James 1:12-15 ESV
12 Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. 13 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. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
James has been talking about the testing of our faith. Most certainly, our faith grows stronger when tested.
In verse twelve, James informs the Christian they will be blessed when they remain steadfast under trial. He says we have the promise of the crown of life, if we endure, and this promise is reserved for those who love God.
The English word “crown” comes from the Greek word that basically means a symbol of success or victory. So what is the crown of life? Not all scholars agree on the answer.
One viewpoint held is that being blessed with the crown of life could be a reference to everlasting life in Heaven.
At this point, we must remind ourselves that the entire teaching of the Bible is clear, in that, we do not receive salvation by our own works.
Instead, we are saved and heaven bound, because of the work of Jesus Christ. The death, burial, and resurrection of Christ is the work that was done. It is our faith in that complete work alone, which brings us salvation, and the reward of everlasting life in Heaven.
The apostle Paul, in his writings, makes it quite clear that we are saved by faith and not works. James does not contradict this idea when he says later in his letter that, “faith without works is dead” (James 2:26). A great passage that ties both thoughts together is found in what Paul wrote to the Ephesians, where he said we are saved (by grace through faith) to do good works.
Another opinion is that James is talking about being blessed with a better life, or improved circumstances here on earth. Possibly a more abundant life on this side of Heaven, which could be what Jesus was talking about in John 10:10: 10 The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.
Still others believe this crown of life could be some additional reward received in Heaven by those who remain faithful through difficult trials. John used similar language in Revelation. Paul and Peter both wrote about rewards for faithful Christians as well.
While the crown of life James is talking about may not be clear, he does make something cyrstal clear. James lets us know, in no uncertain terms, that God does not temp us with evil. James said, “God tempts no one.”
We are tempted by the devil, and even lured away by our own desires, but not by God. Sin entered this world, and we live in a fallen state. Often times our own sinful nature lures us away from God. Lures usually have hidden hooks, so don’t bite!
James gives us a great analogy using the idea of conception, birth, and growth. He said our own desires conceives, and gives birth to sin. Sin when fully grown, brings death. Giving into temptation is sin, and sin ultimately brings death.
Obviously, a deep love for God, and faithful endurance through trials will bring great blessings. Regardless of the things we may disagree on, one must see that the teaching of Scripture instructs us to do both – love and remain faithful. Sin, on the other hand, brings death.