Study 6          All Good Gifts 

James 1:12-18

12. Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.

13. Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted with evil and He Himself tempts no one;

14. but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

15. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death.

16. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

17.  Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

18. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures.

We have seen that wisdom comes through prayer from our past studies. Wisdom that comes from God allows us to stand the trials we face and actually draw closer to God through these situations. Then, it seems that James may well be saying that the biggest trial that a Christian faces is over how they respond to wealth and poverty. The pursuit of wealth has compromised more than one Christian from relying upon the love and grace of God to guide their lives. (See Matthew 6:24) In verses 6-8 James is encouraging us to trust God with an unwavering faith, but the pursuit of money can be a stumbling block to that trust. Now in verse 12 James has returned to the theme of the chapter – trials and the proper attitude towards them.

12. Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.

In the first verses of the Chapter James encourages his readers to respond to trials with joy because the testing of their faith leads to perseverance. Now in verse 12 we are introduced to the reward of enduring trials by remaining firm in our faith. Though we often can see our blessings through the tears of pain in this life, it is the future life that James has in mind with this verse. He says we, “will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.” He is referring to the laurel wreath given to the victors in a sporting event in the Greco-Roman world. (See Paul’s use in 1 Cor. 9:25) To be victorious in a sporting event a person had to train hard, and endure to the end, and so it is with the Christian life, but to those who persevere they receive the crown of life. (see Rev. 2:10)

13. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted by evil. And He Himself tempts no one.”

This is an important text for us to understand because the idea behind it is that every trial (v.12) leads us to be tempted to sin. God may allow trials, but God is not the author of temptation and that enticement to sin comes from our sinful nature and not from God. (v.14, 15)

In every trial we can be tempted to distrust God and question His loyalty to us. We can be tempted to try and solve the problem ourselves instead of relying on God’s promises. To endure (v.12) under trial means that we must resist the temptation to fall away from God’s love. I turn to Moo once again for guidance in this passage and he quotes from Law’s Commentary on the Epistle of James, “What must be understood is that temptation is an impulse to sin, and since God is not susceptible to any such desire for evil He cannot be seen as desiring that it be brought about in men.” What an amazing thought to keep in the forefront of our mind for when we face trials. God does not tempt us to sin, instead He gives us guidance and courage to face our trials and keep our faith locked onto His compassion and love.

14. but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.

We are tempted to blame God for our problems because of our own desires. The use of the Greek word translated “desire,” has the connotation of meaning, “that human longing for what God has prohibited.” Moo pg. 74 (see 1 Pet. 2:11; 1 John 2:17) The responsibility for temptation and sin is ours and not of God’s doings. In case you are wondering of where is mention of Satan’s part in temptation, James will take it up in 4:7Notice, that the temptation to sin takes place when we are lured and enticed by our own evil desires. The metaphor comes from fishing where the fish would be hooked because of the lure of the hook and then dragged into the boat. Moo writes, “The picture of Satan casting the enticements of sin before us and then hooking us and dragging us away when we bite is both vivid and terrifying.” Moo, pg.75 Notice that the temptation to sin takes place when we are lured and enticed by our own evil desires. The metaphor comes from fishing where the fish would be hooked because of the lure of the hook and then dragged into the boat. Moo writes, “The picture of Satan casting the enticements of sin before us and then hooking us and dragging us away when we bite is both vivid and terrifying.” Moo, pg.75

15. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death

Sinful desire can play havoc on our spiritual life. When we act upon these impulses to distrust God or blame Him for our problems we give birth to sin and sin, when it is meditated on and absorbed into our minds, brings on death. Remember that temptation isn’t the problem. The problem is when we allow the temptation to dominate our life and we dwell on it to the place where it becomes full-grown that we are lured into Satan’s snare that leads to death. Christian growth isn’t defined by the lack of temptation, but by the infrequency of submitting to the temptation. Because of our sinful nature we will always give into temptation, but as a growing Christian, those times should become fewer and fewer. Some temptations that we fall into time after time should remind us that we are not surrendering all aspects of our life to God. In our growth we need to turn our back on those temptations and keep a closer trust in God to see us through. As Christians we all struggle with temptation that stems from our evil desires, but we also know that many of those things that once tempted us no longer do. The reason is the more we seek the Holy Spirit’s aide to resist the less those temptations have a hold over us. Eventually, they disappear because we have built up a spiritual resistance to those fishing expeditions of Satan. However, he will cleverly attempt to destroy us through new channels and weaknesses. This is the nature of our spiritual journey and the temptations we face on our walk with Jesus.

16. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.

This is a transition verse between verses 12-15 and verses 17&18. James is reminding the readers not to be deceived into thinking God tempts them into sin. He is also looking forward and wants to make sure they know all good gifts come from God.

17. Every good endowment and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

God doesn’t tempt us to do evil, instead He gives us good gifts. All good gifts come down from the Father who is the creator (Father of lights, moon, stars, planets) and thus has the power and ability to give those gifts freely. (see Job 38:28) The term “no variation” refers to astronomical phenomena, as does the idea of shadow. Shadow probably refers, according to most commentators, to the phases of the moon or the constant variation to day and night. The point James is making is that the heavens might change but God never does. Remember in verse 5 that God gives to us all who ask Him with an undivided intent.

Mankind is double-minded and drifts whichever way the wind blows, is in sharp contrast to the integrity and un-dividedness of God.

18. Of His own will He brought us forth by the word of truth that we should be a kind of first fruits of His creatures

This verse I believe is referring to the good gifts God gives us. The phrase Word of God is used four other times in the New Testament and each time refers to the gospel as the agent of salvation for mankind. 2 Cor. 6:7; Eph. 1:13; Col. 1:5; 2 Tim. 2:15 We are brought to life through the word. (See verse 21) The great gift God gives is His Word (the gospel) that saves us as the first fruits of redemption. Notice, it is God’s will that brings the new birth or the born again experience. In John chapter 1 we are told that the born again experience is by the will of God. (24)

I think James is reminding us that we need not worry about our trials and problems because God has given to those that endure the gift of salvation. The gifts of God far outweigh the pain of our struggles here on earth. While these problems are fleeting and temporal our salvation is eternal. We can put all our trust in God that He cares for us and sees us through.

Food for thought Go back through these first 18 verses and think about what they are saying about Jesus and His love, our response to trials, and how we should respond to temptation. Also take note that instead of tempting us, God actually provides good gifts. Those gifts encompass grace that changes our hearts and brings us to the born again experience and eternal life.