These small group studies of James contain outlines, cross-references, Bible study discussion questions, and applications. Visit our library of inductive Bible studies for more in depth inductive studies on this and other books of the Bible you can use in your small group.
James 1:12-27 Inductive Online Bible Study – Resist Temptation and Be Doers of the Word
James 1:12-27 Video Bible Study
James 1:12-27 Podcast Bible Study
I. Temptation is not from God (12-15)
II. God gives good gifts (16-17)
III. Set apart through the Word (18-27)
I. Temptation is not from God (12-15)
- How is a person blessed who perseveres under trial?
- How can you help others persevere in the midst of trials?
- How can you persevere during trials?
- What is the crown of life?
- Why do you think James includes this reminder about God and temptation here in the middle of his discussion on trials?
- What is the difference between trials and temptations?
- If temptation doesn’t come from God, where does it come from?
- Why is it important to know the truth about the results of giving in to temptation?
- How does it help us to know that we ourselves are full of evil desires in our battle against temptation?
- So then what steps can we take to conquer temptation in our lives?
1 Peter 5:10 – And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast.
1 Peter 1:7 – These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.
1 Corinthians 10:13 – No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.
Proverbs 4:23 – Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.
Mark 7:21-22 – For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. Persevere under trials – All people will face trials and believers will probably face even more than average. It is not a question of if, but when. We can’t normally control the trials that we face, but we can decide how we respond to them. Believers are supposed to persevere. We are supposed to bear up under it. To understand what that means it might be helpful to look at the opposite.
The opposite of perseverance is “giving up”. When believers (or professing believers) face trials they could just give up. They might do so for a number of reasons. Maybe they grow to doubt God’s goodness, His plan, or even His existence. Maybe they still believe in God, but their flesh wins and they give up because it is simply “too hard” and too painful to persevere. But if you give up, you won’t win the prize.
1 Corinthians 9:24-27 – Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like someone running aimlessly; I do not fight like a boxer beating the air. No, I strike a blow to my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.
Perseverance is hard work. Like an athlete, we need to discipline ourselves. Athletes do not always feel like getting up early and training. Neither do we always feel like praying or studying God’s Word. Our emotions are up and down, but following God is a choice we make based on faith.
Perseverance does not mean perfection. Nobody is perfect, but a righteous person falls seven times and rises again (Proverbs 24:16.) Saints that persevere will emerge from the trial victorious having never lost the faith, and having maintained a positive and grateful attitude towards the Lord.
Perseverance is a sign that the person’s faith is genuine. Trials act as a sifter to sift out false believers from the true ones. Those who truly belong to the Lord will heed the warnings in the Bible and endure victorious and receive the crown of life.
Application: When you are facing trials it is important to get help from other believers and not isolate yourself. Tell a close brother or sister in the Lord what you are facing. Ask them to pray for you and support you. That is what the church is for.
2. What is this crown of life? – Athletes in ancient times received a wreath placed on their head denoting their victory. This tradition is likely the imagery James alludes to. The crown referred to here is probably symbolic. It denotes the believer’s ultimate reward, that prize that we strive for. The prize is eternal life. In fact, it is already guaranteed to those of us who believe. It has been promised, but we will finally receive it in full when we emerge from this life of trials victorious.
Consider for a moment the process of buying a house. I put a down payment on it, sign a contract, and it is “mine”, but I still need to make monthly payments. If I give up then it will be revealed that the house didn’t really belong to me. Finally after many years I finish all the payments and the house is completely mine. The example is not perfect, but you can imagine that our response to trials is like making continued payments. It confirms our faith. But if we give up under trials it is like a person who stops making payments and the house is repossessed (no this doesn’t mean we can lose our salvation, John 10:27-30).
3. Trials and temptations are different – James makes an important distinction between trials and temptations as well as their source. He makes it clear that God is never responsible for tempting people. Temptation comes from evil, but God is pure and holy, not evil. It is important that we know that God is not the source of temptation.
Otherwise we may excuse our sin by blaming God and saying “God is tempting me.” After all, if God is the one who tempts, then who are we to stand in His way? But of course this way of thinking is wrong. God never condones sin. He is not the author of evil. And He never tempts anyone.
Satan may use a situation in your life to try to tempt you to give up. God could use the same situation to encourage you to persevere and therefore strengthen your faith.
4. Temptation spawns from our own flesh – Temptation is only effective because it interacts with our lustful flesh. God cannot be tempted. Why? Because He has no evil or evil desires. We are tempted everyday because we are evil and have evil desires.
Some things might be a temptation for one person but not another because their desires are different. One person may not be tempted by alcohol and drugs, but may be tempted by lustful thoughts and sex. Another person may face little temptation in the area of gluttony, but great temptation in binge watching television shows. We must be aware of our own weaknesses.
Why is it important for us to recognize our weaknesses?
Satan is like a lion and wants to devour you. Lions have little chance catching wary prey. Their only opportunity is to sneak up on unsuspecting victims and pounce before they are noticed.
To avoid this fate, we have to humbly realize our own fleshly weaknesses so that we can protect against them. If we are prideful, then we will fall.
What steps can we take to protect ourselves against ourselves?
Here are a few ways:
- Fellowship. Surround yourselves with other believers who can keep you accountable.
- Get an accountability partner. If you know you are tempted in one area (for example porn), then ask a brother to check up on you from time to time and ask the tough questions.
- Avoid places or things we know will tempt us. One famous definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and hoping for a different result. Break the cycle. Try something different.
- Set standards for ourselves of things we will or won’t do to make clear lines. For example decide ahead of time that you will not be together with your girlfriend late at night in a private place so as to reduce temptation.
- Pray immediately when we face a temptation. Make a habit to just say a simple “help me” to God at the moment of temptation.
- Fill our minds with the Bible. If you memorize Scripture it will come to mind to protect and convict you.
What God says through James about temptation and the steps of it are very different from what Satan says. Satan might call temptation an opportunity for pleasure.
He might say, “Each person can enjoy himself fully when he puts off the old-fashioned traditions and narrow-minded bigotry. He can engulf himself in pleasure if he just is open-minded enough to think freely and be independent of external restraints. The pleasure will be enhanced when you fully let go. The fun gives birth to pleasure, which gives birth to continuing bliss. When it is complete, you will be the happiest person alive.” The father of lies always promises more than he can deliver.
But God says that temptation realized brings about sin and that sin brings about death (Romans 6:23.) You can see the two opposing views in Genesis where God said they would die if they ate the fruit and Satan said, “You surely will not die.”
Who was right? God was. They died. And He still is today.
We need to understand the consequences of sin. Sin brings about misery, guilt, despair, bitterness, self-loathing, pain, and death. It looks tasty on the hook, but tastes sour in your mouth. Believe God and don’t fall for Satan’s trap.
Application: Consider one area where you are often tempted. Make an action plan to reduce temptation in this area. Find a brother or sister and show them your action plan and ask them to keep you accountable.
II. God gives good gifts (16-17)
- Satan wants to tell us that God is keeping us from something good, but what is the truth?
- Is there anything good for us that God doesn’t want us to have?
- How does recognizing the goodness of God’s character help us in our fight against temptation
- How does recognizing the goodness of God’s character help you persevere under trials?
- What does it mean that the Father of lights has no “variation or shifting shadow?”
- Who took the initiative to save us?
- What does the phrase mean “first fruits among His creatures?”
Matthew 7:11 – If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!
Psalm 34:10 – The lions may grow weak and hungry, but those who seek the Lord lack no good thing.
Psalm 84:11 – For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold from those whose walk is blameless.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. When tempted, remember that God is good – In the middle of teaching on temptation, James interjects with statements on God’s goodness. Why? Knowing God’s goodness is also a protection against sin.
When Satan first tempted Eve he tried to make her doubt the goodness of God. He told her that God was keeping her from something good, something wonderful. According to Satan eating the fruit would help her become like God. It was God’s cruelty and selfishness which restricted her from something beneficial. She fell for it and the world fell into sin.
The truth is that everything good comes from God. He has our good at heart. When he gives us commands and rules they are to help us, not harm us. People who reject God’s commands in pursuit of pleasure will find themselves farther and farther from joy.
Just a parent restricts his children from indulging in candy (which tastes good but comes with bad side effects), so God restricts us from things that will harm us. Trusting in God and His goodness is a protection against the enticements of temptation.
Take for example the case of two salesmen. One of them is your good friend who you know will tell the truth. You know he cares for you and truly wants to help you. The other one is a famous scam artist. But his product sounds really good and he is a fluent speaker. Who will you believe? The wise person will believe the one who is trustworthy! And James is telling us that God is trustworthy.
Application: Think back on your life and evaluate if there was ever a time when you doubted God’s goodness in His plans for you. Confess to Him now and reaffirm you faith that He indeed wants what is best for you.
III. Set apart through the Word (18-27)
- Why should we be quick to hear and slow to speak? How can this keep us from sin?
- How does the “anger of man” differ from God’s anger?
- In what way does it require humility to receive the Word?
- How does a person who is a hearer only delude himself?
- How is the Bible like a mirror?
- How might a hearer react to a sermon?
- How might a doer react to a sermon?
- Are you a hearer or a doer?
- What are some practical ways you can become a better doer?
- Why does looking out for orphans and windows portray pure religion?
Proverbs 10:19 – Sin is not ended by multiplying words, but the prudent hold their tongues.
Proverbs 16:32 – Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.
Ephesians 4:26 – In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.
Colossians 3:9-10 – Do not lie to each other, since you have taken off your old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator.
Romans 2:13 – For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous.
Psalm 39:1 – I said, “I will watch my ways and keep my tongue from sin; I will put a muzzle on my mouth while in the presence of the wicked.”
Luke 6:45 – A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of.
Verse by Verse Commentary
1. We humble ourselves by listening to others – Christians are to be humble like Christ was. Part of humility is not thinking too highly of ourselves or our opinions. We should not think we are better than others. A prideful person is “quick to speak.” He loves the sound of his own voice. Such a person will often jump in to conversations to share his wealth of knowledge even when he is not asked. In his pride, he will talk over others by being louder and more persistent. In an argument, instead of listening while the other is talking he will spend that time to form his next point. These type of people are not fun to be around. Don’t be that person.
Instead we must be willing to listen to others’ ideas. When they instruct us, we need to be willing to listen to their counsel.
Proverbs 12:15 – The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
Proverbs 18:2 – A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.
Proverbs talks a lot about wise men and foolish men. Wise men listen to others while foolish men just want to share their opinion and show everyone how much they know. We must be teachable.
It is often said that God created us with two ears, but only one mouth for a reason, and it makes sense. There is still a time and a place for talking, teaching, and sharing our opinions. But we should be slow to speak.
That means we should take the time to think over what we say carefully. Do not be rush to lecture others because once you say it you can’t take it back. Before you speak ask yourself several basic questions. Is it edifying? Is it true? Is it helpful? Is it kind? Are we saying it in love? Is it gentle?
Application: List out three practical ways you will guard yourself from being quick to speak this week.
2. The anger of man is contrasted with the righteousness of God –
Did you know that believers are commanded to “be angry?” (Ephesians 5:26) There are two kinds of anger, righteous anger and selfish anger. Selfish anger is far more common. Here are a few examples of selfish anger:
- Getting upset when someone cuts in line
- Honking in anger at others’ rude driving habits
- Complaining about our boss behind his back
- Yelling out our spouse in the midst of an argument
- Retaliating verbally to those who insult us
Selfish anger is always sin, 100% of the time. You cannot be angry about the above or like situations and not sin. A person who has selfish anger is focused on themselves.
They have been wronged, insulted, or mistreated and so they react. People who get angry for these things are concerned primarily with their own rights and feelings.
Righteous anger is different. A person who has righteous anger is upset when God’s moral code is violated. Generally his anger is stirred up when the weak and defenseless are mistreated. Here are some examples:
- Jesus angry at the people doing business in the temple
- Citizens angry at the Nazis for killing Jews
- Incensed at the treatment of orphans
- Anger at the perpetrators of human trafficking
- Angry that abortion is tolerated, legalized, and promoted
- Standing up for a woman who is being domestically abused
A person who has righteous anger is concerned with others. A person who has righteous anger is concerned with God’s glory and God’s law, like Jesus was when He cleansed the temple. From this standpoint, God wants us to be angry. The opposite of righteous anger is apathy. Many people suffer from an apathy toward others. Those who are apathetic are preoccupied with themselves and too busy to think or care about helping the weak and innocent.
I read a story about a little girl who was hit by a vehicle. Laying on the side of the road injured, bleeding, and crying, person after person passed her by. Later camera footage showed fourteen people walking by her. Many were looking at their phones or turning away. They were apathetic. Such a scene, should make us angry. Angry at the driver who left. Angry at society that is too busy surfing social media to reach out and help someone in need.
Man’s anger does not achieve the righteousness God desires. But this does not mean we should never be angry. Righteous anger can motivate us to take action make a difference in society and in others’ lives.
Application: What kind of things make you angry? Give an example of an area you have shown selfish anger. Give an example of an area you have righteous anger.
3. Receive with meekness the implanted word (21)- Here we once again learn the importance of humility. It takes humility to submit ourselves to God’s Word. We need to realize that we don’t know everything.
Do not be offended if someone comes to you and shares with you from the Bible, even if he tells you what you are doing is wrong and you need to repent. It is God talking through His word and He is just using a person as a messenger.
4. Be a doer and not a hearer only – I think this is one of the most important principles in the Bible, being a doer, not only a hearer. We should study and obey! Christianity is not about head knowledge. It is not about how many doctrines you know, how many verses you have memorized, how well you know the Greek or Hebrew, or how many times you have read the Bible.
It is all about putting the principles that we learn in the Bible into practice. It is worse than worthless for us if we learn the Bible front to back and back to front, but don’t do what it says. All that will do is cause God to judge us even more strictly because we have a higher level of knowledge.
You can go to a thousand Bible studies and listen to ten thousand sermons, but if you don’t make the decision to follow it, it is worse than worthless. No other person can make you do what God says. That is your own decision.
Application: Consider this an application to make an application. When you go to church do you normally apply what you learn in the sermon? When you go to Bible study do you make real life changes? Here is a simple way to open yourself up to be changed by what you are learning. Each time you study God’s Word write down one simple way you will obey what you have learned. For more on making SMART applications, visit our article on “What should I obey?”
5. Bridling the tongue – What comes out of the mouth is often an indicator of what is going on in a person’s heart. If a person has a loose and evil tongue, the likelihood is that their heart is like that too. Jesus said that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. Religion is worthless if it doesn’t bring righteous action. For more on the tongue, see our study in James 4.
6. Pure religion is looking after orphans and widows – Why does James describe pure religion as reaching out to orphans and widows? First, we know that love is the mark of believers. True love is love shown with no thought of return. We know that it is easy to “love” those who love us. People often “love” others when they think they can get something from them. Love in marriage is often like that. They vow to love each other until death do them part… or until the other side stops satisfying them.
That is not true love. But love shown to orphans and widows normally cannot be repaid. You will not gain anything from a worldly standpoint by showing compassion and mercy to this group of people. And that is why God is so pleased with this expression of love (Matthew 25:34-40).
The next thing he mentions is holy living. The Jews thought true religion was ceremonies, washing of hands, and external rituals. But it’s not. It is inward holiness that will be expressed outwardly in our actions.
Application: What will you obey this week from what you have learned in the passage today?
We want to help you study the Bible, obey the Bible, and teach the Bible to others. We have therefore created a library of almost one thousand (and growing) inductive Bible studies, which are available for free. This takes a lot of time and hard work.
Help us continue to create Bible study resources by supporting Study and Obey for as little as $1.