James tells us, “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.” (1) And I agree! Be careful, people! 😦 The devil is out to get us and bring us down. According to Jesus he is “a liar and the father of lies.” (2) This world is a treacherous place. We must be alert at all times. People will trick us and lure us in to their dangerous ways. Therefore, so that I might “not be deceived,” my question for James is what were the “beloved brothers” being deceived about? And the surprising answer is this: Blaming their temptations on God. Wait. 😮 What? Yeah, that’s right. The brothers were deceived into believing that God was tempting them.
James was quick to point out their mistake, though. He writes, “Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am tempted by God,’ for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.” (3) It wasn’t God and it wasn’t even the devil tempting them—it was themselves! “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” (4) It was their own fault! 😒
And that’s not all they were deceiving themselves about! James reveals that the brothers believed they were actively applying the Word of God to their lives. They were not! They were only listening to the sermons, but not doing anything the sermons commanded or suggested. He warned them: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.” (5)
And one more thing. The brothers deceived themselves into thinking they were religious people and yet did not control their tongue—which could mean they were saying untrue things, or hurtful things, or offensive things, or maybe just useless things. “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart. . . ” (6) But the worst part of all of this is the last part of that sentence: “this person’s religion is worthless.” (6)
Wow. 😟 How sad is that? No one will pay attention to anything these people say or do. And remember, these are “beloved brothers.”
So, what’s the lesson? “Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers.”–not by others, not by the devil, but mostly . . . do not be deceived by yourselves.
Don’t kid yourself. Deception is very deceptive. 🙄 We believe others are responsible for our downfall because surely we are quite capable to resist temptation. We believe others need to apply the Word of God to their lives because surely we are quite adept at hearing a good sermon and working it out in our lives. We believe others need to tame their tongue because surely we will not say anything that might be a stumbling block. We are easily deceived because we have it all figured out. We trust our instincts; we are intelligent people. We think quite highly of ourselves. 😉
But our understanding of things is limited. We really cannot even see ourselves properly. James explains, we are “like a man who looks intently at his natural face in a mirror. For he looks at himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.” (7)
So, there’s the problem. 🧐
What’s the answer? “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not rely on your own understanding.” (8)
Don’t trust yourself. Don’t be deceived. Deception is deceptive.
(1) James 1:16) (2) John 8:44 (3) James 1:13 (4) James 1:14 (5) James 1:22 (6) James 1:26 (7) James 1:23-24 (8) Proverbs 3:5