Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren.
James is writing to believers who have been driven out of their homes by persecution. I did a bit of looking and found that this letter is thought to have been written during a time when the Jews who did not believe in Christ as the Messiah were persecuting those who did, i.e. Christians. This is probably somewhere around the time that Saul — who would later become Paul — was hunting people down. It was a difficult time for believers. But there was a much more serious danger than persecution.
The world into which James wrote this letter was filled to bursting with deceptions. The Greek and Roman polytheistic religions were in full effect. The Greek philosophies and philosophers — some downright antithetical to belief — abounded. There were magicians who were a mixed bag — some were legit while others were charlatans and all were contrary to faith in Christ. In many ways, the world of this letter is much like the one I live in. But it seems that James has a specific deception in mind.
The verses that precede this speak of not thinking that God is tempting me, but to understand that it is my own lusts that take me captive and lead to sin. In the verses that follow, James will speak of how every good and perfect gift comes from God and how constant God is. What he is driving at, based on the context, is that I should not be deceived by any person or thought that comes along with the idea that God is doing something evil like tempting me. Sure, it might look that way, but we have a cliché for that: Appearances can be deceiving. God is incapable of tempting me or doing any other evil thing. He simply cannot do evil. And I need to be fully aware and convinced of that, because life is going to be filled to bursting with opportunities for me to question it. There will be people who ask why bad things happen to good people. There will be — and have been already — times when something happened in my life that I would not deem good. Major things like a sibling passing away or an engagement dissolving.
Can I pull the camera focus back a bit and apply this idea generally? Of course. Jesus wants me to know the Truth. He often began statements with “I tell you the Truth…” Deception is not something God wants for me at any time or under any circumstance. God wants me to walk in Truth.
Father of Lights, thank You for the good and perfect gifts You have already given. You gave the most perfect gift that could be given: Yourself. And You treated that as a starting point. Please open my eyes to see things as they are. Let me see Truth for Truth and lies as lies, that I not be deceived.