Blessed is anyone who endures temptation. Such a one has stood the test and will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. Do not be deceived, my beloved.
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. In fulfilment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
Are there echoes of the ‘Sermon on the Mount’ here? We could speculate that it was Jesus who said ‘Blessed is anyone who endures temptation’ and James remembered and expanded on it in this letter to Jewish believers. James hardly mentions Jesus in his letter yet its teaching follows the gospel message perhaps more closely than Paul’s letters do: the whole letter is about practical ways to live as followers of Jesus. James sets high standards for the new communities following the Way, and is trying to build them up in the face of trials and persecutions.
The idea of endurance suggests effort over a long period of time. Being lured by human desire leads to sin and death, whereas endurance leads to life, wisdom and generosity. James wants the early Christians to practise self-control and self-discipline in avoiding temptation, knowing that doing so will enable them to grow in their faith. The seeking of wisdom is a common theme in Old Testament literature. Rather than simply following rules of what is right or wrong, we can develop maturity through living our faith and making decisions based on scriptural principles.
Practising generosity could be a good way of enduring temptation. If we are tempted to spend money on things we don’t need or that are not helpful, can we instead choose to be generous to other people? Can we be generous with our time to work for the kingdom, investing in activities that help others, build up love and fellowship, rather than in self-gratification? We can listen to the prompting of the Spirit to act generously, in the knowledge that this according to the purposes of our unchanging God. And we can be thankful: counting your blessings each day has been shown to significantly increase both happiness and physical health. Practising gratitude can improve your sleep, boost your immunity and decrease your risk of disease – and brighten up someone else’s day too!
All good gifts around us Are sent from heaven above So thank the Lord, oh thank the Lord For all his love. Amen