James: How Sin Develops

Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him.  Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.  But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.  Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.

James 1:12-15

The Greek term translated “blessed” (makarios) in verse 12 literally means “happy” (cf. Matt. 5:3-11).  James is therefore elaborating on what he had said a few verses earlier:  “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials” (1:2).  The reasons given in verse 12 for being “blessed” or “happy” are also similar to what he had said earlier.  Receiving “the crown of life” after having been “approved” (v. 12) only comes to those Christians who have the “endurance” which comes from “the testing of your faith,” the “endurance” that results maturity and being complete in every way (vs. 3-4).  The Lord has indeed promised that “crown of life” to “those who love Him,” as seen elsewhere in Scripture (Rev. 2:10; 2 Tim. 4:7-8).  “Those who love Him” are those who obey Him (John 14:15).  Indeed, from what James is teaching us those who love Christ are those who choose to obey Him even during struggle, hardship, and persecution.

The lesson?  Eternal life is given to Christians who choose to happily remain steadfastly obedient to God no matter what it costs.  As Scripture points out, “…through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God” (Acts 14:22; cf. 2 Tim. 3:12).  Christian, are you choosing to remain faithful to God with joy even during hardship?

Hardships of life often bring temptations to sin. There is even a similarity and correlation between the Greek words translated “trials” (peirasmos, v. 2) and “tempted” (peirazo, v. 13).  The former often lead to the latter.  I’m reminded of the times in my own life when stress from trials has led to me committing the sin of being impatient or short-tempered.  The news is filled with accounts of those who have committed grievous wrongs out of desperation due to extreme hardships they were dealing with. 

When this happens, some blame God for the temptations which come from the hardships of life.  Adam was the first, pointing the finger of blame at God for his own transgressions when he said, “The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate” (Gen. 3:12, emphasis added).  God, however, is not the source of our sins and shortcomings.  As James points out, “God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone” (1:13).

Here is how sin develops.  It starts with “(our) own lust” (v. 14), “lust” having far more to do with sexual desire; it refers to having a strong desire for anything.  Temptation comes “when (we are) carried away and enticed by (our) own lust.”  Think about it.  When was the last time you were tempted to sin concerning something about which you had absolutely no desire at all to have or do?  It doesn’t happen.  We are tempted about that for which we have strong desires and are “enticed” (i.e., have an opportunity to satisfy that desire).  Think motive and opportunity.

Once that “lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin” (v. 15a).  Temptation itself is not sin.  Jesus was tempted but was also sinless (Heb. 4:15).  We commit sin only when we give into that temptation and act upon it.  Then, “when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (v. 15b).  Once we sin, we fall short of God’s glory (Rom. 3:23).  As Paul said, “The wages of sin is death…” (Rom. 6:23a).  Our “wages” – what is owed to us – for sin is the “second death” of hell (Rev. 21:8). 

Thanks be to God that He offers us “the free gift” which is “eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 6:23b)!

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