Sunday, December 2, 2012

Trials versus Temptations


I have been so swamped lately. Between moving to a new home and dealing with Lyme treatments I fell quite behind both at work and at home. I’m starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, though there is still much to be done.  I have learned a lot over the last few months and kept hoping I’d have time to write some of my ideas down. Here’s my first chance.

I’ve pondered for some time the difference between the two uses of temptations in James chapter one. In the first section temptations are to be rejoiced in.

“My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into divers temptations. Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.” James 1:2-4

The second section is not so fortunate.

“Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth He any man: But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death.” James 1:13-15

Many scholars would interpret the first one trials and the second one temptations, though they are from the same Greek root word. Why such disparity in the two uses of the same word then?  One type brings perfection; the other brings death. The difference lies in their part of speech. The first word translated temptation is a noun. The next one is a verb.

In the first use, temptations is the noun peirasmos. Essentially, this is saying this tempation/trial/affliction is here. You didn’t necessarily do anything to get it here, but it is here none the less.  The second use of the word temptations is the verb peirazo. We cause this affliction. Our lust is living, moving, breathing. We walk right into this affliction.


Let’s look at both of them a little more closely and see how we can come out in a way that pleases our Father. The first section covers verses 2-12. James begins by telling us to rejoice in our trials. Why would we do that? Because the trying of our faith helps us toward our perfection. The word the King James translates as patience literally means to abide under. In other words, we are now able to bear up courageously.

Think of it like a quest in the ancient King Arthur’s court. The knight has to be tested. Can he uphold the standards of Camelot and be considered worthy to serve in court? He has to go through many trials to see what he can handle.  The same is happening to us during our trials.  When James talks about the “trying of your faith” he literally means the proof of it; a crucible, or test. We show our faith and what it is worth by what we are able to bear up under.

Throughout the section he gives advice on needing wisdom and dealing with the trial of riches (or lack thereof). In the end, if we pass the test, we are rewarded with the crown of life (vs. 12). I love the description of the recipients. It says the Lord gives it to those who love Him. What we are demonstrating when we courageously bear up under trials is that we love our Savior. Not only do we love Him, but we trust Him enough to go through anything He sees fit to bring into our lives.  That is something to rejoice in.

Next the mood turns darker….


The next section begins in verse 13. James wants us to know from the beginning that this type of temptation does not come from God. Here we are entrapped by the own lusts we’ve allowed to live in our hearts. What do we desire? Now certain desires in and of themselves are not wrong. It is what you do with them that becomes the sin. A fleeting attraction doesn’t matter unless you feed it by dwelling on it. That is what stirs it up to a covetous nature. Then that lust is conceived when action follows. The conception gives birth to sin. Once sin is allowed to grow and mature, it becomes death.

The word translated conceive literally means to take with. It is often used in the sense of taking a prisoner. That is exactly what sin does to us. It takes us prisoner and cheats us out of the life we were intended to live.

Honestly, wouldn’t you rather deal with the trials than the temptations? Now I realize we all have weaknesses. In fact, God intended it that way. However, we’re not bound by our natural desires. Those become temptations when we do something to make it that way, or don’t do something to kill it. Yet, even then there is hope. It doesn’t have to become a pattern.

“And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.” Ether 12:27

1 comment:

Kaja'n David said...

Very good explanation of those passages. Kind of seems like the translation was a bit unfortunate, or perhaps the ambivalence was a result of limited vocabulary in Greek.