Those who stand firm during testing are blessed. They are tried and true. They will receive the life God has promised to those who love him as their reward.
13No one who is tested should say, “God is tempting me!” This is because God is not tempted by any form of evil, nor does he tempt anyone. 14Everyone is tempted by their own cravings; they are lured away and enticed by them. 15Once those cravings conceive, they give birth to sin; and when sin grows up, it gives birth to death. 16Don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.
(James 1:12–16 CEB)
Key Observation: God rewards those who remain steadfast in the face of trials.
If it is true that God is in control of all of life’s circumstances, if it is true that he is sovereign, then, perhaps, he is responsible for the trials we face! This reflection, though erroneous, seems consistent with the way James’s audience is thinking about God’s role in their life circumstances. As Christians reflect on the source and role of the trials they face, James finds it important to help them develop an adequate theology and perspective.
First, he reaffirms the need and importance of patient endurance in the face of trials. He uses language that is similar to what Jesus used in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5). Those who stand firm in the face of trials and pass their tests are blessed! They are blessed because there is a reward awaiting them; namely, the crown of life that God has promised to those who love him! The athlete who wins an athletic event often receives a laurel crown. James is evoking this image to encourage and remind those who are struggling to persevere in order to be victorious. It also helps put life in present and future perspective. Jewish apocalyptic literature often speaks of the crown the righteous receive from God in the afterlife as reward for their faithfulness: “Those who do the right thing live forever. Their reward comes from the Lord. . . . they will receive . . . a beautiful royal crown from the Lord himself” (Wisd. Sol. 5:15–16a CEB). Because life is fleeting, the pursuit of earthly riches and status is futile. In contrast, patient endurance in the face of trials is life-giving!
Second, he shapes their theology. He makes an important distinction between trials and testing/temptation. Whereas trials are a means of growth and Christian maturity, it is misleading to think that God is the source of our testing. As he mentions before (James 1:5) and later (v. 17), God is the generous giver of everything that is good and perfect. God allows his children to experience trials as a way of shaping their behavior and teaching them. However, God is not tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone to sin. Rather, the source of testing and temptation is internal and not external. Temptations arise from within a person’s innermost being and follow a destructive progression that leads to sin and death. Here James points out another contrast in one’s behavior—the full effect of faithful endurance leads to Christian perfection (v. 4); the full effect of sin produces death. To be sure, there exists a connection between trials and temptation. Temptation arises from a person’s inappropriate reaction to trials. For example, a Christian who continually faces contempt and isolation from the world may be tempted to compromise because of the need for acceptance. A lack of resources may give rise to the temptation to envy, whereas an abundance of resources may give rise to the temptation to hoard. Both can lead to self-sufficiency and pride, which is a sinful posture.
James is correcting at least two misconceptions and helping the audience overcome self-deception. He helps them understand that the locus of temptation is a person’s desires. He also contrasts the life-threatening nature of giving in to temptations against the life-giving reality of enduring trials. Sin gives birth to death, but those who remain steadfast when facing trials (and death) will receive life. Since God’s promise is true, then it is crucial to remain steadfast in the midst of trials in order to receive the reward of life.
Questions for Reflection
- How can we control our desires in order to prevent the destructive descent into sin and death?
- What habits and practices can we maintain and nurture to help us endure patiently in the face of trials?
- Sunday school classes
- Weeknight small groups
- Individual study
In these pages you’ll:
- Journey through the core message of the Letter of James
- Understand the relationship between faith in God and faithful, Christian living
- Appreciate our dependence on God and our interdependence on one another as believers
About the Study
This next installment in the OneBook Daily-Weekly series is a careful and perceptive study of James from Abson Joseph, an associate professor of New Testament. Joseph leads disciples through an eight-week course of understanding, self-reflection, and real-world application of the teachings of James. Each week carries themes of hospitality, humility, faith, intentionality in our speech and actions, community, and, most importantly, prayer.
Joseph’s masterful juxtaposition of godliness versus worldliness woven throughout the text remind the reader they are a part of a community of other believers working toward a life of continual spiritual development. This book is for anyone who wants to actively be stronger in Christ no matter where they are on their journey. Get it from our store here.