Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 19; 150, 1 Samuel 4:12-22, James 1:1-18, Matthew 19:23-30
While nearly all Christian denominations now consider the Book of James an official part of the New Testament canon, it can still be controversial. It mentions Christ only twice, and never in the context of his resurrection, but does refer to many of his sayings. Scholars don’t agree on its author, timing, or structure. Still it contains great wisdom which doesn’t rely on complex theological understandings (though it is not without its own theological stance). Simply put, James wants us to live with the integrity of a disciple of Christ.
Not everyone embraces this common-sense approach. Here’s some of what James has to say about temptation:
No one, when tempted, should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one. But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death.
We like to push the blame for our temptations onto external sources. It’s part of the earliest stories of our faith, when Eve blamed the serpent and Adam blamed Eve. We blame the devil. We blame God. Yet James tell us we can’t be tempted by something we didn’t want to begin with.
If we dodge responsibility for our own temptations, we never overcome them. It’s like denying a need for bifocals by saying the television won’t focus any more.
When we say confession is good for the soul, we’re usually talking about sins already committed. What if we practiced confessing our temptations before they matured into sins? Shame tells us to shove them in the closet, but then we end up struggling so hard to keep them behind the door that they consume all our energy and eventually wear us down, escape, and trample our lives.
Confessing a temptation to a trusted friend or counselor helps us put it into perspective and manage it. If, as Justice Brandeis said, sunlight is the best disinfectant, let’s not suffer alone in the darkness.
Read more on today’s passage from Acts in Camels and Needles.
Comfort: Temptation is a part of life. It doesn’t make you a bad person.
Challenge: Be brave enough to deal with your temptations before they become reality.
Prayer: Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to you, O LORD, my rock and my redeemer (Psalm 19).
Discussion: How do you fight temptation?
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