Summary: We live in a world where what is good and what is evil are determined by what suits us. In this passage James outlines the truth about good and evil.
The Truth About Evil and Good
We live in a world where what is good and what is evil are determined by what suits us.
We see it all around us. Our generation does evil and we call it good and we avoid good as if it was evil.
For example it’s almost impossible to find someone who will admit that they are evil. To us we are almost always good! And what may be evil to you may be good for me.
No wonder we’re all in therapy! We’re so mixed up.
In this passage, James straightens out some faulty thinking – he outlines the truth about good and evil (OHP).
A. THE TRUTH ABOUT EVIL (1:13-16)
1. A correction
These days some people are so mixed up that they blame God for our flaws. They say, “I have imperfections and weaknesses and God is to blame for them. After all, he made us – and so he must have made us the way we are, with a tendency to do wrong things. And didn’t God put us in a world filled with temptations that I just can’t resist? It’s God’s fault that I’m a sinner,” they say.
That kind of thinking is so worldly – it has nothing to do with the Bible. We do wrong and we need someone to blame. Yes the blame does lie with someone, but it’s not God! To blame God for supposedly creating us weak, and to blame him for placing us in temptations way is evidence of how far we have drifted from the truth. It shows that we can’t even discern what’s good and what’s evil anymore.
The Bible says that the truth is the exact opposite of this kind of thinking. James explains the truth about evil.
“No one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone” (James 1:13).
God is our loving heavenly father! All he wants is to give us love and freedom - not to maliciously trip us up. Jesus made this clear when he said,
MT 7:9 "Which of you, if his son asks for bread, will give him a stone? MT 7:10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake?MT 7:11 If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
What Jesus is saying is that if we sinful human beings know how to give good things – how much more does our holy and sinless God in heaven? God doesn’t enjoy seeing us trip up over sin - he loves us. He doesn’t want to see us torn down, he wants to give us good things that build us up.
James tells us that it’s wrong for us to think that God tempts us because our God is untemptable (v 13). What he means is that God can’t be persuaded to do evil – and to tempt someone so as to trip them up and corrupt them is an evil thing to do. But God is completely holy so it’s just not in his nature to behave that way.
The whole idea that a god can tempt humans to do evil is not a Christian concept. It comes from the ancient gods of Greece and Rome – like Mars, the god of violence, and Athena the goddess of war. Ancient people believed that these gods interfered with human life in evil ways. But it’s not like that with the Christian God. The Christian God is absolutely holy and righteous – there is no malicious intent in his heart whatsoever.
So God can’t be persuaded to tempt us and we should be careful not to accuse him of doing so.
b. The source of temptation
So where does temptation come from?
James points out in v14 that, each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
Temptation comes from within us. Within all of us are evil desires that are ready to express themselves in action. That’s the thing with sin. Sin takes us right to the heart of where we want to be – we have a desire and we want it met. But it’s not the meeting of that desire that is sinful, but how that desire, that need is met.
Some people have tried to avoid sin by denying the basic human desires. But that makes us something less than human, because it’s not desire itself that is sinful, but how we seek to have those desires met. Hunger is not sinful, but gluttony is. Desiring to pass a test is not sinful, but cheating is. Sleeping in is not sinful, but laziness is.