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James 1:13

James 1:13-15 13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. – KJV

James 1:13-15 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. – NIV

James 1:13-15 13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being 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 fully grown brings forth death. – ESV

Greek Transliteration of James 1:13 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
medeis [3367] none, not, nothing peirazo [3985] test, entice, tempt, prove, try lego [3004] systematic discourse: put forth, speak, tell, describe, boast hoti [3754] that, which… (conjunction) apo [0575] off, away, separation theos [2316] God peirazo [3985] test, entice, tempt, prove, try ho [3588] the (article or indefinite pronoun) gar [1063] verily, therefore, yet, no doubt, as, because that theos [2316] God apeirastos [0551] untried, not temptable, not to be tempted esti [2076] he/she/it is, them/they are kakos [2556] worthless, depraved, wicked peirazo [3985] test, entice, tempt, prove, try de [1161] and, but, now… (conjunction) autos [0846] her, his, it, them (possessive 3rd person pronoun) oudeis [3762] no, none, nobody, nothing, never

1.13.0 Introduction to James 1:13

James 1:13-15 stands together as one of the simplest, most straight forward explanations anywhere in scripture of how we fall from innocence, reach a condition of sin, and become dead as a result. Verse 13 sets up the discussion by making it crystal clear the God is not the source of temptation and we are well advised not to try and blame him when we experience temptation. God is holy and does not tempt us, nor can he be tempted. Our study of verse 13 goes to great lengths to shed light on these various ideas.

1.13.1 Is the same word used in this verse for temptation as was used in James 1:2 and 1:3?

James 1:2 — Yes, or more specifically peirazo is actually a form of the same word. Context must be used to determine the appropriate English translation. In this case peirazo is translated as tempted in all three English versions we referenced for this verse. Because the reference here has clearly to do with luring rather than proving, it seems only logical to agree with tempted as the choice of English words as indicated in KJV, NIV or ESV.

James 1:3 — No. The word used in James 1:3 has the much more strict interpretation of trial.

1.13.2 Why does James 1:13 Generate Controversy?

Deut 32:4 The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and upright is he.

2 Sam 22:31 This God—his way is perfect; the word of the Lord proves true; he is a shield for all those who take refuge in him.

3 Jn 1:11 Beloved, do not imitate evil but imitate good. Whoever does good is from God; whoever does evil has not seen God.

God is perfect and God is good. There are literally hundreds of verses that confirm these two truths. To suggest God would lure man toward evil smacks of blaspheme to me. I’m aware of 2 Thess 2:11 which, to paraphrase, says God sends a delusion so that people who are already wicked will be condemned (for more information review the passage in context). This is harsh, and seems to fly in the face of God’s goodness and the words of James, but I don’t think there’s really a contradiction here.

First, delusion and temptation are different.

Second, Jesus explained the wheat and tares would be separated – this is merely a mechanism to that end.

Third, what people hear and what God says may be two very different things.

God speaks truth, but it isn’t always plain, nor is it easily accepted. God can speak plain truth and people will still hear what they want to hear, twisting it to suit their own desires. This is what I believe to be the nature of the delusion Paul spoke of in his letter to the Thessalonians.

1.13.3 What happens when you say God is tempting you?

Ex 20:7 You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain. You are associating God with evil. That equals using His name in vain. Profaning God’s name has serious consequences.

Eze 36:23 And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. This passage amplifies Ex 20:7 and goes on to say that the believer has a role to play in defending the good name of the Lord. You can’t have it both ways – either you defend the Lord or you are must defend yourself from Him, and we all know how that will turn out.

1.13.4 What happens when you try to tempt God?

Luke 4:1-13

And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness for forty days, being tempted by the devil. And he ate nothing during those days. And when they were ended, he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone.’”

And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”

And Jesus answered him, “It is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve.’”

And he took him to Jerusalem and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’ and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”

And Jesus answered him, “It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’” And when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him until an opportune time.

The Paradox Resolved

James 1:13 says that God cannot be tempted. This passage is one place in the New Testament where it clearly indicates Jesus was tempted. If Jesus is truly God, then how can this be? As is so often the case, one must examine both passages in proper context. When James says “God cannot be tempted with evil” he is literally saying any attempt to tempt God with evil will not succeed. God does not prevent you from trying to tempt him, he simply refuses to fall into sin through temptation. There is an enormous difference. The passage from Luke chronicles just such an attempt by Satan himself and we see that while the man Jesus was “put in harm’s way” courtesy of the Holy Spirit’s leading him to the desert, we see the Almighty Lordship of Jesus in his refusal to be baited. Jesus provides us with invaluable insight and an exquisite example of how to face temptation.

Results of Attempted Temptation of God

In answer to this study question, first of all Satan was not successful. If Satan can’t successfully tempt God, who are we to imagine we could? We cannot tempt God. Neither can Satan. That’s not for lack of trying either by us or by Satan. What I mean is that God can’t be tempted, not that we can’t try to tempt him.

Jesus was lead into the wilderness by the spirit. He was lead to remain there for 40 days. Satan came there and tempted (attempted to tempt) Jesus. If you read it carefully you’ll see the Spirit didn’t lead him to temptation, but to the place where the Devil came to tempt him. There’s a subtle but important distinction here, and one which is usually missed. The Holy Spirit filled Jesus and lead him to the place. Satan came to that place and tried to tempt Jesus.

In the end Satan departed. This speaks not only of God’s character, which repels evil, but also of the power of the Holy Spirit indwelling the believer. If you live a spirit filled life, give God authority in your life, enduring for His name’s sake, and putting your faith, hope, trust and love in Him, when Satan comes he will end up going away empty handed.

1.13.5 What is blaspheme?

According to the dictionary the word “blaspheme” literally means to speak of God in an irreverent or impious manner. I believe there’s a lot more to it than this definition.

Eze 20:27 Therefore, son of man, speak to the house of Israel and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: In this also your fathers blasphemed me, by dealing treacherously with me. This passage explains blaspheme as dealing treacherously with God. When you tie together the concept of speaking “irreverently” about God with treachery, it seems to imply that blaspheme more specifically means saying bad things about God as though you were speaking “behind his back.” Slandering God is perhaps the best way to explain blaspheme. Another explanation I once heard of blaspheme is it’s when you attribute evil to God.

Jude 8-9 Yet in like manner these people also, relying on their dreams, defile the flesh, reject authority, and blaspheme the glorious ones. But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” To fully understand this passage you need to read the preceding verses, but the idea here is that “these people” were mocking God by doing wrong when they knew what was right. Jude then gives the compares them to the example of Michael who did the right thing by not presuming to know better than God. When you do what you know is wrong, you are effectively saying you know better than God and your ways are equal to or higher than his. No wonder it makes God angry.

Mt 12:31-32 Therefore I tell you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven people, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven. And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come. Our God is a forgiving God. Jesus lived with us, suffered like us, with us, and ultimately for us. The Holy Spirit is the most precious and effective gift we could possibly receive because it is God’s own Spirit. It is described as a comforter and teacher, among other things. If we slander the Holy Spirit by saying it is evil, giving it credit for doing evil or saying its good work is evil, or nullifying it for the purpose of or to accomplish what amounts to slander against it, then we blaspheme the Holy Spirit and perform the unpardonable sin. Blaspheme of the Holy Spirit is a very specific sin, I think. If not, there would be little hope for most of us.

Again consider the term “slander.” When you slander someone, you speak badly about them and run down their name and damage their reputation in the eyes of others. Blaspheming God hurts how others feel toward God.

Lk 17:2 It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. When you blaspheme you slander God. Also keep in mind that more than mere spoken words can damage God’s reputation in the eyes of others. As much as God hates blaspheme of Himself as Father or Jesus, His ultimate hatred is when God’s Holy Spirit is blasphemed.

A wise person once told me they felt grieving the Spirit (blaspheme against the Spirit) was something done over time and not a simple ill word spoken out of turn. I hadn’t put it into words like that, but I think it stands to reason if one’s lifestyle runs opposite the direction of the Spirit, yet the person claims to be Spirit filled, this would be the truest form of blaspheme of the Spirit.

1.13.6 What are you doing when you trash-talk God?

Eph 4:29-30 Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. By “trash talk” I’m referring to corrupting talk. Trash talk is street slang for running someone down. It effectively means slander or blaspheme. Interestingly enough, this passage also makes reference to the important instruction we have not to grieve the Holy Spirit (Mk 3:28-29 below).

Lev 24:15-16 And speak to the people of Israel, saying, Whoever curses his God shall bear his sin. Whoever blasphemes the name of the Lord shall surely be put to death. All the congregation shall stone him. The sojourner as well as the native, when he blasphemes the Name, shall be put to death. There is a specific warning here not to curse God and not to blaspheme God. When I asked the question about “trash talking” God, I’m specifically referring to how we talk about God. This verse specifically says not to curse God. Using God’s name when cursing on or at another person is not the same thing.

Mk 3:28-29 “Truly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the children of man, and whatever blasphemies they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” Mt 12:31-32, referenced under the previous question, reads very similar to this passage from Mark. As it relates to this question, consider trash-talking the Holy Spirit. I wouldn’t personally recommend it. But then, if I did recommend it I would in essence be guilty myself, wouldn’t I?

1.13.7 Why doesn’t God tempt man?

Ex 20:20 Moses said to the people, “Do not fear, for God has come to test you, that the fear of him may be before you, that you may not sin.” There are dozens of example in scripture of testing. There are examples of God testing man and man testing God. God’s tests do not lure man toward evil, but bring what is hidden into the light. If evil is in the heart of man, God’s test merely exposes it for what it is. This can be a very good thing if the person will then see what God shows them and deal with it, repenting and changing course. Fear has many ill effects on people and fearing God’s purification process is something naturally scares people. The flesh is weak or born from corruption. God’s tests are designed to teach us not to be sinful. This is the fundamental difference between God’s tests and temptation.

The short answer: Temptation is intended to lure us into evil while God’s tests are intended to make us respect God and turn from sin.

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