April 23, 2012

Book of James: Temptation

Tonight's Bible Study was probably one of my favorite ones ever because it really made me reframe my view of temptations and trials.  We talked about the reason why we sin.  Why do we sometimes do things that are so ugly? It's not like we sit around each day and think of ways that we can do something dark and wicked. Temptations are enticing, and sin is typically presented as a good thing.  We can see this all the way back in Genesis 3:6 when Eve saw that the tree of life was "good" and the fruit was "pleasing to the eye," and she was tempted into eating it.

Jeff Cavins talked about Saint Augustine's book "The Confessions" where Saint Augustine explored the reasons for sinning in his life. When he was a child, he stole pears from a pear tree with a few of his friends and threw them at pigs. He was absolutely baffled as to why he did it, but he gradually began to realize he was seeking affirmation and friendship from his buddies. He wanted to pursue something good (friendship and affirmation), but he went about it in the wrong way. Saint Augustine said that people do not do evil for evil's sake. People seek out something good, but they just do not take the right path to reach that good thing.

Jeff said there are two choices we face when we are tempted to sin.  We can simply choose to sin or we can stop to think about what we are really seeking through sinning, and we can ask how God can provide that for us. After all, He says "You will seek me and find me when you search for me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13). We are always trying to attain something good, and God is the one who can give us the absolute best.  

What I found particularly fascinating is that the punishment for continuous sin is the pleasure we get from that sin. That pleasure, in turn, leads to more sin and we become addicted. The more we engage in sin, the less we feel we need God.  We start feeling a need to sin more and more to feel happy and good.  When we do this, we are settling for something "good" instead of the greatness and supernatural good that God has for us.

"Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and reversed and worshipped the creature rather than the creator who is blessed forever." 
- Romans 1:24 

Jeff Cavins said that events that people experience like the loss of a job, a car accident, or having a spouse discover your addiction are acts of God's mercy. People typically think of these events as being the punishment for our sin, but it is in fact God's great love for us taking us out of that sinful cycle. I thought this was so interesting because I had always thought of things like this as punishment for doing something wrong, and definitely not acts of God's mercy. 

Finally, I thought it was really encouraging to read about Jesus's experience of being tempted by the Devil in the dessert in Matthew 4:1-11.  I have read this passage many times in my life, but I don't think I fully understood it until tonight.  I had never thought about the fact that Jesus was resisting temptation from the Devil through the use of Scripture.  I think that is definitely something that I can put into practice in my life, and something that I will need to continually work on as I study the Bible more and more.

We were left with some questions to think about, and I encourage you to reflect on these. What are five temptations you are currently struggling with? What is the natural good you are seeking from those temptations? Where will you really get those good things from and how? 

"Blessed is the man who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proved he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him."
- James 1:12

Tomorrow I'll be writing about trials in our lives and turning to God through the hard times. There was too much from tonight to fit into one post! This blog post was based on the Bible Study James: Pearls for Wise Living by Jeff Cavins.  You can see my Introduction here:Book of James: Introduction



  1. Thank you for posting. The bad event being God's mercy breaking the cycle is an excellent perspective. I will definitely be reflecting on those questions. Thanks again. I'm thoroughly enjoying reading!

    1. I know, I had always thought of it as punishment! I'm so glad you are enjoying the posts. We are learning so much from this study!

  2. Soo good for me to be reminded that it's His mercy behind the hard things- definitely humbling. I just found your blog, Caitlin, and wish I knew you in real life! I'm a newlywed, too, and I love cooking and being active. Looking forward to exploring everything, and I'd love for you to visit Captive the Heart, my blog for Catholic brides! http://captivetheheart.blogspot.com

    1. So glad you came across my blog! I'll go check out yours! :)