Warning! Deceptions ahead.
Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren. (James 1:16 ESV)
As a kid, I was deceived by the cereal people. I would go into the store and purchase the cereal with the strawberries in the picture. Yet, when I got home and opened the box, there were no strawberries. (Note: Some cereals now include freeze-dried strawberries but that is not what I was expecting nor does that remove the childhood scars.)
I was deceived, to some extent by the cereal makers, but more by my own desire and wants. I allowed myself to believe something that couldn’t be true; it was only true in my head. (Of course, I do not hold the cereal makers completely without fault, you notice they didn’t put peas and carrots on the picture. They are not dumb people.)
There are deceptions we have in our religious upbringing as well. James has just finished telling his readers that God does not tempt them. Their temptations come due to their own desires. He tells them that it is their own fault for the sins they fall into. But, why the warning to not be deceived? As you read James, you see a really cantankerous group of people to whom he is writing, so this warning seems necessary.
WARNING!! If you accuse God of being the one who tempts you, then how are you going to be able to receive His blessings? James will say next that all the good things come from a God who does not shift and vary. In chapter three, he mentions that fountains do not give salt and fresh water, reminds us we are Spirit filled in chapter four, and has just called a person who asks without faith a “double minded man” who is as unstable as the waves of the sea.
Do you get the idea? How can God do things that are Un-Godlike?
“The LORD, the LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abounding in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, by no means clearing the guilty, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children and the children’s children to the third and the fourth generation.” (Exo 34:6-7)
The warning here is clear. Do not attribute to God things that are not within His character or there is a danger. Jesus faced the same thing in Mark 3:22 as his opponents accused him of casting demons out by the power of Satan. His warning of blaspheming the Holy Spirit comes in that passage and let me just say that if a Spirit filled Christian accused God of tempting him, how can the Spirit dwell in him?
A secondary warning might be found in willingly believing things that the Scriptures do not teach. In Greek mythology, I soon found that the ‘gods’ were the type to tempt men with evil but that is not our God. Apparently some of James’ readers accepted the idea that even our God was like that. In the Scriptures other misconceptions are referenced such as, the rich are blest by God and that their riches are evidence of it (cf. Mt 19:23-25), some believed you could sin before you were born (cf John 9:2) but these also are not taught in the Scriptures.
Today, some believe in visions, not that they, themselves, have seen, but that others have seen and reported to them. For those who see visions and dream dreams, they may be blest but if what they have seen or dreamed contradicts what the Scriptures teach, I will not believe it or follow it.
I will not be deceived.