Summary: Have you ever felt like blaming God for your situation?
“Faith That Works: The Birth Process”
A young woman came to Christ in a marvelous way. Her conversion was, from a human perspective, partly due to the fact that she had come to a very low place in her marriage, making her intensely aware of her spiritual need. Having met Christ in her extremity, her life immediately took on an attractive buoyancy. She was truly a new person—and it was beautiful to behold. But sadly, her troubled husband did not follow suit as she had so dearly hoped. After a year of continuing marital disappointment, she sought help from a counselor. Instead of receiving help, she was lured by a professional seducer. She was seduced, and there followed the inevitable history of liaisons and further damage to her fragile self-esteem. To be sure, she was a victim of an unprincipled male in professional sheep’s clothing, but she was also a victim of self. But it was neither to him nor herself that she placed ultimate blame. Rather, she said through clenched teeth, “I asked God to lead me to the right person, and he led me to this man. It is God’s fault! He is to blame for what happened!” (1)
Have you ever felt that way? “God gave me this desire; God could have stopped this from happening; God made me this way. Why did God do this?” James suggests that it is wrong to blame God for the enticement to sin that accompanies our trials. In fact, in verse 13 he says that THERE IS A DISTINCTION TO GRASP. ‘When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone.” Blaming the gods was typical of the pagan mind-set in Biblical times because their gods were capricious, vengeful, soap-opera deities who taunted and tantalized humanity. Jewish believers, dispersed in various pagan cities by persecution, were not immune to this mind-set. Evidently in their misery some were saying God was tempting them to fall; that He had lost patience with them and was deliberately bringing them down, so God was to blame for their sin. (2) But the word used for ‘temptation’ is the same word used in verse 2 for ‘trials.’ Both testing and temptation precipitate a crisis. Both reveal something about us. A circumstance is either a trial or temptation depending on who it comes from and what we do with it. How we respond determines how it turns out. This is the distinction James raises.
We need to understand the difference. First, GOD TESTS US TO DEVELOP US. Beginning in the Old Testament it’s clear that God does test His people; He brings them into situations where their willingness to obey him is tested. ‘God tested Abraham’ when he ordered him to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen. 22:1), He tested Israel by leaving them surrounded by pagan nations (Judg. 2:22). But while God may test or prove his servants in order to strengthen their faith, HE NEVER SEEKS TO INDUCE SIN AND DESTROY THEIR FAITH. The tendency to blame God for temptation, and therefore deflect blame for yielding to temptation, was a familiar problem for a people who stressed the sovereignty of God— they thought that if temptation comes from God, how could one resist it? But, says James, a holy God cannot conspire with evil. “And remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and He never tempts anyone else.” (NLT)
SATAN HOWEVER TEMPTS US TO DESTROY US Think, for example, of the fact that God put a blockade in front of Adam & Eve to develop and protect them. He told them to stay away from the tree of knowledge of good and evil – for their own good. But Satan used it as a temptation, because, unlike God, SATAN ALWAYS WANTS TO DESTROY US. Consider also Matthew 4:1 which states that “Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil.” ‘Tempted’ is this same word, meaning either testing or tempting. It’s because the experience was both a testing and tempting. God intended it for strengthening Jesus while Satan intended to break Jesus down. Dr. William Brownson wonderfully explains the distinction by pointing to a political candidate, running for public office. Her campaign manager wants to get her exposure so people get to know here and what she stands for. Her opponent, meanwhile, wants to expose her by digging up weaknesses and moral issues in her life so people see the ‘real her.’ Both people want to expose her but for completely opposite reasons. (3)
Another way to think of it is to look at automobile companies. Let’s say General Motors produces a new car. GM runs tests to point out the strengths and improvements over previous models. Environmental and watchdog groups run tests to expose the bad points. Each has different motives. So remember the distinction – in any given circumstance God is out to test and develop you while Satan is out to destroy you.