I’m still hanging out in James, the first chapter. If by chance you’ve read it, you know by now I skirted around a certain passage. It told myself it was for continuity and I’d return to dig deeper into it. Here I go, James 1:13-14:
“No one undergoing a trial should say, “I am being tempted by God,” since God is not tempted by evil, and he himself doesn’t tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.”
James 1:13-15 CSB
I find this passage both practical and quite daunting. First, we aren’t to accuse God of tempting us, it is not in His character. Simply stated, He can not be tempted and He does not tempt us. That’s pretty straight forward and something I have accepted by faith and it has proven true in my life. So where does temptation come from? According to James, our own evil desire entices us; draws us away from God’s way or will. Could this really be true? Could we really be our own worst enemy when it comes to temptation?
As I’ve pondered this over the last several days, three examples have come to mind.
- The fall of man in The Garden of Eden
- Satan’s temptation of Jesus
- Jesus time in the Garden of Gethsemane
How was it Eve found herself tempted? What did the serpent say? How did that bring temptation? Genesis 3, enter the serpent and he spoke to Eve: “Now the serpent was the most cunning of all the wild animals that the Lord God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You can’t eat from any tree in the garden’?”” CSB
He followed up with an answer: “ “No! You will not die,” the serpent said to the woman. “In fact, God knows that when you eat it your eyes will bell opened and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”” Genesis 3:4-5 CSB
- He questioned Eve’s understanding of what God had actually said.
- The serpent worded his answer deceptively; he implies that God purposefully is keeping them from the fruit so they will not be like Him (God).
- The serpent implies God is holding out on them and keeping knowledge from them that they need to know.
Is it possible, in the quest to please God and a desire to be like God, Eve’s own desire(s) are what tempted her to do exactly what God had instructed the not to do. We were told, and perhaps even Adam and Eve, though it is not specifically said; they were created in the image of God. Both were already like Him, created in His image. Perhaps, because God is sovereign and His ways are higher than ours, He was protecting them by keeping them from this tree of “Knowledge of Good and Evil”. Keeping them innocent of the evils that were possible in this new world. Was their sin allowing their desire to be like God to tempt them to disobedience? Were they placing their will above God’s will? Were they snared by the serpents deception or were they really trapped by their own desire to be like God? Maybe it really was because of there own selfish desire for more.
Temptation of Jesus
“Then Jesus left the Jordan, full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days to be tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when they were over, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” But Jesus answered him, “It is written: Man must not live on bread alone. ” So he took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time. The devil said to him, “I will give you their splendor and all this authority, because it has been given over to me, and I can give it to anyone I want. If you, then, will worship me, all will be yours.” And Jesus answered him, “It is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only. ” So he took him to Jerusalem, had him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here. For it is written: He will give his angels orders concerning you, to protect you, and they will support you with their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone. ” And Jesus answered him, “It is said: Do not test the Lord your God. ” After the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from him for a time.”
Luke 4:1-13 CSB
The Bible tells us Jesus was tempted in every way we have been, yet was sinless. This is a great example. How was Jesus so strong and resistant to sin? Possibly because He was in constant communication with His Father and He was determined only to do what His Father said! He focused on His purpose and His goal not His own selfish desires or His hunger. He realized something higher was at stake. This is pretty good proof that though outside forces can bring on the means of temptation, they are not responsible for us falling into the snare that was set before us. Rather it is our own selfish desires that over come us and cause us to fall into the trap.
Lastly, Jesus in the Garden, a mind anguished but firmly set on the prize set before Him!
““He went out and made his way as usual to the Mount of Olives, and the disciples followed him. When he reached the place, he told them, “Pray that you may not fall into temptation.” Then he withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, knelt down, and began to pray, “Father, if you are willing, take this cup away from me — nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.”
Being in anguish, he prayed more fervently, and his sweat became like drops of blood falling to the ground. When he got up from prayer and came to the disciples, he found them sleeping, exhausted from their grief. “Why are you sleeping?” he asked them. “Get up and pray, so that you won’t fall into temptation.” While he was still speaking, suddenly a mob came, and one of the Twelve named Judas was leading them. He came near Jesus to kiss him, but Jesus said to him, “Judas, are you betraying the Son of Man with a kiss?””
Luke 22:39-42, 44-48 CSB
We find Jesus example here exemplary. Anguished to the point of sweating drops of blood, He remained true to the course set before Him until the very end when He was arrested, mocked and beaten, judged wrongly and executed. We also find a different example in the disciples. Jesus asked them to watch and pray for an hour so they would not fall into temptation. They failed, though they may have tried; their tired flesh had it way. Though Jesus awakened them to remind them; they fell into the temptation of sleep each time.
I’ll be the first to say though I’d rather not admit it; “it’s not the devil made me do it” (a throw back to Flip Wilson comedy); and it certainly is not God tempting us. It might be considered a test but ultimately bottom line we make a decision and we are responsible for our actions. Even in not deciding, we have made the decision to let what happens happen.
Tough saying this is: “But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desire. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death.”
May God give us grace and strength to decide wisely and set aside temptation and choose life; keeping our focus firmly set on the prize set before us. When we fall, may His beautiful forgiveness, grace and mercy surround us!
May His grace and peace be with you and keep you.