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 person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
James opened his book by discussing how to deal with trials in life. The early church faced many trials and endured much persecution. Trials come from external sources beyond our control. We don’t know when they will strike nor do we usually know the source of those trials before they come.
On the other hand we have temptations. Temptations come from within. It is when desire is allowed to grow and take over a person. Those desires drag a person away from the way God would have them to go.
There is a sad irony in the Christian life. We have the Holy Spirit to help us fight temptation. Each time we sin, we had the option not to sin. Nobody makes us sin. We choose to do so on our own. When we sin, we could have chosen the option of not sinning. And yet even with the help of the Holy Spirit, we know that there will be times that we will choose to sin even if we had the option of saying no to it each time.
James wants to make it clear that God allows us to endure trials because they will produce perseverance. However, God has nothing to do with temptation. Temptation does not produce anything good, it only leads to the giving in of that temptation.
Trials are unavoidable in life. Temptation is likewise unavoidable but we don’t have to give into it. When we do, we have no one to blame for the consequence except ourselves.
One other thing that should be pointed out is that it is not a sin to be tempted. We know that Jesus was tempted by the devil but He did not give into that temptation. The temptation is not the problem, it is when we give in to those desires that we encounter problems. The only way to defeat temptation is to say no to the desires that are the root of the problem.