James 1: 12-18 (The Message)
12 Anyone who meets a testing challenge head-on and manages to stick it out is mighty fortunate. For such persons loyally in love with God, the reward is life and more life. 13 Don’t let anyone under pressure to give in to evil say, “God is trying to trip me up.” God is impervious to evil, and puts evil in no one’s way. 14 The temptation to give in to evil comes from us and only us. We have no one to blame but the leering, seducing flare-up of our own lust. 15 Lust gets pregnant, and has a baby: sin! Sin grows up to adulthood, and becomes a real killer. 16 So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. 17 Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. 18 He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.
If there is a generous or kind bone in our bodies it’s because there is a God of Love. He created me as a “one-off.” I would rather believe that God’s love and care for me is the one true touchstone rather than any other semblance of reality that there is out there. The inimitable G.K. Chesterton was always quick to point out, “If there isn’t a good God, give me one good explanation for happiness.”
That said, there are many other unanswered questions in that real world. And a big question is the question of temptation. I must face the prospect that though I am special in God’s eyes, I am also deeply flawed. I know that is true because I have seen it in my own character and in the lives of others. I have watched virtuous people turn on a dime and act defiant and petty. In prisons, I have also seen the most violent offenders show tender moments of innocence. A wise person sees both sides in others and themselves.
The sage advice of James in these verses is to put all of our stock and trade into the goodness of God and in the reality of our fallen state. It’s only then that we can begin to build a life of wisdom and character.