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.
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 were in James 1:14.
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)
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:
Let's look at what we can learn about the goodness of God, toward us.
What are some different ways God helps us resist temptation?
"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:
How does new birth come about? We're told:
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.
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.