This probably should have preceded the last blog, which started looking at the life of Abraham. This section(1) from the Book of James seems to fit in with the Flesh vs Faith struggle. Particularly, these verses expound on what is pictured in Genesis 3, where Adam looked at God’s creation and felt it better that he control it rather than trust the Creator.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But 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. (James 1:13-15) I would not say that James is expounding on The Fall, but on his readers’ experiences, but this describes how sin happens and so this fits Genesis 3. Any attempt to explain Adam’s actions results in the question: If Adam was created innocent, where did the impetus to sin come from? It came from his own lusts. Genesis says that it was “desirable” to become wise (3:6).
Yet, the flesh says that God is the one who tempts, “the woman you gave me” (Genesis 3:12). Not so, says James. God cannot be tempted and he does not tempt with evil. To think otherwise would be a deception.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers. 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. (James 1:16-18) I need the constant reminder to not be deceived. Not only do I blame God for my trips, falls and mistakes; I disdain his gifts, though they are good and perfect. I fail to accept that God who is good never varies from goodness. In his good will, he made me his child how can I expect that will to shift? But in reality, I do. It is a deception. Paul writes similarly when he says, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. (1 Thessalonians 5:18)
But I don’t want to be thankful. I want what I want, and I have to deal with God who is unceasingly unconcerned with what my flesh wants. For him to give what my flesh wants would neither be a good nor a perfect gift. It would, in fact, be giving in to evil and God is not tempted by evil. No matter how hard I stamp my feet, God is not tempted to give in to me. Not for a second.
Do not be deceived. The life of flesh is a life of deception. Deceiving yourself about yourself. Deceiving yourself that you can deceive God, who is not tempted. Faith understands that God is not tempted. That God is the Father of lights with no shadows and no changing. What he gives his children is good and perfect, even when his children despise it. Faith is not deceived.
Know this, my beloved brothers: 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. (James 1:19-20) There are times when I am not happy. Sometimes things just don’t go the way I prefer. Sometimes, it seems way bigger than a “preference” thing. It seems as if my whole life is on the line. If I am honest, I have to admit my first reaction is to start pronouncing what I think about it. “Be slow to speak”, says James. I want people (and God) to know just how angry I am. “Be slow to anger, flesh’s anger does not produce righteousness”, says James. If it is true what I said in the first article, that Faith is a response to revelation, acting as if God’s opinion is the one that matters, then the first reaction of faith would be to listen, as James says. If I am to hear, I cannot be speaking my pronouncements. The angry rant drowns out all voices but its own, for that is its purpose.
In this section of James, the struggle between Flesh and Faith is a struggle to yell or to hear. To yell out of our self-deception, or to hear the Revelation of the one who neither is tempted, nor tempts toward evil.
1 These thoughts were provoked (“It hit me like the wet kiss at the end of a hot fist” (let the reader understand)) by reading Every Good And Every Perfect Gift Is From Above, one of Kierkegaard’s Edifying Discourses published in 1843.