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I Am Responsible for My Sin

Eternal life is for those who persevere under trials (James 1:12). But what if I fail? What if I succumb to temptation? Who is responsible? James’s emphatic answer is, I am.

I Cannot Blame God
“Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (v. 13).

Some say, “God made me that way,” with reference to their bad temperament or their sexual immorality; and nowadays they are looking to genetics for validation. Others are not so brazen, yet they blame sin on factors that relate to God’s providence, hence they are at least indirectly blaming it on Him. Adam said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 1:12). Saul said his circumstances forced him to disobey God’s instructions (1 Samuel 13:11-12).

James has no sympathy for such excuse-making. God’s righteousness is so complete that evil can have no appeal whatsoever to Him. How, then, could He force us or prompt us to do evil? It is unthinkable.

I Cannot Blame the Devil
Elsewhere the Bible reveals that the devil is the source of temptation to do wrong (Matthew 4:1ff; 1 Peter 5:8; etc.). Interestingly, James makes no reference to him in this paragraph. While he is involved, I do not have to act on his suggestions. Therefore. . .

I Am Responsible
“But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death. Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren” (vv. 14-16).

James explains the process of sin by using two figures. First, in fishing or hunting terms, sin begins when one’s lust carries him away or lures him from safety, then entices or baits him. Shifting to a birth picture, James then observes that lust conceives; the desire to do wrong merges with the will. The child thus conceived is sin, and the outcome is death. In other words, the chain is desire ▸ deceit  ▸ disobedience ▸ death.

It is not a sin to be tempted. Sin occurs when we allow our minds to dwell on Satan’s bait long enough to decide to take a bite.

Understanding this process is useful. Common sense says we need to stay alert. We need to avoid places or activities where others routinely succumb or where we have failed in the past. And we must never try to nibble the bait off the hook without getting caught! “Abhor what is evil” (Romans 12:9b). “Abstain from every form of evil” (1 Thessalonians 5:22).

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