BACKGROUND: The Christian life is not
always the tranquil experience that is commonly expected.
Believers are no less subject to trouble and calamity than are
other people. Their physical bodies are just as susceptible to
disease or injury as their unsaved neighbors. Their houses
catch fire, their possessions are stolen, their jobs are lost,
and their families are threatened — just like others’.
Sometimes Christians are treated as hostile by the world.
There are the troubles that come from other people or outer
circumstances, which Scripture calls “trials.” The Christian
can profit from such trials and should be prepared to do so.
On the other hand, there are temptations, which are
enticements from within that are unprofitable if the
Christian does not handle them correctly. Trials and
temptations come from the same word in Greek; the context
determines the meaning. Trials come from outside
circumstances while temptations arise from the heart.
Temptations are more subtle and are often more
difficult to handle than trials. To fall to temptation is
sin which leads to feelings of guilt and discouragement.
Every person has such temptations, and Christians are not
immune. In the past, some have tried to withdraw totally
from the world into some monastic setting; however, their
sinful thoughts went right along with them.
Obviously, one does not consider it pure joy when they
face temptations since evil and sin are present. We must
be careful that trials on the outside do not become
temptations on the inside. For example, Abraham and Sarah
arrived in the Promised Land and when the test of famine
came they turned into temptation by heading for Egypt. God
chasten Abraham and brought him back to the place of
blessing. When the Israelites arrived in the desert and
there was no water, they turned God’s testing into
temptation by murmuring and blaming God. Consider: sleep
is normal; laziness is sin. The marriage bed is honorable;
adulterers and all the sexually immoral God will judge
The Source of Temptations
DENUNCIATION (James 1:13): “When
tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God
cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” No
person is driven to sin by the circumstances in which God
might have placed him. It seems that no one would dare to
blame directly, indirectly, or actually God for
temptations. We are more likely to say, “The Devil made me
do it.” But it is more than a possibility that God is
blamed by some for temptations. Sometimes they are not
aware that they are blaming God. There is a whole system
of theology that makes God the ultimate cause for
everything since He predetermines all that happens.
Calvinism or Reformed Theology from its beginning has
claimed that God is micromanaging every tiny detail that
occurs in life. Therefore, God is responsible for sending
everything our way, including our suffering, trials and
Adam blamed shifted blame to the Creator when he sinned
(Genesis 3:12). According to James, God is neither the
instigator nor remotely responsible for temptation. God
never entices a person to do evil. It was not God’s fault
that Adam sinned; He had been placed in a perfect
environment, yet he sinned.
The reasons why God cannot be the source of man’s
temptation are twofold. First, God’s nature is untemptable
by anything evil. He is absolutely holy there are no weak
points for temptation to gain a foothold. “God is light;
in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). It is
utterly unthinkable for the One who is inherently
untemptable to be the cause of temptation in others.
Second, God never tempts anyone. He may test people
(Genesis 22:1; Deuteronomy 4:34: 7:19; 22:9; Psalm 95:8)
to strengthen their faith, but He never entices them to
The real source of blame for temptation is not to be
found outside of man but within him. James is not
discussing how sin entered the human race in the Garden of
Eden; nor is he denying the role of Satan in this matter.
What he was explaining was how present-fallen man
Of course, it is sometimes the case that outward trials
can themselves become the occasions for yielding to sin
(for example, compromising one's faith to avoid
persecution). James, however, was going to the heart of
the matter in showing that the blameworthy aspect of
temptation is inward, not outward. This was the teaching
of Jesus in Mark 7:1-23.
DESIRE (James 1:14): “But each one is
tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away
and enticed.” "Each one" who encounters temptation is
faced with the lust and lure of sin. A person is tempted
in the sense of being enticed to sin by his or her own
desires. The term "desires" (epithumias) is more commonly
translated "lusts" in the New Testament, although the
Greek word itself was a neutral one. Whether the desires
were to be understood as legitimate or sinful must be
determined by the context. Here the sense clearly refers
to desires that are aroused to do evil.
Two words describe the method by which a person's
desires lead him into sin. The first one depicts the
person as "dragged away" or "drawn away.” The second word,
"enticed," comes from a root that means "bait." It depicts
something being lured to the bait and being caught.
Combining both concepts and viewing them as metaphors of a
fisherman, one can visualize the fish being first aroused
from its original place of safety and freedom, and then
being lured to the bait that hides the fatal hook.
In similar fashion, every person has desires that seek
gratification. All too often the desires are aroused and
lured to seek their satisfaction in things that God has
disapproved. Temptation always carries with it some bait
that appeals to our natural desires.
Sin entered the human race because Adam and Eve
succumbed to their desire to have what God had forbidden.
Eve was deceived but not Adam. Since, then man’s fallen,
sinful nature is bent to evil. “Surely I was sinful at
birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me”
(Psalms 51:5). Thoughts and acts of sin spring from evil
desires. The human heart is naturally deceitful and sick
(Jeremiah 17:9), and out it comes evil thought (Matthew
15:19). Sin is living in us (Romans 7:17). If we claim to
be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not
in us (1 John 1:8).
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Disobedience and Death