Temptation’s Source

Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13).

- James 1:13–15

Last week we noted that in his epistle James is eager to show how those with authentic faith will deal with the various afflictions and trials of life. Those with true faith will count it all joy when they meet trials because such trials produce steadfastness (1:2–3). We too must look eagerly for such steadfastness, because without it we will not inherit the promised crown of life (v. 12).

We should not be surprised when God allows things to come into our lives to test our faith. After all, He tested Abraham by commanding him to offer up Isaac (Gen. 22). Job is well-known for the testing of his faith through many difficult circumstances. Even the Lord Jesus Himself was tested by the Devil in the wilderness (Mark 1:12–13).

Because we are sinners, we may not face testing all that well. Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking that God might be tempting us to sin in the midst of adversity. When God allows a period of financial difficulty into our lives, we might think He is tempting us to seek ill-gotten gains. Difficulties in our marriage might make us feel that God is tempting us to seek an unscriptural divorce.

However, today’s passage argues that such is never the case. God does allow our faith to be tested, but if we are tempted to do evil as a result, then He is never the source. A person who exhibits authentic faith looks at his circumstances, and, in the midst of temptation, recognizes that though God may have allowed trials to come, the desire to break His law is not from Him. For God cannot be tempted with evil, and He tempts no one to sin (James 1:13).

A misunderstanding of the Reformed position on God’s sovereignty can make this hard to accept. Some hyper-Calvinists, for example, say that God is responsible for evil and tempts people to sin.

God’s precise relationship to sin is mysterious. God has ordained all that ever happens, including evil. Yet today’s passage reminds us that God is not the originator of evil or even the temptations that lead to evil. We must never blame God for our sin or temptations. Rather, as verses 14–15 so aptly note, our temptation to sin comes from our own evil nature and never from the Lord.

Coram Deo

God is never responsible for the evil in this world or the temptations that may produce it. He may ordain evil for the purposes of His good plan, but all wickedness that comes about is from the evil inclinations of secondary agents and is not caused by God. Look at the struggles that you are facing, and ask yourself whether you have blamed God for evil or if you think He is tempting you to sin. If so, repent of such an attitude as you meditate on today’s verses.

Passages for Further Study

Ps. 97:10
Prov. 8:13
Matt. 7:11
1 John 1:5

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