In his bestselling book that came out 30 years ago, The Closing of the American Mind, author and professor Allen Bloom said that our inability to recognize and identify evil would be a sign that our society is in grave danger. We live in a culture that is like the one that James and the believers he wrote to had to face. And his words about temptation here in this passage have never been more appropriate.
In the first 12 verses, James addresses the subject of trials. This is a subject that each of us can identify with. All of us have been in the place where we have experienced trials that test and strengthen our faith. He says that we are to respond to such trials with joy. The reason is that without trials, God would have no way of working patience into our lives that leads to spiritual maturity. In verse 13, James talks about temptation’s snare. If you and I are not careful, the testings that we experience on the outside may become temptations we face on the inside. Whenever our circumstances become difficult, we can easily find ourselves questioning the goodness of God. It is then that the tempter will come along and offer temptation. Trials come from God and are designed with your growth in mind. Temptation, however, comes from Satan and is designed with your destruction in mind. You and I are to rejoice in trials, but we are to flee from temptation. We are to resist its subtle tug on our heart at all costs.
James wants us to know that God does not tempt us to evil. He may allow us to be in a trial, which can become an opportunity for Satan to come along and tempt us. Whenever a murderer takes a knife to slash the flesh of his victim, it is for the purpose of destruction. Yet when a surgeon uses a scalpel to cut the flesh of his patient, it is for the purpose of healing.
God is the skilled surgeon, while Satan is the murderous tempter. Satan tempts us to bring out the bad, while God tests us to bring out the good.
For more, read James 1:12-18