1. Recognize the Context:
Previous Context: James 1:9-11 Verses 9-10 contrast people from opposite circumstances in life and their required responses to those circumstances. From an initial reading, the instructions appear counterintuitive, providing a reversal of what might be expected.
The believers in low social and financial positions were instructed to boast in their "high position.” The virtue of their “high position” was not found simply in being poor but in their relationship with Christ. From a worldly perspective, their life offered no reason for pride or boasting. But from a godly perspective, they had every reason to boast. Remember, verses 2-8 provide the context for these instructions. Some of the concepts that make these responses possible include joy, perseverance, faith, maturity, completeness, and wisdom.
The rich person is then considered in verse 10. From a worldly perspective, they have every reason to boast. Their material possessions and status enabled them to boast with pride in their position. But from a godly perspective, they were made low, because none of these earthly things matter. In Christ, they were humbled, and this “lowness’ is the only reason they have for boasting. While the wealthy might be tempted to boast in their possessions and status, they will one day disappear like the wild flowers.
Death is the great equalizer. It comes to everyone, and its timing is unknown. James illustrated this by alluding to Isa. 40:6-8. In this passage, Isaiah spoke of humanity's temporal nature and the eternal nature of God's word. It appears James believed the rich needed a special reminder of this message.
2. Read the Scripture: James 1:12-15
12 Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him. 13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
3. Reflect on the Scripture:
James returned to the significance of persevering during trials (verses 2-4). In verse 12, he described the one who endures as “blessed.” The word “blessed” connected this verse with other Wisdom sayings found throughout the Old Testament (Psalm 1:1; 32:2, 34:8, Prov. 8:34, Isa 56:2) and the Beatitudes found in the Gospels (Matt. 5:11f, Luke 6:22f). This word means “a joyously favored position by God.” Again counteractively, a positive state is achieved through negative experiences.
The future result for the one who endures is the “crown of life.” This image comes from the realm of athletic competition. In the Greco-Roman world, the winner received a wreath made of foliage (Rev. 2:10). The Lord has promised a reward for those who love him, which is demonstrated by faithful perseverance.
In verse 13, James concentrated on the inner conflict of trials. Because of the negative context of sin and death in verses 14-15, most translations use the verb “tempt.” James said no one could blame God for the temptation to sin because God can’t be tempted, nor does God tempt. Rather, a person’s own desires cause them to be "attracted to sin," and then they are "lured by bait" to surrender to it.
In verse 15, James changes to a human growth analogy to show the development of evil and its destruction. The progression is as follows: evil desire->sin->death.
4. Relate to life:
Remember, it is important to be a doer of God’s Word, not merely a hearer or reader (James 1:22-25). Here are some practical ways to actively respond to God’s Word. Consider these or create other ways you can apply the message.
Today, prayerfully consider the themes found in verses 13-15: being blessed, endurance, the future crown of life, temptation and resistance, desires, sin, death.
In light of these themes, who do you need to pray for today?
Given the prayer suggestions above, what can you incorporate into your life today? Think about your attitudes, actions, and words. Think about your family, friends, church community, and co-workers. Is there a trusted friend you can talk to concerning a specific area of temptation or sin? Have that conversation with them.
What specific systems of accountability can you establish for yourself? Make a plan today.
Today, ask the Holy Spirit how you can help the person you prayed for above.
To study: (Always make sure to read the immediate context of the given passage.)
Read and study the verses found above.