James 1:14

Friday, 14 June 2019

But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. James 1:14

James has been speaking of enduring temptation, and that anytime someone faces tempting it cannot be attributed to God. As he said, “God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” Therefore, the question is, “If God isn’t tempting me, then where is the temptation coming from?” The answer is that “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.”

More correctly the word translated as “drawn away” is a present participle. It should read, “is being drawn away.” Likewise, the word translated as “enticed” is also a present participle. It should read, “is being enticed.” James is noting the progression of what is occurring in the person.

Here, James uses a word found only in this verse in Scripture, exelkó. It means “to draw out of the right place,” and thus to entice. It is a metaphor brought in from those who hunt and fish. Hunters may use a dead animal to lure an animal out of its den, or a fisherman may use a handmade fly or some other bait to lure a fish for the catch. This type of idea is what James now transfers to the tempting of man.

Our own desires are like a lure, enticing us and drawing us away. Once the lure is set, and the bait has been gone after, man is drawn away to his fate. Therefore, although the temptation is based on something external, it is an internal force which impels us. Therefore, God – though He is the Creator of all things, and thus the Source of all things – cannot be held responsible for the temptation which arises. Rather, man goes beyond the divinely established parameters and falls into sin on his own.

To see this actively portrayed in Scripture, take time to read the words of Proverbs 7:6-27. There, you will see a poor young soul lured in by the trap, who then finds himself caught in it because he followed the enticement of his appetite instead of following the word of God which is able to keep him from the sad path he set his feet upon.

It should be noted that the word “desires” comes from the Greek epithumia. It is used in both a good and a bad way elsewhere. For example, Jesus said, “With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.” One can have great desire for a thing and not be sinning. Therefore, it is a matter of the heart which is being considered here. God looks upon the heart and discerns between right desires and those which are sinful.

Paul uses this term in Romans 7 to explain how the source of such desire is stirred into action –

“What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead.”

As one can see, the source of the desire is within. The law merely brings it forth. Paul speaks elsewhere of the law written on the heart (Romans 2:15). In this, we see that there are moral laws written within us, and there are laws given which are external to us. The laws establish parameters which are set, and which then highlight the nature of the desire. Jesus’ desire (mentioned above) was within the parameters of what is allowed. However, when one steps outside of those parameters, the condition of his heart is shown forth as sinful. James will reveal this more clearly in the coming verse.

Life application: Can you remember someone blaming God for his misfortunes? Have you ever done this? It is inappropriate to ascribe evil or evil intent to God. Rather, our life and circumstances result from happenstance (read Ecclesiastes for a better understanding of this); from the devil and his demons; or from our own bad decisions. God intends only good for us, but He allows us to follow the paths of our own making.

In the end, this shows us the great mercy of God. Despite our evil desires leading us astray, God is willing to forgive us in Christ Jesus – if we call out to Him. In addition to this, God is willing to leave us here and to continue to make mistakes even after our salvation. This is so that “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7).

Even after coming to Christ, we fail to please God again and again. When we stand in His presence and see His majesty, we will forever sing His praises. First He saves us, and then He continues to put up with us! Let us attempt at every turn to be pleasing to Him – not gratifying the evil desires of our heart, but standing firm in Him. Rather than being dragged away by sin, let us be ever anchored to the strong and mighty Rock, who is Jesus Christ our Lord!

Lord God! Thank you for enduring us, even when we at times follow our own wayward actions. Yes, even when we are enticed and dragged away by our sins, You will have mercy upon us. But Lord, keep us from willful sin. And when we fail You, we have the surety that Jesus’ precious blood covers our misdeeds. What a wonderful God You are for giving us forgiveness through Jesus! Amen.

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