Wednesday, November 8, 2023

The Problem of Evil (James 1:12-18)

"Let no one say when he is tempted, “l am tempted by God” (James 1:13).

One of the most common objections to Christianity concerns the problem of evil: If God is sovereign and ordains all things, then He is responsible for human wickedness. In answering this objection, we must remain faithful to the revealed Word of God even though we may not understand all the intricate details of divine ordination and how it relates to evil. But this does not mean that we cannot shed some light on the problem.

First, James clearly says that we cannot blame God for our evil actions: “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” (James 1:13). While God tests people, He does not tempt them to sin. Jesus, in the wilderness, was tested by God, but He was tempted by Satan. James reminds us that we don’t need temptation by Satan since we are tempted by our own sinful inclinations. We do not need to be compelled by some external force to give into sin. God, then, is cleared of enticing us to sin. We sin of our own volition and according to our own sinful desires. God is also cleared of any evil by the testimony of Scripture, which says “Good and upright is the LORD” (Ps. 25:8), “The LORD is good” (Nah. 1:7), and Jesus said, “There is only One who is good” (Matt. 19:17).

If God is good, then does He ordain evil? The answer is yes, but we stumble over the word ordain. Divine ordination does not mean that God imposes evil upon us or forces innocent people to sin. This would make God responsible for evil, which would be contrary to His nature. However, He did create human beings with the capacity to do evil. When He created our first parents, He did not force them against their will to exercise that capacity, but He knew they were going to choose to disobey. God allowed that to happen, and in choosing not to stop it He ordained it.

If God were to force you to sin, He would be guilty of evil. But He does not do that, any more than He compels you to eat or drink. He has ordained all these things, but He does not do violence to our own desires in accomplishing His purposes.

Read Genesis 6:5; Jeremiah 17:9; and Romans 3:10–12. According to these passages, who is responsible for evil? Do you take responsibility for your sin, or do you try to pass the buck? Why do you think God allows you to sin? What glorious things has He accomplished through the sinful actions of men? In your own life?