Looking thru the book of James…
Here’s another big but!
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
First off, we will do well to consider this but in context. James addressed his letter to believers scattered among the nations. He began by encouraging them to take a fresh look at the trials they encountered–that God was working within these trials to grow them in their faith and maturity. As such, he instructed them to count these trials a cause for joy. Joy!
Believers needed this encouragement because–as James acknowledged–the weight of trials and difficulties can shake our faith. We are in danger of losing focus, or even collapsing under the burden of them. James taught: Look at this differently; God is in these experiences.
Another danger facing these believers out amongst the world was temptation to sin. Sinful attractions, enticements and pleasures call seductively to every soul. The book of Revelation depicts a harlot offering a golden cup of the world’s enticements to passers-by, ‘come, take and drink’. James means to make it abundantly clear–these are NOT from God.
Secondly, and still before we get to that big but, notice that James used the phrase ‘when tempted’ in addressing this matter. The experience of temptation will visit every soul. No one is immune.
James articulates clearly, God is not the source of temptations. Then who is?
(Imagine the Saturday Night Live Church Lady voice, here) Could it be… Satan?
I don’t think I recall ever having heard someone say that God tempted them. But I sure have heard a lot of people attribute temptations to Satan and his minions over the years. I’ve had conversations with people who told me they were hooked on cigarettes because the Demon of Nicotine was behind it, or they were hooked on pornography because of the Demon of Pornography. Could it be that the source of temptations is Satan?
James says no, with a big, big but.
But… it’s on you!
The source of temptation is within each person, their desires, lusts, and inner cravings. Those things that reside within that are not of God; that would rival God where our affections are concerned. That being the source, evil has a great cup of enticements out there–a smorgasbord, in fact. Choose your vice. But the source… it’s within.
The rest of James warning completes a picture. I’ll use a fishing analogy: It’s sort of like our desire baiting a hook and then biting it–should we wonder how this thing got hooked through our lip? And yet we do. We’d love to shift the blame. We don’t know how it happened. There were extenuating circumstances. There was just cause or provocation. No. There was just us. And we wanted it more than we wanted righteousness. We bought the lie–hook, line and sinker.