The Main Thing – James 1:12-15
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and He himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
All of this life will be filled with trials, but there is a happy end in sight. James takes a moment in this extended introduction to assure his readers that God will not forget His people. We have already seen that there is immediate fruit from our trials — God is making us more like Jesus. Now James is showing us that we will have an eternal reward when this life is over. We will receive the “crown of life.” This term is only used one other time in the New Testament, in Revelation 2:10. We shouldn’t be surprised that the passage in Revelation is also in the context of withstanding trials; but here we read that if we are “faithful to death,” we will receive the crown of life, that is, everlasting life.
James then moves on to the source of our trials. Here there is an interesting change in terms. The word that the English translators use is “temptation.” For readers of the English Bible, the connotation of the word “temptation” is totally different from “trials,” even though it is the same Greek word. There is a good reason for this because James qualifies it in this verse as “tempted with evil.” God is totally separate from evil and in His moral will, He desires that no one sin. God tests us for the intended outcome of our perseverance, not in order for us to sin.
So where does the temptation to sin come from, if not from God? It comes from our own sinful self. We need to realize that apart from the grace of God, we are fully sinful and our sinful flesh desires only to sin. When we are tempted, it is because our flesh has desires that are contrary to God’s nature. Our flesh drags us away from God by urging us with its sinful desires. James uses two words, “lured and enticed,” which are related to fishing and trapping. These words reflect how our sinful flesh is cunning in the way that it leads us into sin.
At this point we have two options. We can either yield to our flesh and sin, or we can put our faith in the Lord and remain steadfast. Whether God is testing us for our good, or our flesh is tempting us with sin, the reaction should remain the same. We must ask God for wisdom on how to deal with it and put our faith in God who will use this to strengthen our perseverance and to make us more complete in Him.
We have two distinct options available to us. If we remain steadfast through the temptation, then we will receive life. Yet if we give in to sin, it is death that awaits us. Simply put: faithfulness leads to life and sin leads to death. In the middle of our temptation, we need to remember that God is still in control and God will not allow us to be tempted beyond what we are able to withstand. He will provide for us a way of escape (1 Cor 10:13).