This week in James memory challenge we will focus on verses 14 through 16 of chapter one.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.
(James 1:14-16 ESV)
In these verses James continues to address the topic of temptation that he had started in verse 13. If you recall from last week we discussed that God never tempts anyone. God tests His people by giving them trials they can pass that will strengthen their faith and trust in Him. But temptation is sin that designed to lead us away from God and destroy us. Here in verses 14-16 we find where the root of the tree of temptation begins. It’s within us. Our own sinful desires lead us into temptation. All mankind is born with a sinful nature and that nature has a bent that always and continually drives us to sin. So any temptation to sin that we face was first formed within our own heart.
In this passage we also see two interesting word pictures. First in verse 14 we are given the picture of something similar to fishing or hunting. Our own sin lures us like a fisherman lures his prey out with an attractive bait. The object being that the lure is designed to capture and destroy the fish. So we also when we are drawn into temptation by our own sin will be led to our destruction. The second word picture that is given is in verse 15. Here James makes use of the imagery of the birth cycle. Our desires give birth to the child named Sin, and when Sin is full grown Sin gives birth then to the grandchild, Death. It’s powerful imagery and it helps us understand this week’s passage and how temptation affects the life of the believer.
It is already week five in our mission to memorize the book of James in one year. This week we will be memorizing verses 12 and 13. There is still time to join in with us. In fact one of my friends found out just this past week that we were doing this and she jumped right in and caught up with us in one week! Serious kudos!
In our verses for this week, James revisits suffering which is one of the themes of the book. In verse two, James introduced that suffering would produce steadfastness or patience in the life of the believer. In verse 12 he further explains that for those who remain steadfast to the end there awaits “the crown of life”. This is not to be interpreted as a literal crown, but rather that those who in suffering and trials steadfastly persevere by trusting in the grace of God will receive eternal life. Let me clarify so as not to confuse anyone. Simply persevering through trials and suffering does not earn salvation or eternal life for anyone. Scripture is very clear that there is not one single thing we can do to save ourselves. It is by grace alone through faith alone. What the trials instead show us and what verse 12 is making clear is that persevering in trials and suffering is an evidence of who we are in Christ.
There are some who erroneously teach that when you become a Christian that your life will be all sunshine and roses. That is not what Scripture teaches. In fact James is quite clear that all of us will face suffering. He offers exclusions to no one. So if suffering does not earn us Salvation and we cannot avoid it, what purpose does it serve? I’m glad you asked. Suffering is not about us. Suffering is about us drawing closer to God. In trials God teaches us to become less dependent upon ourselves and instead to rely more upon Him. Those who suffer faithfully are drawn in their suffering to a deeper and closer relationship with Christ. It is in the stripping away of our own self-dependency and pride that we recognize and see God for who He is. As we lean further into Christ and become more dependent on Him and what He has done we are further united with Christ in His death and resurrection. “Blessed are the pure in heart for they shall see God.” How do we become pure? By exchanging our sins for His righteousness. What is the end result of us being considered pure? That we will see God face to face. The great promise and blessing given by God to those who follow Him that He will makes His face to shine upon us.
Verse 13 is loaded with tons of theological implications. So if suffering comes from God, does temptation come from God also? James is very clear that the answer is a resounding, “No!” God is holy. He cannot tolerate sin. Therefore, when we are tempted to sin it does not come from God. Next week, we will learn in verse 14 more about where sin comes from.
If there are any questions or if anyone feels like I may have gotten something not quite right, please comment below.
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
(James 1:12-13 ESV)
Time almost always seems to fly by, but this commitment to memorize the book of James seems to accelerate it somehow! A new week begins and I feel like I’m not quite as comfortable with last weeks verses as I would like and it’s already time to start on the next verses. Which is a long way for me to state that I’m doing OK with the memorization, but I need to work at it little more in order to feel comfortable with how well I know my verses!
This week we will be memorizing James 1:9-11. In this passage, James exhorts the poor and the rich at the same time though his commands to them are different. The lowly brother, or poor, is to “boast in his exaltation”. While the rich should boast in their humiliation. The remainder of verses 10 and 11 go on to address the frailty of life and how eventually all things temporal will fade away.
The ESV Study Bible’s notes were extremely helpful in understanding the instruction that James gives to the poor and the rich. I’m going to quote it here. Both poverty and riches bring enormous pressure on a person to focus on the world rather than on Christ. Thus James exhorts the poor to boast (or glory) in their high status in Christ. The lowly brother will be exalted or vindicated by God. In contrast, James exhorts the rich to boast in their humiliation, (1) by realizing that their wealth is temporary and that it brings them no advantage before God, and (2) by identifying with the poor in their affliction. The church is to be a “countercultural” community, which reverses the values of the world (cf. 2:2–4). Given the context, James seems to be saying that the challenges of poverty and wealth may be one of the greatest “trials” for Christians, as would be suggested by his immediate emphasis (see 1:12) on the “blessed” status of those who remain “steadfast under trial.” James also echoes Jesus’ warning that “You cannot serve God and money”. I especially like the part that whether poor or rich that one of greatest trials may lie in reversing the values of the world. And isn’t that one of our great struggles? For those who have nothing to fight the urge to have more, and for those who are rich to recognize that their wealth ultimately means nothing. That for both individuals the struggles focuses on rejecting what the world values and instead focusing on God.
Verses 10 and 11 call to mind several other passages of Scripture that speak of how quickly life passes. Job 14:2, Psalm 103:15-16, and Isaiah 40:6-7. Of course it also reminds me of the passage yet to come in James where he states that life is but a mist or a vapor that passes quickly.
It’s still not too late to join in if you would like to. You could catch up in few weeks. If you are on the fence at all on whether to participate or not, I would encourage you to give it a try. Already I have realized the benefit of doing this as the commitment to memorizing has placed these verses front and center in my mind. That in turn has caused me to meditate on them throughout the day. At random times throughout the day a phrase or a verse will come to mind and I think on the words and try to gain a better understanding of how these verses apply to my life. All while washing dishes or cooking supper! Here are our verses for this week.
Let the lowly brother boast in his exaltation, and the rich in his humiliation, because like a flower of the grass he will pass away. For the sun rises with its scorching heat and withers the grass; its flower falls, and its beauty perishes. So also will the rich man fade away in the midst of his pursuits.
(James 1:9-11 ESV)