The human condition is frail, weak, wicked, broken. There is no denying that mankind suffers from almost every malady that can be imagined. We’re a sad lot. At some level I suppose there is comfort in knowing that we aren’t that much different from everyone else. In other words, I guess there is comfort in knowing that I’m not the only leper in the colony.
But why am I like this? Why do I suffer and struggle with temptation, sin and condemnation? Is it my fault? Or is there blame to be laid elsewhere? I think we can answer that question by turning to Scripture. James gives no room to the idea that anyone is at fault other than ourselves.
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. 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 first fruits of his creatures. (James 1:13-18)
What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. (James 4:1-4)
In the first passage, James argues that temptation arises not from God but from within each of us. We each have desires or passions which are always working to break into the open. When we fail to control those passions sin emerges and brings eternal death. God is not to be blamed for our lack of control. He continues by noting that “every good gift and every perfect gift comes from God.” The evil is within because of own desires but goodness is from God. He created us to be the best (the first fruits) of all creation.
In the passage from chapter 4 he frankly notes why we struggle. Our passions are the cause. Our desire to bow to our own desires and passions and the desire to feed those passions is the reason for our angst. The inescapable conclusion is that all of the blame lays within me. It is my fault and I cannot blame anyone else.
A man may argue that since God created man, he must have created man with the frailties that drive us to sin. I disagree.
The Bible is clear that God created man (Genesis 1:26). But it is also clear that God created man in a very different state or condition that he is now in. When God had created man he declared that man, and all of creation, was “very good.” (Genesis 1:31). There was no sin in the creation.
God created the very best creation possible. Most would agree that the inclusion of choice in creation was necessary of God was to give us the very best possible world. Otherwise we would simply be a race of automatons who could neither receive nor freely give love. Inherent in that concept is the certainty that man would choose wrongly and, as a result, sin. It is also clear that that sin would require a price be paid. The son of the Creator would come and die for the sins of the creation (Ephesians 1:4; Acts 2:23).
But it must be clear that choice is not sin. God is not responsible in any sense for our failings. Our God is holy and just. He is not the cause of our weaknesses. Could he have made us differently? Sure. But in doing so we would not be human. We would be machines and could not freely give to him the glory, praise and love he so richly deserves.
Our sins are our own fault.
But I’m different! I’m not like you or anyone else for that matter! That’s probably true. Given the myriad traits and characteristics of each person coupled with the unique upbringing and environments in which we are raised it is perfectly reasonable to assert that every person is unique. But should such individuality be used to somehow assign less fault to the individual? No!
No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13)
While we are unique we are precisely alike in that we all suffer from sin. While the names of my sin are probably different from yours, they still separate me from my Creator, Jehovah God (Isaiah 59:2).
The promise remains for all, namely, “temptation he will also provide the way of escape.” So when we surrender to temptation we do so against the promise. There is always a way of escape – always! It may be hard to see. It may be more costly than we want but it is there and it will always work.
It would be comforting to lay the blame for sin somewhere else – anywhere else – than in our own hearts. But at the end of the day, we are responsible.
The wonderful news is that even in our sin, God loved us and gave us Jesus. We need not be lost nor languish in our sin. Jesus saves!