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Pastoral 2014

Whose Fault is It That You Are Tempted?

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Some are prone to point the finger at others and even at God when they fall into temptation and commit sins. So the apostle James cautions us, “Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God” (James 1:13a). Blaming others for one’s own sin started in the Garden of Eden. Adam said to God, “The woman whom thou gavest to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I did eat” (Genesis 3:12). Adam blamed his wife, and he extended the blame to God as well! He seemed to imply that he would not have sinned if God had not put Eve in the garden with him.

DON’T BLAME GOD!

It is important that we take note of James’ caution: “Let no man say …I am tempted of God”. Some believers tend to misinterpret Godsend trials as God tempting them with opportunities to sin. Such a notion is far from the truth. So James gives a stern warning to those who may pin the blame on God with responsibility for their temptation to sin. James is very concerned about such an idea of God, and desires that his readers will reject the suggestion that God has a hand in inducing people to sin.

One’s thoughts about God affect one’s decisions and responses to life’s experiences. If one presumes that the temptations of sin that he experiences are from God, he will then have an ill-conceived excuse for the sins he would commit. As James noted, he would then say impious and despicable things, such as “God tempted me with sins.”

To say that “I am tempted of God” is, first of all, to make a false claim about God. It is a heresy to say that God tempts us with sin. Any thought or statement that depicts God as the author of sin is contrary to the unmistakable teaching of the Holy Scriptures that all of God’s works are holy. Moses avows in Deuteronomy 32:4, “He is the Rock, his work is perfect: for all his ways are judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right is he.” Psalm 145:17 declares, “The LORD is righteous in all his ways, and holy in all his works.” Likewise, Psalm 92:15 affirms, “To shew that the LORD is upright: he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him” (cf. 1 Sam. 2:2; Ps. 111:3; 119:137; Zeph. 3:5; Rev. 4:8).

Secondly, such a statement deceives the heart to consider sin as an unavoidable matter that God has laid on him. Such a belief stands contrary to all the counsels and admonitions of God in His Word. God commands us to depart and be separate from everything unholy. For instance, 2 Corinthians 6:17 admonishes us, “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you”. The Lord God would have nothing to do with those who follow the way of sin. He calls all His people to “come out” from all sorts of unclean and false people and their ways.

How scandalous and diabolical it is then to say, “I am tempted of God”!

Though our trials are permitted by God, He is not the author of the temptation of sin that befalls us simultaneously with those trials. No temptation of sin is designed or discharged by God. As James says, “for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man.”

God will never cajole and coax us to sin. God will never influence us to sin by infusing evil thoughts, inclinations, or desires. Nothing that God does is evil; His ways with His people will never lead them to sin. The tempter is the devil (cf. 2 Corinthians 2:11; 11:3, 13-15; 1 Thessalonians 3:5). God is holy and He leads only into the paths of righteousness. As David confesses, “He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3).

Let no one think that God lays upon him, through his trials, an unavoidable compulsion to sin. The trials that God permits in one’s life are never to compel one to sin, but to sanctify and strengthen him. All that God does is good and perfect (cf. James 1:16, 17). Therefore, do not yield to the temptations of sin, saying, “God has tempted me!” It is very impious of anyone to make such a dreadful assertion.

God influences us only unto righteousness while Satan, the world and our own lust tempt us with sin unto unrighteousness. The Lord never tempts us with sin. On the contrary, He is ever ready to protect and deliver us from sin’s temptation. So the Lord taught us to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil” (Matt. 6:13). God will aid every one of His children who yearns to be delivered from evil temptations. Did not Jesus say, “Watch ye and pray, lest ye enter into temptation” (Mark 14:38; cf. Matt. 26:41)?

ADMIT YOUR GUILT

Some may not blame God, but they point at the devil, the world, friends, parents, siblings, church members, church leaders, etc. Though some of these are common sources of evil temptations, the above Scripture points out that there is a more subtle and dangerous fountain-head. It lies within every one and is identified as “his own lust”.

The word “lust” (epithumía) indicates “strong desire” or “longing” in a bad sense. It depicts man’s inordinate and impure desire or appetite. King James Bible has translated it also as “concupiscence”. It is often used with words that connote materialism and sensuality. The New Testament usages of the word are instructive: “evil concupiscence” (Col. 3:5), “deceitful lusts” (Eph. 4:22), “foolish and hurtful lusts” (1 Tim. 6:9), “youthful lusts” (2 Tim. 2:22), “worldly lusts” (Titus 2:12), “fleshly lusts” (1 Pet. 2:11), “ungodly lusts” (Jude 1:18), etc. Hence, “lust” represents the corrupt inclinations of the human heart.

“Lust” is not a dormant, harmless curiosity or idea of the heart. Quite the reverse; it is a very powerful feeling that can numb one’s moral and spiritual senses, and draw one to corrupt and damaging activities. James reveals to us lust’s powerful ploy with the two verbs he used in the above verse. The first verb translated “drawn away” (exélkō) conveys the idea of being “dragged out” or “forcibly hauled or compelled”. The second verb translated “enticed” (deleázō) comes from a root word (délear) that means “bait”; it signifies being beguiled and lured into a trap or snare. Powerful enticements and deceptions are at play when lust is at work in our hearts. Our thinking and feelings will be so desensitised that we can be wheedled into destructive conduct. Like the bait on the fisherman’s hook that entices the fish, lust also would entice a man into sin’s temptations; and once hooked, he, like the fish, would be dragged away!

Beloved church, there is a great need for us to realize that our own lust is a great danger to us. We must recognize and act against our own lust, lest it may soon drag us into shameful and hurtful mischief of sin. Our temptations are often self-inflicted perils. So let us be vigilant against ourselves. Peter cautions, “Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts, which war against the soul” (1 Peter 2:11).