How Sin Happens
Every trial brings temptation to sin. In contrast to enduring tests to receive the blessing of God, some may fall into sin and blame God for it. James tells us that is incorrect because God cannot be tempted by evil and does not tempt us to sin. (13)
God cannot be tempted by evil because he is completely good. Psalm 86:5 says “For you, O LORD, are good and forgiving”. Jesus said “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good.” Matthew 19:17
Since God is good, he has nothing to do with evil. He is not tempted and he does not try to lure us into sin. He tests us to build our Christian character, but he does not tempt us to sin or evil.
So, then, how is it we fall into sin? James told us. We are lured and enticed by our own desire. It is a fishing metaphor. Bait lures a fish, then it is hooked and dragged away. As fallen, sinful beings, we have a heart full of sinful desires. A sinful desire is a longing for what God said no to. So, 1 Peter 2:11 says “abstain form the passions of the flesh with wage war against your soul”. God Gave us the Ten Commandments because he knew we had sinful desires in all of those areas.
It is not a sin to be tempted. Jesus was tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.
For example, God said not to covet your neighbor’s stuff, including his house. (Exodus 20:17) It is a sin to covet someone’s house. I used to covet other people’s houses. I thought I deserved a better house. I wanted a better house for selfish reasons: to look as successful as other people and to fit in with them. I tried to sell my house and buy another one. God said no. I persisted. He brought about a housing down turn and my house would not sell. He said no. I decided to make it work anyway. I picked a house in a cool neighborhood, wrote a contract, obtained financing and pushed to make it work. I was not doing this to honor God, but myself. I sinned. I coveted the houses of others in that neighborhood, including those of people I knew, and tried to make it happen. The result: the owner died and it got tied up in probate and I lost my financing. It was a huge disappointment.
But God did not tempt me to buy the house. I drove around and found one I wanted and went for it. My desire for a house like my friend’s lured me into sin.
Not only does God not lure us into sin, he provides protection for us. 1 Corinthians 10:13 tells us that God will not let us be tempted beyond what we are able to bear. Rather, he will provide a way out for us. In my case God forced the way out by keeping me from buying it. If I had bought it, I would likely have added the sin of pride to my sin of covetousness. God saved me from myself.
You might ask, if that is true, how can we fall into sin? It is because we refuse to take the way out. In my house example, I had many possible outs as difficulties arose. But I refused to heed them. My heart was so overrun with covetousness that I refused to take any of the ways out I was given. David had the opportunity to avoid sin when his servant pointed out that Bathsheba was married. But he refused the way out and he committed multiple, grievous sins.
Peter’s sin in denying Christ is another good example. Jesus warned Peter that Satan wanted to sift him like wheat. (Luke 22:31) He even warned him that Peter would deny him before the rooster crowed. (Luke 22:34) The warning was a way out. Peter could have swallowed his pride, confessed his weakness and allowed God to give him strength to stand for Christ. Despite the warning, and his pledge to follow Jesus to death, he denied him that same evening to a servant girl and two other people. (Luke 22: 54-62) He knew this temptation was coming, but his desire to avoid pain and disapproval was too strong.
Now the scary thing is that sin brings forth death. (15) That is what Paul said in Romans 6:23: the wages of sin is death.
James may have intended to reflect the image of Proverbs 5-9. Those chapters warn a young man against adultery. Solomon used the image of a woman enticing a man, of being alluring in appearance and speech. (Prov. 5:3) But the end of the affair is bitter. (Prov. 5:4) And ultimately, she leads to Sheol, or death. (Prov. 9:18) In contrast, the one who embraces wisdom, finds life. (Prov. 8:35)
Thank you Jesus for paying the price for my sin and bringing me to salvation. For that same verse in Romans says “the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus or Lord”.