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Studies in James: predictable outcomes, 1:12-18

James 1:12-18

Studies in James

Whether evil or good,
the outcome is always predictable.

Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him.

13Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. 16Do not err, my beloved brethren.

17Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.18Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.

Study of the Scriptures—

We set in motion a course what we cannot control.
God, however, is consistently good and consistently consistent.

(1:12-16) Although it may not at first seem possible, temptation can result in a blessing. Not that temptation itself is something good; it is not. Yet, God has promised to honor those who resist temptation by awarding them with a crown of life. It is all a question of whether we love God more or the temptation more.

We never intended this to happen
God, of course, is not the source of evil, not even in some convoluted or philosophical sense. The truth is that our own lusts give rise to our own bitter downfall. We wreck our own lives. In fact, our illicit passions actually give birth to sin. After that, sin develops on its own, sucking the very marrow from our lives and souls, leaving behind a legacy of racked pain and ruined lives. Like a spiritual cancer, sin grows into a hideous death marked by ugliness, ruin, and stench.

The guise and direction, of course, are always the same: from desire to enticement, from enticement to sin, and from sin to death. What we initially intend is never the final outcome. That much is predictable. Once evoked, sin irreversibly grows worse, disintegrating all that it touches, progressing relentlessly toward one crowning and revolting achievement. Initially, we might be deceived by sin, but we should have no misgivings about what sin ultimately accomplishes.

God does not change ever
(1:17-18) Nor should we be deceived about the nature of God. Unlike what we unwittingly bring forth by fickle emotion and desire, God deliberately brings forth what is completely good. In fact, he is the giver of every perfect gift. With him there is neither whimsical motive nor capricious outcome. Indeed, God brings forth a light and blessing which the sun itself cannot equal and he does so with a consistency that no sun could ever match.

He also brings us forth as children of his, but our birth (unlike that of sin) is never marked by any deception or wrong. We are given birth by his word of truth. So, if we are born in truth, we should never live a lie, and the words we speak should be the mirror image of the word that made us.

Questions that touch the heart

  1. Is the testing of 1:2 and the temptation in 1:12 the same? How do we know?
  2. It may seem sacrilegious to blame God for the evil outcome in our life, but philosophically that might be possible.
    Why would anyone want to blame God for what has happened ?
  3. How can sin mislead us? How can we know when we are being misled? Can we sense that something is wrong?
    or can everything look and feel right?
  4. Also later in the opening chapter, James returns to the notion of trials, but this time he identifies suffering with temptation (1:12-15).
    Are we to understand that trials (1:2) and temptation (1:12) are identical? If not, how then are these two notions related?
  5. Why can’t we control the development of sin once it has started? After all, as the famous poem suggests,
    we are the captain of our fate and the master of our soul, aren’t we?
  6. Why does sin lead us into placing the blame on others?
  7. How do we make others feel guilty for something we ourselves have done? How do we place blame?
  8. James speaks about another birth other than sin. What is that birth? And what are some of the obvious implications of that birth?
    (Sin, too, has implications, but its outcome is kept hidden. Why?)

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