In almost every trial, there will be a chance to take a short-cut, make a compromise, use a sinful stress-reliever. And while it might be easy to think that God is testing us, the Bible makes it clear that God himself tempts no one (James 1:13).
Trials bring their own temptations, it’s true. But James is quick to point out that the temptation to sin in a trial is never from God. Why? Because God only gives good gifts. And that’s because God, James says, is like the sun (1:17).
Think about that imagery for a moment. The sun is always shining. Even when we don’t see it, the sun is still blazing with heat and light. Sure, we lose sight of the sun every day. And even during the day, we’re able to hide from it. But our hiding from the sun doesn’t change the nature of the sun at all: It’s always the same, and any time we’re in the presence of the sun, only warmth and light radiate off of it.
That’s what God is like. God does good all the time because he is good all the time. We may not always see it. We may choose to hide from it. But God’s goodness is as innate to him as heat is to our sun.
In contrast, God’s not like a shadow, whose goodness lengthens or shortens depending on what time of day it is. God is not moody or capricious, like other depictions of divine beings—or, to be honest, like all of us. He doesn’t alternate between leading us with tender love and other times leading us toward destruction or ignoring us. We’re inconsistent like that—shadowy, capricious people. But God’s not.
God has one thing in his heart: goodness, and it’s constant. And just as a way of proving that, James throws in one little line at the end. He says, “[After all,] of his own will [God] brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures” (1:18 ESV).
Sometimes, we act like our salvation is a joint project—we wanted to be near God, so we came to him and he received us. Sure, he did the lion’s share of the work. But he needed us to do our part, too.
The only problem is that, according to Scripture, even those feelings of nearness were from God himself (John 1:12–13, 6:44; Philippians 2:13). In other words, God didn’t just do the lion’s share of the work. He did all of the work. The only things we brought to the table were our sin and death.
God does good all the time because he is good all the time. We may not always see it. We may choose to hide from it. But God’s goodness is as innate to him as heat is to our sun.
I’ve heard salvation presented like we were drowning in our sin, calling out for help, and Jesus came along in a lifeboat and said, “Hey, do you want some help?” and we said, “Yes, please, we’re tired of being in this ocean and want to be up in the boat with you.” So Jesus threw us a line.
That’s a beautiful image, but truthfully, according to James, when Jesus came to us we were already face down in the water, no longer breathing, and without a pulse. God pulled us into the boat and breathed new life into us. Our salvation wasn’t our doing, it was his. More than that, it wasn’t even our idea. It was 100 percent his.
James says we can rest assured because good always comes from God. Any time we look to him, we’re going to find only goodness, truth, help, and love.
So where does sin come from? Verse 14 says that “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” In other words, sin always starts with us.
Since the beginning of time, we’ve tried to blame our response to a trial on the trial itself. When something happens and when we get caught in a sin, we want to distance ourselves from it and say it’s not the real us. That divorce, that quarrel with a friend, that overbearing boss—we blame those things for our sin. But they didn’t force us to do what we did. They merely presented an opportunity for those nasty parts of us to come out. We provided the nasty all by ourselves.
The real, unfiltered us is a swirl of toxic desires. Sin, James says, comes from wayward and distorted desires in us.
That may sound like horrible news. And without Jesus, it absolutely would be. But praise God, we have a way to overcome this sin—by confessing it and throwing ourselves, without reservation, on the mercy of God.
The good news? If we do that, he is as sure to save us as the sun is to rise tomorrow morning.