Formations 10.11.2020: The Burden of Temptation

James 1:13-18

Temptation. It’s woven into the fabric of being human in this world. It’s part of the price we pay for having the knowledge of good and evil. It’s an aspect of free will.

The Old Testament is filled with stories of people who were tempted to do something sinful in order to gain what they desired: Eve, Adam, and the serpent, who all craved the knowledge God had; Jacob, who deceived his father to cheat his brother out of the firstborn’s birthright; David, who had Bathsheba’s husband killed so he could claim her for himself; Jacob’s sons, who tricked him into thinking their brother Joseph was dead…and the list goes on.

We do read in the Old Testament about one man, Job, who was directly tempted by “the Accuser” to curse God. The Accuser was allowed to destroy Job’s life—taking away all his riches, his health, and his loved ones. In spite of incredible losses, Job never gave in to the temptation to abandon his faith in God.

The New Testament addresses the topic of temptation over and over again:

  • Matthew 4, Mark 1, and Luke 4 describe Jesus’ own temptation by Satan.
  • Matthew 18 and Mark 9 offer Jesus’ warnings about temptation and his metaphorical advice for withstanding it.
  • Paul mentions temptation in 1 Corinthians 7, Galatians 6, 1 Thessalonians 3, and 1 Timothy 6.
  • Temptation is the main focus of James 1:12-18, which includes the verses in our lesson text.

Temptation is part of life—even the life of faith. Indeed, it is likely a greater burden on the faithful, for when we in the faith community give in to temptation, we know that we hurt not only ourselves or our loved ones or our community; we also hurt God.

God’s plan for us does not involve sinful, hurtful behavior. Thus, as James insists, God cannot be the author of temptation. God would never test us in this way. We are tempted by our “own desire” (v. 14), but God will help us bear it.

In our daily lives, as we face the burden of temptation, may we meditate on the words of Paul, who understood this burden well: “No test or temptation that comes your way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All you need to remember is that God will never let you down; he’ll never let you be pushed past your limit; he’ll always be there to help you come through it” (1 Cor 10:13, The Message).

Discussion

  • What other Old Testament stories can you think of in which people were tempted to do something sinful? What happened in each instance? Was anyone able to resist the temptation? If so, how?
  • Read Jesus’ words about temptation in Matthew 18:6-9 and Mark 9:42-48. How does his advice for dealing with temptation strike you? Why do you think he chose such visual language? How is succumbing to temptation dangerous to you and to others?
  • Have you ever wanted to blame God for the ways you feel tempted? Why?
  • How can you find comfort in the knowledge that God is not the tempter?
  • What are some ways that God has helped you endure temptation and find a way out of it? How can remembering those times help you withstand temptation today?

Kelley Land, a graduate of Mercer University, has been an assistant editor of Smyth & Helwys curriculum and books since 2001. In addition to this work, she is a freelance editor for other publishers and authors. She also regularly volunteers for Jay’s HOPE, a nonprofit serving families of children with cancer. Kelley enjoys spending time with her teenage daughters, Samantha and Natalie, and her husband John. Occasionally, she appears onstage in community theater productions and can sometimes be found playing board games with a group of rowdy friends. She loves Marvel movies, Harry Potter, and Doctor Who, and she’s still trying to write a young adult novel that her girls will enjoy.

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