Thursday, July 14, 2005


Consider It Pure Joy

James 1:2-15 talks to us about temptation. The Greek word translated “trials” in verse 2 is the same as the word translated “tempted” in verse 13. The primary meaning of the word is enticement toward sin. In a secondary way it sometimes means a trial such as persecution or hard times, because those times often bring a temptation to abandon our faith. Readers today tend to understand "trials” as the difficult circumstances, apart from any associated temptation to commit sin.

There are 3 choices in understanding James 1. It might mean “trials” or difficult circumstances throughout. This is unlikely, since verses 13-15 are clearly expressed as enticement. It might mean “trials” in verses 2-12 and then abruptly change to meaning “temptation” in verses 13-15. This is unlikely, since there are no clues in the context that indicate a change in topic. Yet, because most modern translations render it by two separate words, this is the way many preachers and readers understand it. The third option is to understand the topic to be “temptation” throughout the passage.

Actually, the passage makes perfect sense to understand temptation as the topic through the whole section. It is obvious that this is the topic in the second part. Temptation does not come from God, who can’t be tempted by evil, but comes from our own evil desire (verses 13-15). It is also clear that this is the topic at the beginning. Temptation is an opportunity for great joy (verse 2). This is not because we anticipate the joy of the sin to which we are tempted, but because it is an opportunity for victory over temptation.

Like a big kid challenged to a fight by a scrawny little kid, or like a professional ball team challenged to a game by a little league team, there is confidence of winning. Not the overconfidence against which believers are warned in 1 Corinthians 10:12, “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.” But the trusting confidence that temptation is a matter of subbornly outlasting the temptation, as advised in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “He will provide a way out so that you can stand up to it.”

The key verse in the passage is verse 12, “perseveres under temptation.” Make a commitment to the truth of God’s word, recognize the lies that are embedded in the temptation with your God-given wisdom, and use your God-given stubbornness to stick to your commitment throughout the entire sweep of temptation. The result is that you win, you pass the test of faith, and ultimately you receive the crown of life.

Let’s read with our eyes open.

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