Tuesday, March 3, 2020

The Gift God Gives

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows" (James 1:17)

Having discussed trials and tribulations and our need for wisdom as we face them, James shifts to the subject of temptation. It is not a large shift of attention, however, because James uses the same Greek word for temptation as he used for trial. Indeed, for the believer, the awful surges of temptation that boil out of his heart can be the greatest of trials. In James 1:1–12, James is speaking of nonmoral trials as well as moral temptations, while in verse 13 he shifts to the question of moral temptations alone.

God, says James, never tempts anyone to sin. God does, of course, send trials our way, but He never directly attempts to seduce us to sin. James says that outward temptations marry with our inward corruption to produce evil fruit. Inward corruption conceives and gives birth to sin. Sin never produces life and health; after the momentary pleasure of sin, the fruit is distress and death. Sin, ultimately, comes from our own wicked hearts.

God’s gifts—including the trials He sends—are not like temptations. They are good and perfect gifts. God is like the sun, says James, the Father of all light (v. 17, compare v. 11). Candles burn out and the moon waxes and wanes, but the sun continues to shine. In the same way, God never sends anything but good to us. If we misuse His good gifts and commit sin, it is our fault alone.

The logic of James’s argument is this: For His own good reasons, God sends trials and tribulations our way (vv. 2–3). He intends these for good, that we might mature and become stable (v. 4). Our tendency, however, is to become angry and spiteful at God using these tribulations as an excuse to sin (vv. 13–15). Then we think we can, like Adam in Genesis 3:12, blame God for our sin (v. 13). James corrects us, though, teaching that we may never blame God when we sinfully respond to trials because God stands ready to give us the gift of wisdom to go along with the gift of tribulation (v. 5). Anyone who lacks wisdom need only ask for it. There is never any excuse for sinning in the midst of suffering. Neither is there ever any excuse for sinning.

James focuses here on one excuse we may use to rationalize our sin. We are not only practiced sinners but practiced rationalizers. We do not hesitate to blame our environment or genetics or the sovereignty of God. Some even claim, “The devil made me do it.” Take responsibility for your sin. Only then can you truly repent.