Summary: Temptation is always a threat to the child of God. The message is a consideration of the source of temptation and the consequences of surrender to temptation.
WHEN I SURRENDER TO TEMPTATION
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.”
College boys, and perhaps even college girls, will, on occasion, recite an old saw, “Lead me not into temptation; I can find it myself.” No doubt, college students, and some individuals well past college age, find such sentiments amusing. Tragically, the old saw is not merely amusing; it is stunningly accurate.
Temptation is not sin; yielding to temptation is sin. The Christian is taught to master his desires; failure to do so results ultimately in death. At no time are we more susceptible to surrendering to our desires than during extremes the experiences of life. When we are elated, we are susceptible to do what feels right at the moment and getting things wrong. When we are dejected, we are equally vulnerable to embracing our darkest desires, resulting in lingering and perhaps unanticipated costs.
Bear in mind that James was writing to Jewish Christians that were even then experiencing intense persecution. The ill-treated saints were at risk of losing everything normally associated with comfort in this life. Their homes and possessions were seized, they were forced to vacate long-standing social networks to become wanderers, their very lives were threatened, all because they avowed faith in Jesus as the Messiah.
Under such extreme harassment, it was no doubt tempting to seek relief through compromise. Perhaps they could find some middle ground that would lessen the hostilities they faced. Because of the danger of seeking compromise in pursuit of righteousness, James was compelled to address forthrightly our response to temptation. What he wrote to these harried and harassed saints of so many years ago is applicable to this day for all who seek to follow the Son of God.
THE GENESIS OF TEMPTATION — “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” What does it mean to be tempted? To say that one is tempted implies a choice. Though temptation may indeed have a physical side, temptation always has a moral dimension.
Practically speaking, it is not temptation to be faced with a decision between two equally righteous choices. Youth frequently struggle with whom to marry. Frankly, the Bible views such a decision in a neutral light, so long as the decision facing an individual is to choose between people who are righteous. In other words, individuals have complete freedom in the issue of whom to marry, so long as you marry in the Lord. So long as your boyfriend, or girlfriend, is a believer seeking to serve the Master, you have liberty. Paul addresses this situation in his first letter to the Corinthians Christians. Perhaps you will recall the apostolic instruction provided in 1 CORINTHIANS 7:25-31.
“Concerning the betrothed, I have no command from the Lord, but I give my judgment as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. I think that in view of the present distress it is good for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be free. Are you free from a wife? Do not seek a wife. But if you do marry, you have not sinned, and if a betrothed woman marries, she has not sinned. Yet those who marry will have worldly troubles, and I would spare you that. This is what I mean, brothers: the appointed time has grown very short. From now on, let those who have wives live as though they had none, and those who mourn as though they were not mourning, and those who rejoice as though they were not rejoicing, and those who buy as though they had no goods, and those who deal with the world as though they had no dealings with it. For the present form of this world is passing away.”
He concludes this portion of his letter by advising wives who are freed from marriage through death, to marry only in the Lord [1 CORINTHIANS 7:39]. Of course, the principle would apply in all situations—for males and females, as well as applying to the formerly married and the never married. So the biblical principle promotes freedom in all things where there is no unrighteousness.
Likewise, though there may be consequences of varying natures, where you attend church is a matter of freedom, so long as the congregation honours the Lord and the pulpit and people adhere to biblical truth. In such an instance, the freedom implies that your responsibility is to honour the Lord through seeking truth. In other words, choices that carry no moral liability assign no possibility for temptation.