The Book of James, Part 11:
Temptation: Appreciate God's Goodness


Last week we discussed the nature of temptation, how dangerous it is.   Every Christian is tempted.  You can't grow out of it or mature beyond it.   Jesus was tempted, you will be too.   Then we differentiated between temptation and sin.  Temptation is the inclination, the urge, the human tendency to do what we should not do.   To be tempted is not sin.   To decide to take action or to take action on that temptation is sin.

We also learned that temptation is not from God.   James told us that we are the source of our temptation.   Since temptation is a part of life, it cannot be prevented, so we need to take preventative measures.   One preventative step is to spend time in the Bible and in prayer.  Build up our defenses.   If we can see temptation and sin like God sees it, we will recognize the danger and be more able to say no to the temptation.   Another defensive action is to recognize temptation for what it is.   See that it is like the fishing lure, it has a hook.  Recognize that it is designed to catch us and trap us.   Then we can avoid that person, or that place or that situation that is likely to hook us.   If we want to prevent the burn, we need to keep our distance from the fire.

Let me go back to one point we discussed last week.  We talked a little about Matthew 5:28, the "Jimmy Carter" verse.

George made the point that this warning is not just for women against men.   It is valid in the other direction.   I think he is right, but after we got home, Pat asked me how the gender of the words in the Greek dealt with that.   So I went back to look at it.

First, the verse says that "everyone that looks at a woman"…

The Greek word for everyone is pas which means all, any, every.   It is not gender specific.   So this warning by Jesus is not restricted to men.   Interestingly, it applies a woman lustfully looking at another woman.   Not surprising in concept, but I was surprised that this verse covers that situation as well, literally.

Of course that was not the point that George was making or that Pat asked about.   The point of their comment and question was, does the Greek support the fact that if a woman looks lustfully at a man, she has already committed adultery in her heart.

Since the "everyone" includes men and women, that term would cover a woman looking lustfully.   But what about the Greek word translated as woman in the verse,  "everyone that looks at a woman"?

Woman, here, is translated from the Greek word gune [gu-nay] which means a woman; specifically a wife.   It is gender specific.   It cannot be translated as man.   It is also interesting that it cannot mean an unmarried woman.   This verse is limited to anyone looking lustfully at a married woman.

You might then ask, "Why it is limited to a married woman?  Why isn't it true for anyone looking at an unmarried woman?"   The reason for this is based on the term adultery.   Adultery, in the original Greek is moicheuo [moy·khyoo·o], "to commit adultery".   Adultery is Biblically defined as having unlawful intercourse with another's wife.   If someone has unlawful intercourse with anyone not married, it is fornication, but it is not adultery.   The example that Jesus was using was adultery with a woman, so it is limited to married women.  Just to complete our understanding of the terms, fornication is the Greek word porneia [por·ni·ah] which is defined biblically as sexual intercourse outside God's rules.   So adultery is fornication, but not all fornication is adultery.   Adultery is when the fornication involves a married person.

Let's not miss the real point.   There is no reason to say that since Jesus did not also say that if anyone looks at a man with lust for him, and that person is not married to him, they have not committed a sin in their heart.  I would argue that the same principle applies.   Jesus was not teaching about lust and adultery, he was teaching about the condition of the heart.   He was teaching that at the point we yield to temptation in our heart, we have sin in our heart.   Temptation is not the sin.   The decision to act on the sin, if we get the chance, and certainly if we do act on the temptation, both are sins.

Today: Appreciate God's Goodness:

Having chased that rabbit, let's move on.

We ended last week with Paul's promise that there are tools available for us to resist temptation

We are promised that if we ask God, he will provide the escape and/or endurance to resist the temptation.

We were in James 1:14.

We dealt with each of the significant words in this verse except for the last.   We talked about the subtleties of the original Greek, that each of us is especially vulnerable to our unique temptations, as a result of temperament, or childhood, or family; all of the things that make us unique, also set the stage for our unique vulnerabilities.

But we did not study the word lust.   Lust is translated from the Greek word epithumia [ep·ee·thoo·mee·ah] which means desire, craving, longing, desire for what is forbidden.   So James is talking about our humanly deep desire to have what is forbidden.   We see this in children all the time.  If you want them to eat carrots, tell them that carrots are only for adults and that they cannot have carrots.   See how fast they grab the carrots.   Unfortunately, we never out-grow that trait.   James is talking about our natural tendencies to want whatever we are told we can't have as being the force behind the temptation in our lives.   Temptation does not come from God.  James does not blame it on the devil. We are the source of our temptation.   We are not the victim, we are the perpetrator.

Let's go on to the next verse and the next section that James tells us about.   He told us to:

    1. Acknowledge The Danger of Temptation (1:13-15)

Now he is telling us to:

    2. Appreciate The Goodness of God (1:16-18)

As children, many of us probably sang this simple song in church.  It went like this:

   God is so good; God is so good.
   God is so good; He's so good to me.

Simple, right?  But profound.  The message of this song is the message of these verses -- that God is good, and that He is good to us.

So far in this chapter, James has been talking about the tests and temptations that all of us are going to go through.  I think he then wants to make sure that we don't find fault with God as we go through difficult times.

Questioning the character of God seems to be a natural response when we experience adversity.  People ask questions like this:

Satan's primary tool against man has always been to get us to question the goodness of God.  Back in Genesis 3, when talking to Eve about the fruit forbidden for them to eat, do you remember what he asked? Satan said, "God is trying to trick you.   He knows that if you eat from that tree, you will be as smart as God, and God does not want that."   Satan tries to get us not to trust God.   Our internal lust came from that source, and we still are tempted to question the character of God.   So James wants to reinforce what we need to understand, and the foundation on which we need to base our lives.   God is good.

Let's look at what we can learn about the goodness of God, toward us.

  1. Because God is good, He does not tempt us.  Verse 13 made this clear. God does not tempt.  When we sin, we tend to try to rationalize.  But don't try to blame God when you give in to your own evil desires.  Take responsibility for your own choices and actions.  Realize that God has done so much to help you resist temptation:

    What are some different ways God helps us resist temptation?

    Notice how the words "given" and "gift" reinforce the sense of the grace of God.

    "Good" is from the Greek word agathos [ag·ath·os].  In Greek, there are two words that are translated good.  One is kalos which means good in appearance, pleasing, beautiful.  The other is agathos which means inwardly good, morally good, good in its effects.

    I think the Holy Spirit knew what he was doing when he led James to use agathos.  Sometimes what God plans for us don't seem good or feel good but it is always inherently good.

    It's important for us to notice here that "every good thing" is from God.  That's every good thing that anyone experiences -- Christian or non-Christian.  Have you ever considered that?  Health, friendship, happiness, the enjoyment of a good meal, rest -- any good thing that anyone in the world experiences has God as its source.  God is not just good to Christians, He's good to everyone.  Jesus put it this way:

    This raises the realization that we need to be more thankful. Now here's an implication of this truth you may not have considered: Have you ever heard someone jokingly say something like, "I'm not going to Heaven.  I'm going to Hell and party with all my friends!!"  They may just be kidding but the statement shows a fundamentally wrong concept of Heaven and Hell.  Heaven will be a place filled with the goodness of God and nothing else -- which will make it inconceivably wonderful.  Hell will be a place completely empty of the goodness of God which will make it inconceivably bad.  Things like "friends" and "fun" are good and will therefore be completely absent from Hell.
  2. Because God is good, He gives us new life. Notice how the emphasis here is on God's work rather than ours.  It was His choice to make eternal life available to us.

    How does new birth come about?   We're told:

    I think there are at least two meanings built into this phrase.   James was writing this letter to the new believers that had been dispersed after Pentecost.   So they were the first wave, the first generation of Christians -- the first wave of the fruit of the teaching of Jesus.

    In a broader sense, remember that God in the Old Testament required that the first fruit from each harvest be sacrificed to him.   So the fact that these new Christians were dedicated to Jesus, they were sort of the gift to God, like the Old Testament model of the sacrifice of the first fruit of the harvest.

    There is one other aspect of "God is good" that you need to remember.

  3. God is good, and he does not change. God does not change.   He does not deviate.   There is no shifting.  God is dependable.   Not only is God good, He will always be good!  He never changes.  What a wonderful source of comfort and security this truth can be for us.
God was good,  he is good  and he will be good,  forever.


Next week we will go on to look at some specific warnings that James has for us.

    3. Avoid the Appeal of Anger    (1:19-20)
    4. Abandon the Rest of Sin        (1:21)

Re-read James 1: 13-21.  See if James can change your life, your attitude.   Especially see if verses 19-21 speak to you.