Summary: God is good in giving, and all that He gives is good.
13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. 14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. 15 Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. 16 Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. 17 Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shifting shadow.
You may remember that when we studied verses 5 through 8 of this chapter we saw that God expects us to ask for wisdom in relation to our trials and warns against coming to Him ‘two-souled’, or double-minded, meaning when we ask it must be in faith believing and prepared to obey.
Nevertheless we were encouraged that God desires to lavish His wisdom on us generously, so it comes as no surprise when we get to verse 12 to see that He calls us ‘blessed’, meaning happy, when we have thus persevered under trial because the end proof of His approval will be the crown of life which He has promised.
I only want you to be reminded before we move into our text verses, that this perseverance referred to is not just ‘biting the bullet’, digging in the heels, holding on for dear life and muddling through.
Faithful perseverance through trials consists of recognizing the trial as a test, honestly seeking wisdom from the Lord for it, obeying His direction in it, and coming out the other side with strengthened faith and approved character and heightened hope (Rom 5:3-5).
Keep this in mind as we work our way through verses 13 – 15.
TESTING AND TEMPTATION
James is talking about testing and trials and then he suddenly moves to the theme of temptation. If you just skim over the surface of the chapter so far and come to verse 13 it may cause you to stop and ask, ‘why the introduction of temptation at this point?’
Well, let’s begin by making the distinction between testing and temptation.
I doubt that any of us needs to think very deeply to comprehend the meaning of the word ‘test’. From the year we entered into grade school until now we have been confronted by every kind of test.
In the purely human realm, whether it be in school or our job or the obtaining of a license for some activity like driving or hunting or doing certain kinds of trades for business, the purpose for testing is two-fold; to increase our knowledge and ability in a particular field and to establish for the tester what our level of learning is pertaining to that field or subject.
It is no different in the spiritual realm and there God is the administrator of the test. By testing He proves our level of maturity and He improves our level of maturity.
Two of the brightest examples of proof of maturity through endurance and faith found in scripture are the account of Job and the obedience of Abraham in the sacrifice of Isaac. In each case the severe testing, in one case allowed by God and in the other brought by God, proved the steadfastness and faith of the ones tested.
In regards to the benefit and result of testing we go back to a passage I have already made vague reference to; Romans 1:3-5
3 And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; 4 and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; 5 and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Paul is establishing there that as God’s children the tribulations that come to our lives are either brought or allowed by Him for the benefit of our growth and increased faith and hope. In verse 4 he is teaching us that even tribulation is evidence of God’s love, and the one who perseveres through trial will come out with a greater sense of that love, made manifest by the Holy Spirit who is in us.
Another familiar passage on this theme is I Corinthians 10:13
13 No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.
And this takes us in a smooth transition from the word ‘test’ to the word ‘tempt’, just as James has done.