Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation,
for when he has been proven he will receive the crown of life
that he promised to those who love him.
No one experiencing temptation should say,
“I am being tempted by God”;
for God is not subject to temptation to evil,
and he himself tempts no one.
Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire.
Then desire conceives and brings forth sin,
and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brothers and sisters:
all good giving and every perfect gift is from above,
coming down from the Father of lights,
with whom there is no alteration or shadow caused by change.
He willed to give us birth by the word of truth
that we may be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures.
1:12 the crown of life: The Greek is appositional (“the crown which is life”). It refers to the eternal life that awaits the saints who have patiently and faithfully endured the trials of life (2 Tim 4:8; Rev 2:10). those who love him: A biblical description of those who keep God’s commandments (Deut 5:10; 7:9; Jn 14:15). James will later stress that salvation and life are for those who not only believe in the Lord, but who love and obey him through faithful deeds (Jas 2:14–26).
1:13 God is not subject to temptation: God tests us by putting us in situations that invite us to trust him (Gen 22:1). However, he never tempts us to turn away from him as Satan does (Mt 4:1). James is adamant that God is neither the author nor the promoter of evil, nor can he himself be tempted or overpowered by it. Sin is our own doing; it is conceived when we desire evil and is born when we act upon those desires (Jas 1:14–15) (CCC 2846–47).
1:17 the Father of lights: I.e., the Creator of the sun, moon, and stars (Gen 1:14–19). Unlike these heavenly luminaries, which are constantly changing in brightness and position due to eclipses, lunar cycles, and the alternation of days, God is eternally unchanged and is ever consistent in blessing those who love him (Jas 1:12) (CCC 212).
1:18 word of truth: The gospel of new life in Christ (Eph 1:13; 1 Pet 1:23–25). first fruits: James compares believers of the first generation (1:1) to the first sheaf of spring wheat that was cut from the field and offered to God in the Temple (Lev 23:9–11). This first portion was meant to thank the Lord for his gifts and to seek his blessing for an abundant harvest. Paul uses this image for Israelite believers (Rom 11:16).
These words, which expand on our Lord’s own words: “Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven” (Mt 5:11–12). The simile of the crown—a mark of victory and kingship—is used to convey the idea of definitive triumph with Christ: the Lord will appear crowned in glory; the Woman of the Apocalypse, symbolizing the Church and the Blessed Virgin, is also described as crowned and this reward is promised to those who stay true to God in this life. It is also to be found in other New Testament passages to convey the idea of the ultimate reward of heaven.
This means that Christians should not be depressed or cowed by the difficulties which God permits them to experience; on the contrary, they should see them as a series of tests which with God’s help they should surmount in order to receive the reward of heaven. “The Lord does not allow his followers to experience these trials and temptations unless it be for their greater good,” St John of Avila comments. “ He disposed things in this way: endurance in adversity and struggle against temptation prove who his friends are. For the mark of a true friend is not that he keeps you company when times are good, but that he stands by you in times of trial. Companions in adversity and later in the Kingdom, you should strive to fight manfully when you meet opposition that would separate you from God, for He is your help here on earth and your reward in heaven.”
– Mary Healy