Someone has called James, “the Proverbs of the New Testament”. And surely, James is a collection of wisdom sayings like the book of Proverbs. But James’ sayings are longer, more organized, and more directed, (“To the twelve tribes scattered across the nations…”) Still, James fits our culture better than books like Romans or Ephesians does, with our short attention spans and sound-byte news clips.
The other day, someone asked me about the part of the Lord’s prayer that says, “lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil.” What could this prayer mean if in fact God does not tempt us? He then cited this James passage, “When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed.”
Let me lead us to 2 other passages, Jesus beginning His ministry with a trip into the wilderness and Jesus ending His ministry in the Garden of Gethsemane. In both circumstances we either read or assume that Jesus is following His father’s will, what the bible calls “being led by God”. And yet in both instances, He is led to a place of temptation. The wilderness is obviously a matter of temptation, but the Garden?
“Father, let this cup pass from me,” is such a human cry. “I don’t want to face this, Lord, even though I know, and have known all along, that it is Your will for me.” This is so often the cry of our hearts, but it is temptation. Anything that attempts to distract us from God’s will is temptation. So, like Jesus, when we face temptation, we can stand against it with God’s help.
God may lead us into situations where temptation is going to happen, but He will also stand with us as we face it. Though He does not produce the temptation (His will is that we follow His will always), He also knows we cannot avoid them in this world.