13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. 16 Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. 17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. 18 He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all he created.
SIDE NOTE:The thoughts I am about to convey come largely from a sermon by Francis Chan over 4 years ago that I’ve simply adapted and expounded upon in light of this message beginning to take root and have a profound effect on my life. The full sermon he gives can be found here:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iszVTWUGQQM. And I promise that Francis does a much better job than I can ever do. So please, if you want to know more about this go listen to that sermon.
Without really diving in, this passage is one that can easily sneak by us while reading through Scripture without having any true effect on our lives. But if we really dig in to what this passage is saying and what James originally meant it to say, it has the power, through the Holy Spirit, to completely change the way we view sin.
Verse 14-15: Sin is alive in these verses. James is attempting to show the hold that sin can have on a person if they allow it to grow and mature in their life. He says that we cannot point the blame on anyone but ourselves for our own sin. Even back all the way to Adam and Eve, humans have always tried to push the blame onto someone or something else for their own actions. Adam, when he was questioned by the God of the Universe as to why he disobeyed and ate of the fruit simply said “EVE! EVE. That woman that YOU (God) gave me, gave it to me so I ate.” And so God, as if to humor Adam, moves on to Eve and questions her as well. And look at Eve’s response: “THE SERPENT! That nasty creature tricked me!”
And us, with 20/20 perfect hindsight into this situation look at Adam and Eve and say “You idiots! Own up! God knows you did it, why are you even trying.” But isn’t it funny how we are so quick to copy our father Adam. We look at porn - “God, you made me with this thorn of lust!” We have attraction to the opposite sex and act on it - “God gave me these desires, it’s His fault!”
Over and over and over we always look to put the blame on someone else and we never look back at our own lives and say “You idiot! Own up!” James doesn’t let these people he is writing to blame-shift anymore. He says “No one can say ‘God is tempting me!’”
Then look at verse 15. Oh the terrifying truth that it contains. A quick read makes us think that it is simply a pattern to show that sin leads to death but a look at the original Greek language shows so much more. The picture James is trying to paint here is that of child development in the womb. He says that it’s as if a mother conceives of a child. Then the embryo develops and develops until it is time for birth, but when the baby is born, it is born as a stillborn. Dead right there in its mother’s arms. This child, who for the 9 months leading up to its birth brought its mother so much hope, joy, peace, and faith has now left its mother with grief, sorrow, hopelessness, and emptyness.
How serious this should make us view sin! We are ensnared by our own evil desires and we continually tell ourselves and make ourselves believe that it is going to bring us fulfillment but James promises that when it is full grown, it will leave us completely nad utterly in despair and empty. Why wouldn’t he urge the Jewish readers, as his beloved brethren, to stand firm and not be deceived.
Verse 17-18: And then James immediately points to God. He sets up God’s holiness and verse 13 by showing that He cannot be tempted nor does He tempt anyone. But then right after describing how horrific sin is, he looks at God and Jesus and gives Him glory. He points to God’s light and holiness and the birth that is promised through the sacrifice of His Son on the cross. It’s such an amazing parallel.
James says “I know that temptation sucks. And I know that it’s enticing and that you want to give up and give in to your sin but I promise it will lead to nothing but sorrow and emptyness. But we have a God who promises LIFE. We have a God who promises a new birth. We have a God who lavishes good gifts, gifts from above, on His children. On His firstfruits of all He created.
Sin is not more enjoyable that God my friends. One of the greatest tragedies, in my opinion, that is happening in the American church today is the lack of fighting sin. We all, myself included, have failed to resist temptation to the point of shedding blood (Hebrews 12:4). Let’s renew the fight brothers and sisters. Let’s remember that we are on the battlefield and that it is worth it. It is completely worth it to hold on, to finish the race, to not give in to this empty birth that sin brings, but to hold on to the hope and promise of a new birth that we are given in Christ Jesus our Lord.