James Series | Writings

James 1:14 – The Steve Urkel Syndrome

But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.

If you by any chanced happen to have reached this point in your life without ever having watched the TV show Family Matters, an introduction to Steve Urkel is in order. Steve was a nerdy kid who was always pestering the neighboring family. Originally a peripheral character in the sit-com, his quirky personality – interpreted by actor Jaleel White – quickly made him the main attraction.

Besides his funny, be-speckled mannerisms, Urkel was also clumsy. Incredibly so. One of the recurring gags involved him walking through a room, obliviously leaving a path of destruction in his wake. Upon reaching his destination, he would turn around, observe the mayhem he had just caused, and ask innocently in his high, squeaky voice, “Did I do that?”

“Who did that?” is a question James is in the process of answering in this section of the first chapter of his epistle. For the first several verses, he demonstrates how God works through our trials and tribulations to build essential qualities into our lives. Now, beginning in verse 13, he pauses to make an important clarification – God is working through our trials, but He is not responsible for our temptations.

So who then is responsible for said temptations? The Devil? Our spouse? Our kids? Circumstances? Trump?

None of the above. According to verse 14, temptation is not external, it is internal. We are “drawn away” not by something from without, but by our own illicit inner desires.

Let me put this in a way that should be easy to understand, and also one that hits uncomfortable close to home. If I am overweight, it is not the fault of the ice-cream sandwich for sale at the local convenience store. It is the fault of my own inward craving. I purchase and eat said culinary delight because I really, really want to. And when the bathroom scale ticks up instead of down, I have nobody, or nothing, to blame but myself.

This is what James is telling us. As we stand observing the wreckage that our own sin has made of our lives, and ask, Urkel-like, “Did I do that?”, the answer from Scripture a resounding “Yes. Yes you did.”

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