James 1:13

“No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted by evil and [God] tempts no one.”


THAT is an interesting passage.

The deacons have seen me do this before. When I’m stumped, when I really have no internal nudging on where to go or what to say, I use a random number generator to pick a passage of scripture and see what it has to say to me. It’s kinda like a modern version of casting lots.

What I do is this:

    • I start by asking my computer to give me a random number. If it is odd, I start with the Old Testament. If it is even, the New.
    • Then I generate a second number based on the number of books in that section. (Hint: 39 For the O.T. and 27 for the N.T.)
    • Then I generate a third number taken from the number of chapters present in the selected book.
    • Finally, I generate a number indicating the verse within that chapter.
    • Therefore…


James 1:13

“No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted by evil and [God] tempts no one.”

*One caveat on this method of selecting scripture: You can end up with really wonky passages AND you have to be very sure to explore any passages selected this way within the larger context of the Bible and Christian faith. It is far too easy to misinterpret the meaning of a passage when it is not understood within the greater context of our faith.

Now, on to the passage…

What a fascinating passage this is.

My first reaction upon reading it was to push back against it. I asked myself, “But…doesn’t God test people in the Bible? What about Jesus in the wilderness? What about Job? What about others? What about the Lord’s prayer? Where we say, ‘Lead us not into temptation’?” However, when I stopped and thought about it, I couldn’t come up with an obvious example of God tempting people. It is ha-satan (Heb), the “adversary” or “accuser”, who tempts Job. It is the diabolos (Gk), the “false accuser” or “slanderer” who tempts Jesus. And as far as the Lord’s Prayer goes, it never states that God does tempt us, only that God not lead us into the path of temptation. (People have debated for millennia about what that might mean!)

As I went on and read the broader context of this passage, it became clear that James is writing to people who are wrestling with some temptation. He wants to reassure them that this temptation does not come from God, but rather comes from within, and that we must be careful to remain strong in the face of temptation as giving into temptation leads to “death.” This death James holds in contrast to “the crown of life” which comes from God. So, the death of which James speaks is not mortal death, but the absence of eternal life. So, this warning about blaming God for our temptations is actually a warning about giving into temptation, staying true to the faith during hard times, and in-so-doing receiving the final reward of eternal life.

Taking that passage, then, into an even broader context of faith leads me to recognize two more points: strength and forgiveness.

Strength. We believe that through the Holy Spirit God gives us the grace that we need to overcome our temptations. We are not alone in any of our struggles, but God is with us. As Christ turned down all the gifts of the devil during his temptation in the wilderness, we too have that ability. It isn’t easy, but with God’s help we CAN resist temptation.

Of course, we don’t always. Which leads us to…

Forgiveness. We are blessed that God understands our human frailty. God understands that even with the resources of the Holy Spirit at our disposal, we still give in to temptation. And since God is a God of love, God does not want us to suffer. Therefore, God offers us grace and forgives our failures (at least when we recognize them and repent).

And back to James…

So, since God offers us forgiveness, should we just give into temptation and live boldly in sin trusting in God’s grace? Of course not! Going back to our passage from James, he warns that giving into temptation leads to “death.” I previously stated that he is speaking of death in an eternal sense. But he is also speaking of death in a spiritual sense. Temptation and sin separate us from God. They undermine our spiritual foundations. They impact the quality of our lives. Which, in effect, is a death in and of itself. By giving into temptation, we fail to live in the fullness of life. We sacrifice the wholeness and goodness of life for instant gratification and simple rewards. By living fully and faithfully in God, we experience all the richness that this life has to offer and live into the promise of the next life as well!

Thank you, James.

Thank you, casting of lots.

Thank you, Holy Spirit, for guiding me in this blog today.