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God isn't the source of temptation

August 31, 2022

Daily Scripture

James 1:13-15

13 No one who is tested should say, “God is tempting me!” This is because God is not tempted by any form of evil, nor does he tempt anyone. 14 Everyone is tempted by their own cravings; they are lured away and enticed by them. 15 Once those cravings conceive, they give birth to sin; and when sin grows up, it gives birth to death.

Start September right by attending AFFIRMATIONS: A NIGHT OF WORSHIP.” It’s this Saturday, Sept. 3, at 6 p.m. in the Leawood Sanctuary (Building A). Resurrection worship leader Isaac Cates has a great lineup of singing groups and music planned (click here for more information). And it’s all free–bring your friends and join in!

Daily Reflection & Prayer

Kindly Christians may tell people facing a serious temptation, “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” That’s based on one verse (1 Corinthians 10:13). James, as well as Jesus (cf. John 9:1-5), taught that God helps us resist temptation, but does not create it. Scholar N. T. Wright said, “[James] warns us not to imagine that God is responsible for the temptation itself. The testing comes from within (Jesus made that clear, too)….If you are true to ‘yourself’, you will end up a complete mess.” *

  • James was unequivocal: “No one who is tested should say, ‘God is tempting me!’” When an event or person strains your faith and tempts you to give up on God, have you ever asked (or heard someone else ask), “Why is God doing this?” Wright said, “James grounds his teaching in what is true about God himself, God the generous giver.” ** What kind of God do you believe in? If there is a God at all, would he call you to a new, better life and then try to tug you away from it?
  • We’d like to think all our wishes and urges are pure and noble, but James didn’t flatter humans. Like Jesus (cf. Mark 7:20-23) and Paul (cf. Galatians 5:13-21), James clearly said if our natural impulses run unchecked, the results are often ugly, and sometimes ruinous. James wanted his readers to trust “that grace of God which alone can make and keep us clean, and which is available to all.” *** How can you trust God’s grace rather than your own wishes or feelings?

Lord God, I thank you that you (unlike me) are “not tempted by any form of evil.” Help me keep learning how to trust in your grace to guide my steps in the right path. Amen.

GPS Insights

Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden

Dr. Amy Oden is Professor of Early Church History and Spirituality, teaching at several seminaries. Teaching is her calling, and she looks forward to every day with students. Her latest book (Right Here, Right Now: The Practice of Christian Mindfulness, Abingdon Press, 2017) traces ancient mindfulness practice for Christians today.

I don’t think of myself as being tempted very often, but that’s only because my temptations are so stealthy. My greatest temptation isn’t brownies or an extra glass of wine. I’m tempted by the approval of others. This gets me in trouble when I rush toward others’ approval before pausing to discern whether what they want from me is a good idea or not.

Early Christians had a fairly sophisticated notion of human desire and behavior. On the one hand, they believed we are free to make choices in our lives – where we go, what we do, who we associate with. On the other hand, we are not entirely free because we live unawares out of our compulsions, anxieties, inner drives, temptations, often our most wounded places.

Temptation might be just another word for woundedness. The things that tempt us often reveal our anxieties, drives, hurt places. We are tempted by things that we think will finally give us what we most deeply want, will satisfy us and ultimately heal these hurt places, but they never do. I’m tempted by the recognition and appreciation of others that I think will make me feel real, worthy, valued. This is the way that leads to death, not to life.

Temptation is not a sign of moral failure. It’s simply human. It’s a sign of something needing attention inside me. Temptation invites me to ask, “What is it I most deeply long for?” and follow that thread down into myself. Some likely culprits are that I want to feel connected or experience fullness or be seen and appreciated.

Into this reality, James speaks a word: God is not the source of our temptations. God is not the source of our wounds. God is the Source of our healing. James reminds me to turn to the Holy One who created me and holds my life. Only there will I find the true ground of connection and value.

Next time you feel tempted, let it be an invitation to ask, “What is it I most truly long for?” and follow that thread down into yourself. See what you discover. Allow God to hold it with you.

© 2024 Resurrection: A United Methodist Church. All Rights Reserved.
Scripture quotations are taken from The Common English Bible ©2011. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

* Wright, N. T., Early Christian Letters for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 8). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
** Wright, N. T., Early Christian Letters for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone) (p. 9). Presbyterian Publishing Corporation. Kindle Edition.
*** William Barclay, Daily Study Bible Series: The Letters of James and Peter (Revised Edition). Louisville: Westminster John Knox Press, 1976, p. 53.