Journeying through James, 1:13-15

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. James 1:13‑15 (NIV)

Perhaps one of the best examples of what James is teaching about here would be the Israelites’ deliverance from slavery in Egypt, and subsequent journey under Moses through the wilderness, to the land that God has sworn to give them through His promise to Abraham.

Just as the people were on the verge of leaving Egypt, God gave them some very clear and helpful wisdom: “When Pharaoh finally let the people go, God did not lead them along the main road that runs through Philistine territory, even though that was the shortest route to the Promised Land. God said, ‘If the people are faced with a battle, they might change their minds and return to Egypt.’ 18 So God led them in a roundabout way through the wilderness toward the Red Sea. Thus the Israelites left Egypt like an army ready for battle” (Exodus 13:17‑18, NLT).

God had absolutely no intention of hurting the people by any means. God had a bigger picture in mind of developing their personal faith in Him, so that they could better work together to accomplish His will. God fully understands our weaknesses.

All of life is a potential threat to sin for the child of God. This is because we battle with our sinful nature which Paul helpfully points out:

“So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. 17 The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions” (Galatians 5:16‑17, NLT).

“Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. 6 So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace.” (Romans 8:5‑6, NLT).

So, returning to our text from James, God is reminding you of a very real threat that all people face because of their sinful nature. James uses a vivid hunting metaphor in the Greek text. The expression “lured and enticed” refers to bait in a trap. Just as a hunter would set a trap with bait specific to the preferences of the game he wants to catch, there are many different things in life that could tempt us to sin. It is good for us to be aware of the desires we have which are most likely to lure us into sin, so that we can live life with sober caution. God knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows our propensity to stumble and our need for Him:

  • He leads us away from temptation to sin (Matthew 6:13, Luke 11:4).
  • He has given us the gift of forgiveness in Christ (Ephesians 2:8‑10),
  • and He encourages us to rely on Him for help (Hebrew 4:14-16).
  • He has given us the gift of the Holy Spirit to lead us and empower us to walk in His ways (Galatians 5:16-18, 5:25, Romans 8:13‑15 , 1 John 3:24).

If the way seems dark, or if you have fallen, here’s a great word from Joshua: “No one will be able to stand against you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Joshua 1:5, NIV). I think this word is especially encouraging because it came at the end of their wilderness journey after so many had fallen. So, look up, rather than down; look forward, rather than back. God had a good plan and the horrible wilderness didn’t stop it. Rather, as James wrote previously in his epistle: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. 5 If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you” (James 1:2‑5, NIV).