Who Dangles the Bait of Temptation?
There are times in my study of God’s Word that I get ultra-technical. I try to understand it by picking it apart to such a degree that I lose the larger picture.
Like when I began to look at word definitions in James 1:13-18 before stepping back to look at the context of the larger message, I got a little frustrated.
And God’s Word is not supposed to frustrate us!
So I paused. I prayed. Then I re-read the entire first chapter of James, reminding myself that this is a letter. I put myself in the shoes of the reader. The Jewish Christians reading – and re-reading it – probably did not pause to pick apart every word. They were living what he was talking about.
These followers of Christ were being persecuted for their faith. They may have faced verbal and physical harassment, but most certainly experienced financial hardship from loss of business due to their faith.
James is encouraging and exhorting them in their trials. Here, he goes on to teach them what can happen when they go through a trial: a bait dangles in front of them called temptation.
Were these early Christians tempted to steal when funds ran low and provision seemed impossible?
Or worse yet, were they tempted to give up on their faith when faced with persecution?
How Do We Look at the Bait of Temptation
As I used the tools of the app to help explain the structure, depth, and meaning of this section, I saw it begin and end with a contrast:
When temptation comes in the midst of a trial, is God the one dangling the bait?
(Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. v.13)
No! He is not! In fact, just the opposite is true! He is the giver of every GOOD and PERFECT gift.
(Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow. v.17)
The word James uses in verse 13 for “tempted” is the same as the word trial or test. Specifically in this verse though, it refers to a “trial of one’s virtue, to solicit to sin.”
Something or someone besides God is dangling temptation before us.
It’s not a mystery. Verses 14-16 tell us.
We are tempted when we are “carried away and enticed by our own lust.” Based on cross references, scripture explaining scripture, I see that my out of control desires (“lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the boastful pride of life” I John 2:16) are an entry point for Satan to tempt me.
By contrast, God is the One who gives me a way out to resist it. (1 Corin. 10:13)
What Do I Learn About God and Myself?
Reading this section again and looking deeper at the meanings of words and other verses in the Bible led me to ask two questions:
What do I learn about God?
What do I learn about me?
- Is not tempted by evil.
- Does not tempt.
- Allows adversity to test our confidence and faith in Him.
- Gives us a way of escape when we are tempted.
- Is the giver of all good and perfect gifts.
- Is consistent.
- Brought us forth by His Word of Truth to be a kind of “1st fruits” of His creation.
And me? If I take the bait and allow myself to be deceived about my trial, then I:
- Doubt God will come through for me.
- Blame God or others.
- Long for something that may be good, or may be bad.
- Let my longing turn to lust.
- Sometimes let my lust lead to sin.
As a true believer, I can confess that sin, repent, or turn away from it, and return to the Lord. I know I’m forgiven. My “death” from sin is not eternal death.
God Gives Good Gifts
The truth I return to is found in verses 17 and 18!
- The Father of lights gives what is good and perfect: salvation, grace, mercy, eternal life, freedom from the power of sin over me. On a smaller scale, He meets the needs of the moment inside my trial.
- I am brought forth by His word of truth – the Gospel.
- I am a kind of “first fruit” of His creation.
Thank you Father for your provision in the midst of trial. Thank you that YOU are not the root of my temptation. Shine Your light upon areas of my heart where my longing could turn to lust. Thank you for your Holy Spirit who lives inside me and alerts me to this danger. Help me long for every good thing given by You. Amen.