Do you ever blame God?
Adam set the precedent.
When he made a bad choice, he blamed God: “The woman whom you [God] gave to be with me, she gave me fruit of the tree, and I ate” (Genesis 3:12).
In other words, “You’re responsible for this mess, God!”
Blaming God is dysfunctional. It attempts to excuse ‘my’ responsibility for ‘my’ bad choices and ‘my’ unhealthy behavior.
James declares: “Let no one say when he [or she] is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one” (James 1:13).
Doing evil is not in the nature of God; neither is tempting people to do evil. He just doesn't do that!
... each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (1:14-15)
James uses words from fishing and hunting. Like a fish attracted by a lure, or an animal enticed to a scent, it is our own desire that chooses to bite the bait that hides the hook.
James also employs life-cycle language: desire conceives and gives birth to sin and, in turn, it grows and brings forth death: ‘my’ desires => sin => death.
Let’s be honest, not delusional – we are responsible for our choices.
Here are four steps James gives us so we can move from blame toward wholeness. You can also scroll to the end to click the link to this podcast.
First, James reveals something of the heart of God.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers [and sisters]. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. (1:16-18)
The Father is extravagantly generous in gifting everything good and perfect. He is the Father of lights, the Creator of the Sun, Moon, and stars. Unlike the daily variations of the Sun, the monthly phases of the Moon, and the seasonal movements of the stars, our God does not withdraw, or back off, even for a moment – He is always present and generous.
In contrast to temptation that brings forth sin and death, God’s “word of truth” brings forth life – a life that is like the first plants of springtime bursting out of the deadness of winter’s soil.
Reflection: Take a moment to reflect on the contrast between what is ‘birthed’ by temptation and by the word of truth. Focus on what God gifts to us. Thank the Father for what He has given, and continues to give. What do these gifts mean for you – particularly in the face of temptation?
Second, James invites us to act in cooperation with the Father’s gifts.
Know this, my beloved brothers [and sisters]: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. Therefore put away all filthiness and rampant wickedness and receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. (1:19-21)
James calls us to wisdom: be quick to hear; be slow to speak; be slow to anger. Try to incorporate this wisdom – this skill for living successfully – into your daily life. Sometimes you can do it; perhaps you can develop a habit – but there will be lures and enticements leading to angry outbursts, or speaking inappropriately, or making choices that lead to thinking or acting in “filthiness” or “wickedness.”
Trying to incorporate this wisdom into life is not enough. Our efforts and resources are inadequate. What is needed, and what does our Father supply?
James calls on his brothers and sisters “to humbly accept the word God has planted in your hearts, for it has the power to save your souls” (1:21 NLT). What is this “word”?
Some would suggest that it is the Bible – and, in a way, that is correct – but insufficient. The Swiss theologian, Karl Barth (1886-1968), concluded the primary form of the “Word of God” is the revelation of God as Jesus Christ (John 1:1, 14; Hebrews 1:1-2). Barth also taught that the Bible and the authentic proclamation (i.e., preaching) of the “word” are inseparable from, and interrelated with, the revelation of God as Jesus Christ. So what is James calling us to do?
James is calling us to accept and embrace the life of Jesus Christ that God has planted in our lives as Christians. Using the metaphor of a plant, he is leading us to recognize and to allow that living “word,” like a seed, to grow and become fruitful in us. It is not ‘my’ life that is being reproduced; it is the life of Jesus Christ that is being enfleshed and reproduced in ‘me’.
Reflection: Is this a new perception for you? Understanding that the seed implanted is you is the very life of Jesus Christ – does this make a difference in dealing with temptation, and living for God?
Third, James urges us to “be doers of the word,” not just hearers.
... be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like. But the one who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer who forgets but a doer who acts, he will be blessed in his doing. (1:22-25)
In our modern culture, we make a virtue of accumulating knowledge without the need to do anything about it. James condemns listening only; he insists that we do what we hear. Cooperate actively with God in what He is doing in your life; don’t wait passively. God is already at work and calls you to act on what you know.
Reflection: As you read the Bible, and grow in the life of Jesus Christ and his commands, what are you being instructed to do in your life, and with your life? How do you move from hearing passively to doing actively?
Fourth, what does it look like when we become doers of the word of God?
James puts it in these words:
If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person's religion is worthless. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God, the Father, is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world. (1:26-27)
Being a doer of the word means we will “be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger” because that reflects the life of Jesus.
It means we will engage at a personal level with those who are oppressed, troubled, poor, sick, and disenfranchised.
It means we will refuse to be conformed to the way people think and behave in our culture – when those ways are contradictory to the life of Jesus Christ.
Reflection: What does embracing and living out the life of Jesus Christ look like in your life? Think of one thing that you have heard from the “perfect law” that can touch and bless the life of another person. Now go and do it in the name of Jesus. In the doing, you will be moving from blame toward wholeness.
You can also listen to this post as a podcast.
Signup below to stay in the loop with 'living theology'.Subscribe