“What Real Faith Looks Like: The Blame Game” (James 1:13-16)

I have noticed that during this election season there have been a lot of references to former President Ronald Reagan. Many are wishing for a candidate like him, and for a return to his kind of conservative vision. I remember the presidency of Ronald Reagan, and he was far from perfect, but he was a good president and certainly had a good political philosophy. One of the things Reagan preached was the doctrine of personal responsibility. He said:

“We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.”

Like many things President Reagan said, that quote is like a breath of fresh air in a society today where everyone is trying to blame someone else for the ills that have befallen them. Everyone is engaging in “The Blame Game” – blaming someone or something else for their problems. President Reagan said we need to get back to the “American precept” that each individual is accountable for their actions – well, that is not only an “American precept”; it is a BIBLICAL precept as well. Getting out of “The Blame Game” and admitting responsibility for your sins is one of the single most important steps that anyone can take.
Let’s read James Chapter 1 together again, and come back and look at what our passage for today, :13-16, has to teach us about “What Real Faith Looks Like: The Blame Game.”

I. “The Blame Game”: Evading Responsibility
:13 says, “Let no man say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God …’.”
This introduces the idea of the origin of sin, and who is to blame for it. James says here that there is a kind of person who, when they are tempted, wants to blame someone else for it, for example, saying: “I am being tempted by God.” This “The Blame Game” – blaming someone else for your sin.
“The Blame Game” has been going on since the beginning of creation, as we see in the Book of Genesis. In the 3rd Chapter of that first book of the Bible, we find that Adam and Eve broke God’s command by eating the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good & Evil. When God confronted him with his sin, Adam said in :12, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” From the very beginning, Adam tried to pawn off the responsibility for his sin: “The woman You gave me …”. He shifted responsibility for his sin first to Eve – that SHE gave it to him — and then ultimately to GOD Himself, when he said, “The woman YOU gave me”! Adam did not accept personal responsibility for what he had done. He blamed someone else: his wife, and even God, instead. He started “The Blame Game.”
And of course mankind is still caught up in “The Blame Game” today. Everywhere you see people shifting the responsibility for their sin to others – anyone but themselves. It was their parents’ fault. It is because they were brought up poor. It is because they had a bad environment. It is because they didn’t have any education. It is because “they were born that way” — anything but their own responsibility.
This is so commonplace that I hardly need to give an example, but let me give one: we see this big time in the homosexual movement today. Part of the “centerpiece” of the homosexual argument is that they “were born this way” and don’t have any control over who they are and what they do. They don’t want to take responsibility for their sins, so they claim that they were born that way – which is basically saying that GOD is responsible, not themselves! You even hear some of them flat out say, “God made me this way.”
First of all, there is NO good scientific evidence that God made some people homosexual. Even using every bit of the bias that is given in favor of the homosexual movement today, the hard evidence is just not there to indicate that people are born homosexuals. And scripture definitely does not indicate that. Romans 1 says, “They exchanged the truth of God for a lie … they burned in their lust toward one another.” The Bible says the individuals are responsible for what they are doing. They cannot blame God for it.
Now many of us like to pick on homosexuals, but they are not the only ones who play “The Blame Game” – there are plenty others of us who do that too; who say, “I was born this way”, or “I just can’t help myself”, or “it’s my parents’ fault”, or any of a plethora of other reasons. These are just countless versions of the same “Blame Game” that Adam started in the Garden of Eden – when he blamed everyone but himself for his own sin.
Some of you today need to stop this “Blame Game.” Stop blaming your heredity or your parents or your environment or anyone but yourself for YOUR sin. Sure, every one of us is born with weaknesses, some to one thing, and some to another – we ALL are. But having a weakness in an area of our lives does not excuse us from fighting against that temptation, and neither does it relieve us of the responsibility for our own sins. Whatever weakness you have, there is someone else who is fighting and overcoming that very thing, with God’s help. Stop blaming everyone but yourself, and begin taking responsibility for your own actions. Stop playing “The Blame Game.”

II. “The Blame Game”: Blaming God
In Genesis 3, Adam said, “The woman YOU gave to be with me, she gave to me.” Adam tried to blame God for his sin. And he has not been alone in that. James says here in :14 that many others basically do the same thing: “Let no man say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God …”. In other words, he is saying, don’t blame God for your temptations and sin. He is not responsible for that; you are.
A. The Difference Between “Trials” & “Temptations.”
Now, we need to make an important differentiation here, between “trials” and “temptations.” We have been speaking off and on for several weeks about how God brings us into various trials, and how He has a specific purpose for them. That is true. God DOES bring us into trials, to test our faith, and give us the opportunity to demonstrate that it is genuine, to grow and mature us, and so forth.
But there is a difference between “trials” and “temptations.” A “trial” is something that God brings us into, for His purposes. A “temptation” is an allurement to sin, which God does not do to us. There is a big difference between the two.
Now, one complication for our understanding of this is that the same Greek root word, “peirazo”, is used for BOTH “trials” and “temptations.” In fact, it is used for both of them right here in James 1! Earlier we saw that “various trials” come upon us to test our faith and produce endurance. Scripture teaches that God brings “trials” and “tests” upon us. Proverbs 17:3 says: “The LORD tests hearts.” In John 6:6 the Bible says that Jesus “said this to test him” – that same word “peirazo.” So the Bible definitely teaches that God tests us.
But now in :14 we see that no one can say when he is “tempted” that he is being “tempted by God, for God Himself cannot be tempted with sin, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.” All of those uses of the word “tempted” are from the same root as “trial” — “peirazo”! A.T. Robertson, the great Southern Baptist Greek scholar, says this word “peirazo” may be used in both “good” and “bad” senses, as meaning a “test”, by God, or a “temptation” to evil, which not from God. If you are studying a passage of scripture, you have to ascertain from the context which way this word is being used. But we don’t have to be Greek scholars to apply this: in your own life experience, you can know for sure: if it is trial, it may be from God as a test; but if it is a temptation, an allurement for you to do evil, that is NOT from God – as we shall see next.
B. The Blamelessness of God
One thing the Bible makes very clear is that God is not responsible for sin. He is a holy God. James 1 says “Let no man say … I am being tempted by God. For God cannot be tempted by sin, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”
God is not tempted with evil, James says. He emphasizes here the doctrine of the holiness of God. We saw in our study earlier this year, “Our Great God”, that holiness is perhapsTHE single most significant attribute of God. In heaven the angels never cease to cry out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty.” He is a holy God. Everything He is and does is holy.
Psalm 33:4-5 says: “For the word of the Lord is upright; and all His work is done in faithfulness He loves righteousness and justice; the earth is full of the lovingkindness of the Lord.” Those verses tell us that everything about God is good: His word is upright, His work is faithful, what He loves is righteous — there is NOTHING about God which is not holy and good!
And so James says God “cannot be tempted by evil”. This is an interesting phrase in the original Greek. The word is “a-peirastos.” As we saw, “Peirazo” is that word for temptation or trial. The “a” at the beginning of the word is what is called the “alpha privative”, in which the “a” functions as a negative, meaning “no” or “not.” We do this same thing in English, where we put an “a” in front a word to mean “not”, such as “a-theist”, meaning a person who does not believe in God, or “a-gnostic”, gnosis is the word “knowledge”, so it means “not, knowing”. So here the Greek is “a-peirastos”, which literally means that God is “NOT – tempted”, or as A.T. Robertson tells us, not only “un-tempted, but “not-temptable”! He “cannot be tempted” – He is “a-peirastos.” It is not even possible that God could be tempted with sin. He is perfectly holy God! And as a perfectly holy God, He Himself does not tempt anyone
This brings up a lot of questions: if God is such a holy God, then why did He allow sin and temptation in the world? That is a good question, and the answers are not uncomplicated, and they vary. Those who hold to the “doctrines of grace” or Calvinism believe that God ordained everything, including sin, for His glory. The Calvinistic Westminster Confession says:

“God from all eternity, did … ordain whatsoever comes to pass; yet so, as thereby neither is God the author of sin.”

Now I love some Calvinists dearly, and I appreciate many of the doctrines and emphases of Calvinism. But this seems to me to be “theological gymnastics” of the worst kind. They want to maintain on the one hand that God has sovereign control over single every detail of the universe, but then somehow affirm that He is not responsible for sin — but you can’t have it both ways. That position is totally self-contradictory.
But whatever their disagreements, what Calvinists and non-Calvinists both agree on is that the Bible teaches in passages like James 1 here that God cannot be the author of sin. He did not choose for us to sin; we chose it for ourselves. The Bible definitely teaches that God is sovereign; He reigns over all from heaven. But I believe the Bible teaches that in His sovereignty, God has granted us real, free, consequential choices. That does not compromise His sovereignty; He is still on the throne. But from His throne, He has sovereignly chosen to give us real choices with real consequences. If He didn’t, this universe would be nothing more than a “rigged game show.”
One of my favorite quotes about this is from C.S. Lewis in his classic book, Mere Christianity:

“God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right … Why then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having. A world of automata — of creatures that worked like machines — would hardly be worth creating. The happiness which God designs for His higher creatures is the happiness of being freely, voluntarily united to Him and to each other in an ecstasy of love and delight compared with which the most rapturous love between a man and a woman on this earth is mere milk and water. And for that they must be free.”

God did not create a universe inhabited by robots for whom He would determine every move. If He did, then He would indeed be responsible for sin. But that is not what He did. He made us “in His image”, which means that we have souls, minds, and a will of our own. For this universe to be genuinely meaningful, and more than a “sham”, God allows us to make real choices, which means that we have the freedom either to do good, or to sin. And we know the story: we chose to sin. But God did not choose that for us. We chose it ourselves, and we continue to do so. We are responsible. And that is what we see James tell us in the next verse …

III. The Blame Game: Accepting Responsibility
As opposed to blaming our sins on God, :14 says: “BUT each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his OWN lust.” Here James encourages us to stop playing “The Blame Game” and admit that we are responsible for our own choices. We have each personally chosen to sin against God. We are each responsible for our own sin.
The illustration James uses here is a very picturesque one. The word “enticed,” A.T. Robertson tells us, means to be “allured by bait”. It is the picture of someone coaxing a fish out from underneath a rock with bait.
Now there is a tempter, to be sure, enticing us with that bait, but it is not God! Mark 1:13 says that Jesus was tempted by Satan in the wilderness, and that same tempter tempts us as well. But I think it is significant that James does not mention Satan here. He mentions demons elsewhere in this book, but not here. I think what he is indicating is that the problem is we have with sin is NOT due to the demons outside of us, but because the lust WITHIN us!
When we are tempted with the “bait” that the enemy dangles in front of us, :14 says we are “carried away and enticed by his own lust.” It is significant that the word “lust” is SINGULAR – it is not a bunch of “lusts”, but the principle of lust, or sin, within you. Ever since Adam & Eve, every one of us has this sin nature inside of us, which inclines us to sin. And when we come to the time to make our own choices, we all do choose to sin. This is why we cannot just “turn over a new leaf”; we can’t “reform ourselves.” We must be “born again” by admitting our sin, and asking God to change our hearts and save us!
But it all starts with admitting that the problem is not God, or even the devil, or anyone else, but admitting that we are responsible for our sins OURSELVES!
A week ago Saturday night The University of Oklahoma had an ugly loss, due in great part, quite frankly, to some pretty poor play by their quarterback, Landry Jones, whose Christian testimony I have mentioned before. Jones threw an ugly interception on a pass he should never have thrown, and fumbled a ball into his own end zone, which gave Kansas State the lead. But after the game, Landry Jones told the press that “this loss was on me.” To his credit, he accepted responsibility, and didn’t try to shift it to anyone or anything else. Contrast that with one of OU’s defensive players, who said to the press that “the offense put us in a bad position”, basically shifting the blame away from himself and the defense. But the truth is, at the end of the game, Landry Jones had led OU’s offense down the field for a score which brought them close to a win, and if the defense had subsequently made K-State punt, many believe Jones would have led OU to the winning score. But this defensive player didn’t accept responsibility for not stopping Kansas State; instead he tried to shift all the blame to the offense. Needless to say, a lot more people respect Landry Jones for accepting responsibility, than that defensive player for avoiding it.
And this is the same choice that each of us has spiritually: you can try to play “the Blame Game” and shift responsibility for your sins to others, or you can do the Biblical, responsible thing, and admit your sin to God.
After King David had committed adultery with Bathsheba, and Nathan the prophet confronted him with his sin, 2 Samuel 12:13 says: “Then David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the LORD.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die.’” David’s path to forgiveness began when he admitted his sin to God. He didn’t try to evade responsibility; he didn’t blame it on Bathsheba or anyone else. He said, “I have sinned against the Lord.”
This is exactly what each one of us needs to do: ACCEPT PERSONAL RESPONSIBILITY for your sin! It is the first step towards genuine salvation. Say with this passage in James: “it was ‘my own lust.’” It wasn’t the devil who made you do it; it certainly wasn’t GOD who made you do it; no one else “made” you do it!
— Stop blaming it on your parents.
— Stop blaming it on your inherited tendencies.
— Stop blaming it on your family upbringing.
— Stop blaming it on your environment.
— Stop blaming it on economic deprivation.
— Stop blaming it on your lack of education.
— Stop blaming it on your poor health.
— Stop blaming it on your friends.
— Stop blaming it on anyone or anything else. Admit your own sin against God.
Some of you will take the biggest and most important step of your life today if you will just say “I have sinned against the Lord.” Admit that you chose to sin. And then find the only remedy there is for your sin, by throwing yourself on the mercy that God will give you through Jesus’ death on the cross.
Stop playing “The Blame Game” today, and accept personal responsibility for your own sin. That is “What Real Faith Looks Like”!

About Shawn Thomas

My blog, shawnethomas.com, features the text of my sermons, book reviews, family life experiences -- as well as a brief overview of the Lifeway "Explore the Bible" lesson for Southern Baptist Sunday School teachers.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s