James opens his perception readjustment by focusing on two economic extremes. He juxtaposes the lowly poor with the rich in a manner inconsistent with both his era and the modern-day, because he seems to mix up their commands. The “lowly brother” is told to “glory in his exaltation,” while the rich should glory “in his humiliation” (James 1:9, 10). Here James brings out the correct perception: the lowly can glorify and praise God even without earthly wealth, because that is not where true exaltation or joy originate. Furthermore, the rich man can be thankful in affliction and trial and have a humble heart before God, because his riches cannot last long enough to produce true exaltation. Wealth, in whoever’s hands, can rise as easily as a flower after rain but then disappear with the heat of the noonday sun (v. 11). The lowly should not wait for wealth in order to glory in his exaltation, nor should the rich become haughty by accruing wealth.

James follows up this comparison with one of the most systematic explanations in the Bible of how individuals fall into sin. He somewhat startlingly calls the tempted individual “blessed”; this blessedness comes from enduring the temptation out of love for God (v. 12). The phrasing is intensely pragmatic: temptation is endured, not bartered with or coaxed away. Furthermore, in increasing one’s endurance of temptation, the focus should be in increasing one’s love for God.

The idea of being tempted by God is impossible, James affirms. Instead, “each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed” (v. 14). There is a distraction, and one’s attention is captured based on desires.

It’s important to note that it only says “desires,” labeled neither good nor bad. One can assume that only bad desires lead to sin, but healthy desires can, too. When following the healthy desire for food, one can be enticed into eating things harmful for the body. When following a healthy desire to relax, one can be enticed into a relaxation brought on by illegal substances. When following a healthy desire for intimacy or even sex, one can be enticed into damaging sexual experiences. Still, desires are truly bad: desires for revenge, to harm someone, to lie, to take from someone else. Both the desires and the carrying out of them can be harmful.

When the desire is given into, this is sin (notice that being tempted is not sin) (v. 15). Left unchecked and unrepented of and unforgiven, sin leads to death. James closes this practical walkthrough with pathos: “Do not be deceived, my beloved brethren” (v. 16). Sin requires deception, faulty perceptions of realities, in order to thrive; the individual has to believe a lie, to walk in that lie, and leave space for that lie in their life. Blessing comes from not walking down that path at all, but instead enduring the idea through a love for God, strengthened by His power, love, and a right perception of reality.