and eternal rewards in the next. The Crown of Life is a symbol of spiritual success in the face of suffering, adversity and the temptations that often accompany them.
He then turns his attention to address something that possibly came to his attention from his audience. Earthly trials are often accompanied by temptations. While these temptations can come in many forms and levels of intensity, I understand them in context to be any inappropriate resolution that one may take to alleviate or resolve one’s own suffering as related to the adversity that one faces.
Here’s an example. Suppose a believer is oppressed in the workplace for their faith and is terminated by their employer. This circumstance creates economic hardship for the employee as they are no longer to provide for themselves or their family. That would be the trial or the test. The temptation would be for the unemployed person to steal from a friend or a stranger in order to buy food to eat. When they were caught in their crime they would proceed to affix blame verses accepting responsibility for their actions.
James is particularly concerned with those, who in a similar situation, would affix blame on God. Does God permit or cause his children to undergo testing for the purpose of their maturity? Yes. We can read this on virtually every page of Scripture. Does God bring temptation to the same children to resolve their adversity in a sinful manner. No. That’s the point.
He’s clear and direct in stating that temptation to do evil cannot be sourced from a God who is untouched by evil. The source of temptation comes from within. There is nothing wrong with desire, but some desire will entice us to sin. When we surrender to that temptation and act upon it, it gives birth to sin. Repeated surrender to sin will mature, and ultimately result in death, which James intentionally inserts to contrast the aforementioned Crown of Life. Temptation to sin does not come from God. It comes from within, and when we yield, we cannot blame God. We can’t even blame Satan. As my friend always says, “What’s in the well comes up in the bucket.” So what’s in your well?
The good news is that God’s gifts are apparent. Verse 17 is one of my favorite verses in all of Scripture. We can count on the fact that temptation does not come from God. But we can also count on the fact that every good endowment and perfect gift comes from the One who is changeless and unchanging. Instead of giving his children temptations that give birth to sin, he has given us good gifts, the greatest of which is his Son, whose desire is give birth to life both now and forever.
Those concepts are not difficult to accept cognitively. The challenge for us to to apply them practically. But if we continue to do so on a daily basis we’ll find that we’ll develop humility, endurance, wisdom, maturity, and yes, even joy.