Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 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. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
Interpreting the scriptures can be tricky, but there are some principles that are simple to understand. For example, the words we find in the scriptures are there for a reason. If an individual is speaking to a person or a group on a certain topic, it is because that topic is relevant to those people at that time. Here, James is sharing the truth that God does not tempt us to do evil. If he is making this statement to the twelve dispersed tribes, it is because the topic was relevant to them. They were experiencing temptation in their condition, and they had to be told that the Lord is not the one who tempts us. After all, if the point of temptation is to draw us toward sin, we know that God cannot be behind it.
A common misconception about temptation is that it is God’s way of finding out what kind of character we have. He sets the trap then waits to see if we fall into it. The problem with this kind of reasoning, other than the fact that it is impossible for God to tempt us to do evil, is the fact that He already knows us. God does not need evidence of what I might or might not do. He already knows my heart. He also does not want me to fall or fall away in the first place. His intent is to save his Church and purify her, which means that He pours only goodness over her. For God to tempt us to do evil would be for him to frustrate his own plan. The temptation which came from the serpent had a goal of bringing death, but God works only to lead us to life.
We always must be clear to distinguish between what God allows and what He causes. While He does not tempt us, He certainly allows us to be tempted, but He also tempers that with grace. The goodness He brings us is what makes for us a way out from under temptation each time we encounter it. [1 Cor. 10:13] Some might think that God’s allowing us to be tempted sets us up to fail. Actually, He sets us up to win every time. Every misdirection comes with redirection. Whenever the object of temptation appears, God is right there with a remedy in that very moment. Father, thank You for the unending and unequivocal goodness You bring us to free us from every temptation.