James 4.7-8

September 19 2021

Do you enjoy going to the rubbish tip, I mean, the recycling centre? I do.  It’s good to get rid of stuff you don’t need. But I like it even more because of what I see other people throwing out. At the centre on London Road East, there’s a miniature zoo of large stuffed animals.  Do people really buy these things?

Many of us have more than we need. There is a whole industry out there feeding on our desires. Oscar Wilde wrote, “I can resist everything but temptation.” We’re being tempted all the time – adverts in the media; the way Amazon and eBay work; the pop-ups on our computers.

It’s an “I must have it” culture.

And the “I must have it” mentality extends into other areas of life. More money.  More status – as we heard in our gospel reading, even Jesus’s disciples weren’t immune to this. A more attractive wife or husband than the one you’ve got now.

An obvious temptation is the lure of internet pornography – destroying our teenagers and young adults in how they relate to each other.

The big lies of temptation are that it’s harmless and that we can cope with it on our own.

You may look clever and smart, and free, but in fact you’re a slave – and at what cost?

A couple of verses from our James reading at this point:

4.1-2: Those conflicts and disputes among you, where do they come from? Do they not come from your cravings that are at war within you? You want something and do not have it; so you commit murder. And you covet something and cannot obtain it; so you engage in disputes and conflicts.

And all this can be played out in whole communities and between nations.

There is always a dark side in human misery to temptation, greed and selfishness.

Temptation can be very powerful. One of the first stories in the Bible in Genesis is about it.  Eve is tempted.  Adam in turn is tempted.

I’m going to show my age – again! In my teens I read stories about a small Italian town and the perpetual squabbles between its priest, Don Camillo, and the Communist big man, Peppone. There were nice little cartoon illustrations. Often Don Camillo is portrayed with a little angel perched on one shoulder whispering into his ear to do the right thing, and on the other shoulder is a little devil urging him to be very un-priest-like.

And yes, sometimes evil – temptation – seems to have a personality.  But more often it’s a state of affairs, and one that rests with us.

What can we do about it? The Bible is clear on this, as on many things. We don’t have to give in to temptation. There’s no rule that says we have to.  On the contrary, however deep-seated the instinct may seem, God has given us the means and tools to get out of the bind.

Our verse for the week:

Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.

Submit to God. Only God can get us out of this mess. God wants to rescue us, but first we have to be open to Him, to let Him be in control.  Not as zombies, but fully human made in God’s image. We need God-given kit to resist evil.  St Paul talks about it in Ephesians 6: truth, being Christ-like, accepting the Good News of Christ, study of the Bible, prayer.  None of this is difficult.

God wants to rescue us.  One of Jesus’s best-known stories is the Prodigal Son. The young man went off with his dad’s money and squandered it through all sorts of temptations. And then, “He came to his senses.” He made his way back home. The best he could hope for was a chance to say to his dad, “Father, I have sinned against heaven and before you; I am no longer worthy to be called your son.”

But instead the father saw the son first and ran to meet him.  It’s a story of God the Father and us – God is always willing to meet us, through Christ and more than half-way.

Don’t refuse Him and the help He gives.