Sin is a prevalent problem that is in the world, and has been in the world since the time of Adam and Eve. Sin has been and is a part of the world, and it will be until the Day of Judgment comes. Sin comes about through the giving in to temptation, and it is no wonder why James chooses to put the topic of temptation in the forefront of his letter to the various disciples of the Lord who lived in various places throughout the world. He saw temptation as a precursor to sin, and he describes the punishment of giving in to temptations and the reward of overcoming temptation.
Sin comes in three forms of lust according to I John 2:16; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. In order for a person to succumb to one of these sins, they must first undergo the test of being tempted by one of these sins. James speaks against giving into temptation to commit sin, and he even tells his readers to rejoice when being faced with temptation. “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations;” (James 1:2). James is referring here to the various types of temptations that a Christian may be faced with throughout his or her life. If a Christian is faced with a temptation, he or she should rejoice that they are being tested in order to show obedience unto God. This verse speaks against feeling sorry for oneself or becoming angry about undergoing hardships and temptation. Feeling this way leads a person to be more likely to succumb to that temptation out of frustration or spiritual weakness.
When telling his brethren to rejoice in being faced with temptation, he is referring only to those trials that come from an outward source that the Christian being tested cannot control. All who live faithful to God will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). A Christian should not rejoice if they are facing hardships that they brought upon themselves for living an unrighteous way of life. For example, a person who lives in a careless manner should not rejoice if they face negative consequences for their actions. On the other hand, if a person is trying to remain a faithful Christian, and faces opposition or persecution from others, then that person should rejoice to suffer for the cause of Christ.
Overcoming temptation has many benefits for the faithful Christian. First of all, the faithful Christian who overcomes temptations receives a “crown of life” (James 1:12). God has promised a crown of life upon the Day of Judgment to those faithful few who live obediently to His Word. Until that time, however, there are other benefits to overcoming temptation to sin. According to James 1:3, avoiding sin and suffering temptation allows a person to cultivate patience, which in and of itself has benefits. The apostle Paul speaks of the benefits of having patience in Romans 5:3-5; “And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; And patience, experience; and experience, hope: And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us.”
Some examples of temptations to sin that James gives in his letter comes from verse 19; “Wherefore my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath.” All three of these actions can lead a person to commit sin. James goes onto to say in verses 20 and 21; “For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.” James also goes onto say that if a person portrays himself to be religious but cannot control what he says, then his religion is in vain (v. 26). Indeed, the unbridling of the tongue is a major sin that many Christians today are tempted to partake in. It must have been just as prevalent of an issue in James’ time as well.
In conclusion, the first chapter of the book of James deals with the importance of keeping oneself pure and not succumbing to the temptation to commit sin. No sin can enter into Heaven (Revelation 21:27), so all Christians must make sure that they do not give into being tempted by the devil. All Christians must also be sure to keep themselves “unspotted from the world” (James 1:27) as faithful servants of God. If everyone strived to live as James encouraged his readers to conduct their lives in Chapter 1, then the world would definitely be a much better place than it is today. May we all strive to live in obedience unto God every day! “His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make the ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord” (Matthew 25:21).