We know that there are different ways of coping with situations that come our way in life. It looks as if some of James’ readers were making wrong deductions about the troubles they faced. One wrong deduction was that God must have wanted them to sin because they were being tempted to do so. The deduction that they made included a wrong notion about God. James’ instruction tells us therefore that it is important that we know what God is like so that we will not make similar wrong conclusions. God will never ask us to sin or to break his commandments.
I suppose we might then say that the reason we are tempted is because the devil tempts us. It would be silly to deny that the devil puts temptations in our paths, but do the suggestions in themselves necessary require that we should be tempted by them? There are some things that he could suggest which may not interest us in the slightest and in those situations we cannot say we are being tempted very much. The temptations that James describes are connected to something we want. He writes, ‘But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.’
James likens the consequences of temptation to the experience of natural growth – each person was conceived, then was born, and then grew up. In his illustration, the conception is the desire, the birth is sin, and adulthood is death. So the sequence is desire, sin and death. James says through this illustration that if we allow wrong desires, then sin will follow, and it will be followed by signs of spiritual death. Perhaps he means apostasy, of some of them giving up their profession because of sin. Maybe he means the destruction of spiritual fruit caused by moving away from fellowship with God. There will be obvious consequences if we give in to temptation.
James gave this warning because he loved his readers – he addresses them as ‘beloved brothers’. He had a responsibility to warn them, not because he thought they were weaker than him, but because they and he belonged to the same family. It is a blessing to receive admonishment from another Christian and it is a requirement to give it if we know a situation, such as facing temptation, where it should be done.