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James teaches us to resist temptation

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Today’s bible study is James 1:12: Blessed is the man who endures temptation; for when he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.

Oh, how very hard it can be to resist temptation! We are faced with temptation every day, in both big and small ways. The temptation may be something very simple, like a high calorie lunch or a new pair of shoes. Or, it may be something far more difficult with life changing consequences, such as considering adultery or worshiping an idol. Temptation is all around us, in everything we so, everywhere we go and everything we do. It exists in the stores, on television, in our neighborhood and on the internet. Temptation can be a very difficult companion to avoid.

But James writes in this verse on being tested. He speaks to anyone who endures temptation and returns to the theme of being testes and enduring. In contrast to verse 2:8 in which testing produced endurance and endurance produced maturity, here failure to endure produces blaming God, sin and death. Test or trial and temptation translate as the same word, and the context in which they are used determines their translation. The introduction of desire, sin, evil and deception in verses 13-16 has led several current bible translations to shift to temptation, even when the test or temptation remains unspecified. The one who endures temptation receives a blessing that is the crown of life. This concept is repeated in the Gospel of Matthew and the Book of Revelation.

Whereas God gave to the one with strong faith, here it is to the one who loves him. James rejects the excuse that God is neither the source nor the object of temptation. The source is in human desire. The word desire may carry sexual overtones, but not necessarily. It can also be translated as covet or desire to possess. James, however, does find sexual desire an appropriate image to characterize the downward slide of the one who does not endure.

A really confounding verse, isn't it? Every time we pray the familiar words of The Lord’s Prayer, we pray: Lead us not into temptation. Perhaps this is all that we can do. We can try to avoid being led into temptation whenever and wherever it exists. We can pray that we may have the strength to resist temptation, even when it seems small, harmless and is easily attained. For, as James (or the writer of this letter) writes, resisting temptation will bring us the crown of life.

References: The People’s New Testament Commentary by M. Eugene Boring and Fred B. Craddock and The MacArthur Bible Commentary by John MacArthur.

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