Updated: Nov 18
In this article we will primarily consider the content of James 1:13-27 but, by way of introduction, notice verse 19. “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear…” (James 1:19)
Notice that the word “wherefore” begins verse 19. In spite of the fact that many study Bibles separate verse 19 into a new section of content, the word “wherefore” is connecting verse 19 to the preceding content. “Let every man be swift to hear …” in verse 19 can appropriately be applied to dealing with times of temptation in our lives. (vs 13-18). So, what are we to be “swiftly hearing” when we’re faced with temptation? What are the voices that we’re listening to through temptation? What are the accompanying sounds during your times of temptation?
From this text, we will consider the origination of temptation, the deception of temptation, the transgression after temptation, the aftermath of temptation, and the provision in temptation.
1) The Origination of Temptation (vs 13)
Let’s be clear, the origin of our temptation is not God. James wants us to unequivocally understand, “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:” (vs 13)
Remember that for a time James was a pastor of the church at Jerusalem, and he was the half-brother of the Lord Jesus. (Matthew 13:55, Galatians 1:18-19, Acts 12:17). James writes these Holy Spirit inspired words, these practical instructions about dealing with temptation, from the heart of a pastor, a tender under-shepherd. He desires to strengthen the people that he affectionately refers to as “beloved brethren.”
Also, he writes as a witness to his half-brother’s constant victory through times of temptation.
James knows the experience of giving into temptation personally as a sinner, and he
also knows the experience of pastoring people through their times of temptation. Further, James benefitted from an up-close look at Jesus as He was “in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)
James’ experience and knowledge, as he pens these inspired words, is both authoritative and immensely practical.
Pastor James wants us to understand that the origination of a man’s times of temptation is “… of his own lust.” Temptation, a solicitation to do evil, is rooted from within our own desires. Additionally, the Bible indicates that our temptations come from the world, the flesh, and the devil. Temptations are facilitated by “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life.” (I John 2:16)
And, there’s a universality to the origins of temptation. “Every man is tempted …”
What about the first man? (Mankind: Adam and Eve) - From where did their time of temptation originate? It was not God who tempted them. Genesis 3 explains that it was the serpent. Satan was their “tempter.”
What about Genesis 39, Joseph and Potiphar’s wife, or Joshua 7, Achan’s sin, or
2 Samuel 11, David and Bath-sheba or even Matthew 4, Jesus’ temptation? In each of those situations, some aspect of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the pride of life was at play. God was not the tempter in any of those situations.
Pastor James wants us to be clear that every man is tempted, but God has never tempted any man. In every Biblical explanation of temptation, whether it’s an account of success or failure, there were unique sounds or voices heard in the origination of each situation.
I wonder what the subtle serpent sounded like as he approached Eve in the garden. (Genesis 3) Not only the sound of the serpent’s approach, but imagine the sound of his wicked voice as he began to beguile Eve toward doubting the instruction of God. As Eve’s temptation originated, she was hearing the voice of a liar and all the accompanying sounds of temptation.
2) The Deception of Temptation (vs 14)
Second, James cautions us about the deception in temptation. Throughout chapter 1, notice the words and phrases which describe the process and potential of being deceived in temptation.
“drawn away” (vs 14)
“enticed” (vs 14)
“Do not err” which is the idea of “Do not be deceived!” (vs 16)
“deceiving your own selves” (vs 22)
“deceiveth his own heart” (vs 26)
By way of illustration, there’s no such thing as an honest fisherman. If you’re casting and reeling or bobber fishing, you’re a deceiver! Growing up in Minnesota, the "land of ten thousand lakes," I know this firsthand.
My goal as a fisherman, and the goal of every fisherman, is to draw those fish away, to entice the fish. We want the fish to err into thinking, “yeah everything will be fine.” We want the fish to be deceived by our lure to the point that it then deceives its own heart into a false sense of safety.
Using movements, vibrations, bright reflections and flashy colors, the job of an effective fisherman is to use his lure and appeal to the fish's instinct and entice it into striking!
It’s all deception! It’s “smoke and mirrors” as they say.
This is exactly what the world, the flesh, and the devil attempt to do when they tempt us; draw us away and entice us to err! The wicked philosophies of the world, our old carnal
flesh, and the father of lies, the devil, all want us to be deceived by their enticements.
Then they want us to deceive ourselves into thinking, “I can get away with this,” or “I deserve this,” or “no one will find out,” or “in this situation giving in to sinful temptation, is completely justified.”
This is why the Bible instructs us to “walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise.” (Ephesians 5:15)
Don’t foolishly fall for the deception toward wrath or unrighteous anger (vs 20). Pastor James is screaming, “Don’t take the bait!”
Don’t listen to the foolish voices that attempt to deceive you toward “filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness” (vs 21). Don’t take the bait.
Don’t fall for the deception that it’s justifiable to be jealous and to envy the God-given abilities of others. Don’t take the bait.
Don’t give into the deception and justify sexual improprieties such as fornication or adultery. Be a Joseph not a David in times of temptation. (Consider Ephesians 5:3-13)
Don’t be drawn away into thinking gossip and evil communication are somehow justifiable for a Christian. Beware of allowing your tongue to be an unruly evil full of deadly poison. (Consider James 3:1-12)
Don’t let sin “reign in your motal body.” (Romans 6:12). Don’t be deceived in these times of temptation. “Do not err, my beloved brethren” (vs 16), because if you do, you are guilty of transgression.
3) The Transgression after Temptation (vs 15)
Notice the first word of verse 15. “Then” as if to say, “In those times when you’ve given into the temptation,” … “Then, when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin.”
Temptation by itself isn’t sin. Joseph and Jesus are examples of that. Both of them were tempted, but neither of them gave in to the temptations. Giving in to temptation certainly is sin. The word “sin” (vs 15) includes the idea of transgression.
Transgression means to cross the line. God draws a line morally, and says, “Don’t cross this line,” and when we do, we commit sin.
There’s safety inside lines that God establishes. Further, everything inside of His lines is wonderful and by His grace.
His amazing grace teaches us to live “soberly, righteously and godly in this present world.” (Titus 2:11-12) When we give into temptation, we transgress and cross God’s line.
In Genesis 3, God essentially said to Adam and Eve, “You can have anything in the garden except this one fruit.” Yet they crossed the line.
In Exodus 22, God said, “Thou shalt not steal” but in Joshua 7 Achan crossed God’s line.
God said, “Thou shalt not lie” but in Acts 5, Ananias and Sapphira did lie. They transgressed, and they crossed God’s line.
God said, “thou shall not commit adultery” but in 2 Samuel 11, David did. He transgressed, he crossed God’s line. In each of these times of transgression after temptation, there were voices or sounds of temptation.
I wonder what Eve’s voice sounded like when she offered the forbidden fruit to her husband.
Interestingly, God speaks to Adam in Gen 3:17 and he says, “because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife and hast eaten of the tree…” “Her voice” is what Adam heard in his time of temptation just before his transgression. Instead of being “swift to hear” the instruction of God, Adam heard loud and clear the sound of temptation.
4) The Aftermath of Yielding to Temptation (vs 15b)
Now consider the aftermath or consequences of transgression. In a word, the aftermath of sin is “death.”
James 1:15 explains, “…And sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.”
The sin in the Garden of Eden is what brought about physical death on humanity.
(Consider Romans 5:12) The serpent lied when he said, “ye shall not surely die.”
The aftermath included death being passed upon all men. The aftermath of the sin in the garden included a multi-layered curse as well as Adam and Eve being driven out of the Garden of Eden. (Genesis 3:14-24)
Can you imagine the sound of the flaming swords of the Cherubim “which turned every way to keep the way of the tree of life?” (Genesis 3:24)
Each time Adam and Eve were close enough to see the light of the flaming swords and possibly even closer to hear the sound of the flames as they flickered, they were reminded of the consequences of yielding to temptation.
They lived in the aftermath of their temptation. Imagine when Adam and Eve heard the heart-wrenching news that their son Cain murdered his brother, and their other son, Abel. Probably through deep sobbing they realized Abel’s death was a part of the aftermath of their yielding to temptation.
Consider 2 Samuel 12, when Nathan confronts David. The words Nathan spoke to David are words that David likely never forgot.
People say a lot of things and most of those things are very forgettable. I’ve read before that the average man speaks approximately 7,000 words each day, while the average woman says around 21,000 words in 24 hours. (Unfortunately, the woman has to repeat herself a lot because her man isn’t listening.)
In spite of the abundance of words that are frivolously spoken, there are times in each of our lives when we’ve heard some weighty words, communicated directly to us, that we will never forget. It’s very likely that forever etched into David’s memory were the confrontational words of the old prophet, “Thou art the man”! (2 Samuel 12:7)
Those four words were spoken by Nathan, and then the aftermath of David’s sinful choices began to come to fruition. As each consequence revealed itself, it’s very likely that those four words, and the accompanying sense of guilt, echoed loudly in David’s mind.
Imagine the sounds of David’s little baby, as it struggled in sickness. The tender cough of that child or possibly the insatiable crying and expressions of discomfort as it battled its illness.
Imagine the sound of David’s servants as they were whispering. Typically, when someone whispers, it curiously draws us in to listen. It was from that sound of whispering that David perceived his child was dead. Imagine the voice of the servant who spoke up and said these three words, “He is dead.” (2 Samuel 12:19)
“There is a way which seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death.” (Proverbs 14:12)
It was all part of the aftermath of yielding to temptation.
The song writer said, “Sin will take you farther than you want to go, and it will cost you far more than you want to pay.”
5) The Provision in Temptation (vs 17-18)
Remember, you don’t have to give into temptation! As we continue through James 1, there are several heavenly provisions described that are given to aid believers in times of temptation.
“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.” (James 1:17-18)
In the midst of your times of temptation, Pastor James wants us to know that God provides good and perfect gifts. The Bible declares that God provides His unchanging character, divine regeneration, the Word of Truth, and a way to escape from temptation.
Verse 17 describes one of these good gifts as it explains an attribute of His perfect character. Take comfort in the fact that He is unchanging, “no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
God’s character, as seen in the Old and New Testament, specifically in relationship to believers struggling with temptation, is still the same. His timely help and His perfect judgement, His abundant grace and His fierce wrath, His heavenly holiness and His patient love, they’re all a part of our unchanging God. His immutable character is a good and perfect gift in our times of temptation.
Additionally, our divine regeneration is one of God’s good and perfect gifts. It’s interesting that James 1:18 reminds us of our salvation. After James’ explanation about overcoming temptation, he wants us to be reminded that God “…begat us…” It’s the idea of being “born again” as explained famously in John 3:1-21; 1 Peter 1:3; and
1 Peter 1:23.
Don’t overlook the fact that the specific people to whom James is writing were at one-point unsaved people. Each of them individually had a point of conversion to Christ, just like Christians today. These believers were well aware of what life was like without Christ, previously being slaves to their sinful flesh. By mentioning their regeneration, their conversion to Christ, James is subtly reminding them of what God did for them through Christ, and that they should walk in victory and not defeat in the midst of temptation.
Similarly, the apostle Paul explains in Romans, that because of all God in Christ did for our justification, believers should “present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service.” (Romans 12:1)
Not only does our heavenly Father provide the good and perfect gifts of His unchanging
character, and our regeneration, but He also references the “Word of Truth.” Specifically, that which we are to be “swift to hear” in the midst of temptation is the “word of truth.” (James 1:18) God has provided His Word through the Bible and certainly it is one of His good and perfect gifts.
Instead of listening the deceitful voices of the world, the flesh, and the devil, we are to be “swift to hear” the word of truth.
Instead of indulging in “filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness,” we are to “receive with meekness the engrafted word…” (vs 21)
To use Paul’s words, we are to “Let the word of Christ dwell in us richly in all wisdom”! (Col. 3:16)
Joshua 1:8 explains that “good success” comes from meditating on the Word of God “day and night.” Further, Joshua states that we should “observe to do according to all that is written therein.”
Indeed, we are to be “swift to hear” the Word of God, but not “hearers only,” we are also instructed to be “doers of the Word.” (vs 22)
Finally, one of the good gifts that the Bible describes is “a way to escape” from times of temptation. Remember, you don’t have to transgress God’s law and give into the temptation!
1 Corinthians 10:13 explains, “There hath no temptation taken you but such as is common to man: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.”
The “way to escape” is a good gift from our loving Father.
God’s unchanging character, our divine regeneration, the Word of Truth, and the way to escape are all provided by God and are among His good and perfect gifts which aid us in walking in victory in the face of temptation.
So, what are you hearing in your times of temptation? I suggest that the key verse in James 1 is verse 16. “Do not err, my beloved brethren.” This verse has been described as the “fulcrum” of the chapter. Everything else in the chapter balances itself around this simple verse. It is just five words in Greek, and only six words in English, yet it’s message is timelessly relevant for believers of every generation and culture in all of human history.
The main point that Pastor James wants us to understand is that even though you might be burdened by trials (vs 12) and faced with enticing temptations (vs 13-15), do not make the error of listening to the voices and sounds that promote indulging in temptation. Instead, Pastor James wants the believer to be “swift to hear” the Word of God. (James 1:22-23) He wants the believer to seek wisdom from God. (James 1:5) Pastor James wants the believer to turn up the volume of the Word of God and let it enter your ear drums and thereby saturate your soul so that you not only “hear” it, but you “do” it, or “apply” it, especially in times of temptation.
This pastor wants his “beloved brethren" to avoid the headache that accompanies the spiritual miscalculation of giving into moral vice and evil desires.
Joseph’s bout with temptation in Genesis 39 is a story of victory over temptation because the word of God, and specifically the will of God, was loud in Joseph’s heart. (Genesis 39:9)
Jesus’ temptation as recorded in Matthew 4 and Luke 4 provide the perfect example of the Word of God being both loud and authoritative. The devil tempts Jesus when He’s in a weakened physical state. He tempts Him by trying to appeal to the desires of His human flesh. In each round, Jesus responds by quoting applicable Scripture from Deuteronomy.
However, for me the most exciting part of the account is when Jesus says, “Get thee hence, Satan!”
When facing temptation, be swift to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit as He reminds you of the Word of God. And, when you're feeling overwhelmed by temptation, don’t be shy. Go ahead and say out-loud, “Get thee hence Satan!”
When a believer utters those four words out-loud, instead of yielding to temptation, that is a victorious sound in the midst of dangerous temptation.
“…Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)
When the Sky is Falling - By Pastor James C. Johnson