Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. – James 1:16 (ESV)
This short verse is a transitional verse, however, there is much to be learned from it. “Deceived” in Greek expression means to go astray or wander. Deceived in our present day language seems to have less impactful weight than it did in James’ time. They may have thought of Isaiah 53:6 (ESV) “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned-every one-to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
A sheep wandering off for me today has less weight than a shepherd of James’ time because I don’t fully get the scary thought of that. I suppose I need to consider what they considered and fully understood: if I wandered off I would get slaughtered by a fox. It was my choice to wander. Lesson to be learned: Be careful not to blame God for my sin.
Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. – James 1:15 (ESV)
Desire is used in the feminine way here based on the Greek word and therefor closely relates it to that of a mother. In Proverbs the loose woman who lures her prey into the depths of shoal is set in contrast to the wisdom also depicted as a woman. See Proverbs 8:32-35 This goes to James writing style to relate back to verse 5 which helps tie it all together. He leans heavily on his readers intense Jewish knowledge of the Old Testament to catch his every meaning. This allows him brevity. To put it simply, desire itself is not a thing to fear, however protecting yourself from conception is key.
And now, O sons, listen to me: blessed are those who keep my ways. Hear instruction and be wise, and do not neglect it. Blessed is the one who listens to me, watching daily at my gates, waiting beside my doors. For whoever finds me finds life and obtains favor from the LORD, – Proverbs 8:32-35 (ESV)
As James relates this female analogy, I cannot help but expand on it. Conception only happens when we get in bed have sexual intercourse. That is the most intimate form of communication known to humans. Outside of marriage it is a sin, so looking at it from that perspective how do we “protect” and “shield” ourselves from sin? Looking back on verse 14, I know to understand myself first and what makes me want something or causes me to react. When I know my triggers, I can stave them off more readily. This means staying out of certain circles of friends, not going to certain events, reaching out to different people, and constantly asking myself to be quiet and humble.
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. – James 1:14 (ESV)
We find in verse 14 that again James uses common language that relates to people’s every day lives with fishing terms and hunting terms. It is sort of like our thousands of baseball analogies. This adds to his personable nature and ability to relate to his reader. The word “lured” was a word at that time meant to describe the idea of an animal being lured into a trap. The word “enticed” was a fishing term which meant to catch with bait. To put this verse in different words, everyone has their own personal struggles and desires. We need to be aware of our triggers and not fall into the ideas and thoughts and things that look too good to be true.
So, that leaves me to answer a very important question. What do I struggle with? What am I easily lured and enticed with? For me it’s the need to be right. The desire to “know better” than everyone else. The desire to be perfect. God has been at work chipping away at these things in my life. What are your struggles? How do your stay true to who you are and more importantly to God in the eyes of the world? How do you keep your credibility with people and also show them God through you? How do we stay salty to those around us. Salt when it looses is saltiness is useless, but also consider that salt when it is too salty is detestable.
Count it all joy, my brothers when you meet trials of various kinds for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.
James is writing to the Jews who have been scattered and were up against many trials. They were no longer in their homeland and were facing famine. The words James uses is specific to the time such as “testing” which means “proving” as in to perfect or refine silver or gold. It goes through intense fire (trials) to make it perfect and pure.
This verse give us assurance that our joy is that of a deep down settled confidence that God is in control. God gives us the “why” in all of this that we are to count it ALL joy which means unmixed with any other emotion. Not that everything is joy but that our trials should be met with only joy.
More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. – Romans 5:3-5 (ESV)
By finding the underlying joy in my trials and testing I know Jesus suffered way worse than I could ever imagine and he persevered perfectly through every one. My trials will bring about steadfastness. In Romans 5:3-5 he gives me a process: trials = endurance (steadfastness) = character = hope = righteousness. May God test us so that we might become steady and strong in our faith, lacking in nothing.