Monday, August 14, 2006

The devil made me do it

Do you remember the famous comedian of years past named Flip Wilson? He had a saying that he made famous. Remember what it was? It got a rip roaring laugh every time. He would say, “The Devil made me do it.” While this was tremendously funny in the context of Flip’s humor, it has become a horrible cop out for many Christians today. It is this very thing that James deals with in James 1:13-18. He begins by talking about the problem of temptation (1:13-16). Temptation is a reality. You can’t avoid temptation completely. Verse 3 says “when” you are tempted, not “if” you are tempted. But where does all of this temptation come from? What is its source?

The main thrust of verse 13 is that man cannot rationalize away their yielding to temptation by claiming that God was behind it. That is what man likes to do and has become very good at doing. We shift the blame to others, to our circumstances, even to Satan. In Genesis 3, Adam tried to shift the blame for his disobedience to Eve who in turn tried to shift the blame to the serpent. I remember meeting with a lady one time who was having an affair and had decided to divorce her husband and marry this new man in her life. As we talked she told me that this move was God’s will for her life. “After all,” she reasoned, “If God didn’t want me to divorce my husband and marry this man He never would have brought him into my life!” Wait! What kind of logic is that? James makes it clear that God is not responsible for our yielding to sin. He does not sin and does not tempt any man to sin. In fact, the wording of this verse speaks of remote involvement. God is in no way and to no degree responsible for our being tempted.

So who is responsible for our being tempted? Verse 14 says that each one of us is tempted when we are carried away by our own lust and enticed. The word translated “carried away” was used to describe a baited trap designed to lure an unsuspecting animal. The word actually occurs only here in the entire New Testament. The word translated “enticed” was a fishing term used to describe bait. This time the preposition in the verse shows direct contact. We are not even indirectly tempted by God but we are directly tempted by our own lusts. These “baits” are aimed to be appealing to our own inner lusts. Though the contemporary usage of this word is almost always regarding sexual passions, the word is much broader speaking of all of our fleshly desires.

So what then is the result of these temptations? Verse 15 describes our inner lust as being likened to a mother who conceives and brings forth a child (named sin) whose destiny is death. You see, temptation is not sin, but it leads to sin and to death (Romans 6:23). This involves physical death in which our soul is separated from our body. It also involves spiritual death by which man is separated from a relationship with God. And it ultimately involves eternal death in which man is eternally separated from God. So the bottom line is this . . . James tells us to stop deceiving ourselves. We must quit blaming others for our own spiritual failures. We must take control of our own fleshly desires. God didn’t make me do it. Satan didn’t make me do it. I chose to do it. The only person we have to blame for our falling prey to sin’s temptation is . . . ourselves!

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