James teaches us about temptation and sin. James 1:12-15 “Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
“Blessed is the man who endures temptation.” The word “temptation” can mean two different things. It can mean a trial that God allows to come upon you that tests your faith. Therefore, it could be persecution, loss of loved ones, illness, financial difficulty or any of a number of trials that can come upon you. I believe that Peter wrote about such trials in 1 Peter 1:6b-7 “Though now for a little while, if need be, you have been grieved by various trials, that the genuineness of your faith, being much more precious than gold that perishes, though it is tested by fire, may be found to praise, honor, and glory at the revelation of Jesus Christ.” The word “temptation” can also mean an enticement to sin; perhaps that is what Jesus meant when He gave the “Lord’s Prayer” in Matthew 6:13 “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” Whether it is a trial or an enticement to sin, blessed or happy is the man who endures temptation. By enduring, it is implied that the temptation occurred over a period of time and that the man withstood the test, did not sin, but remained faithful to God.
“For when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.” In other words, when the man has withstood the test, has not lost his faith, has not given himself to sin, but has remained faithful, he will receive the crown of life. I understand this to mean that he will receive life, eternal life, as his prize or crown. He doesn’t earn eternal life because eternal life is a gift (Romans 6:23). But it is conditional. It is conditional to those who have been approved – who have withstood the test; it is promised to those who love Him.
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone.” Since there are two meanings of temptation, here James choses the meaning of enticement to sin and says that God does not entice you to do evil. God is not enticed to do evil because He is God and there is no part of God that is evil. He never entices you to do evil. The devil or Satan may entice you to sin just as the serpent beguiled Eve and she ate of the forbidden fruit. Jesus was tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11). But God does not tempt anyone to sin.
“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” Whether or not the devil is involved in your temptation, you are responsible for your own actions. James says that each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires. There is a part of sin that is attractive and desirable; if sin didn’t have some appeal, no one would ever sin. Each one of us as humans has fleshly desires; fulfillment of some of those fleshly desires may be contrary to God’s will and therefore be sinful. To be a true follower of Jesus, there are times you must deny yourself what you desire. Matthew 16:24 “Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.’”
You and I need help from God when we are tempted. Jesus used scripture to combat the Devil when He was tempted (Matthew 4:1-11). God has promised to provide a way of escape from temptation. 1 Corinthians 10:13 “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” Jesus admonished His disciples to watch and pray. Matthew 26:41 “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” You can find help from your temptation.
James wrote that each one is tempted “when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.” Not only does one have a sinful desire, but there is the enticement to fulfill the desire. Rather than just acknowledging a sinful desire and immediately rejecting it, the word “enticed” implies to me that one thinks about how desirable a sinful action might be so that the desire to yield to the temptation becomes greater. My encouragement is to avoid being enticed by seeking to put sinful thoughts out of your mind when they come and praying for God’s help.
“Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin.” At some point, you may yield to your temptation and sin. Usually, it is when you say or do something sinful. But Jesus taught us that sin can be in the heart without outward actions. Matthew 5:28 “But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”
“And sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.” I do not understand that when one sins he immediately has spiritual death. But if sin is left unresolved and un-repented, it typically grows and draws one away from God and brings forth death.
My encouragement is to understand the temptation and sin process so that you can overcome and stand the test. Watch and pray so that you overcome temptation.