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 1:13-15
James was a common name in the first century. The James who wrote this letter was one of Jesus’ brothers. He was skeptical of Jesus’ ministry for a time but came around after Jesus’ resurrection from the dead, becoming an apostle.
In this passage, James describes the process through which evil arises in the world and the reason for which death occurs. There are three steps or stages in the process:
To avoid death, one must avoid sin. And to avoid sin, one must control lust.
To be tempted is not, in and of itself, a sin. Jesus was tempted, but He did not sin. James says that temptation is when someone is “is carried away and enticed by his own lust.” When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, Satan appealed to a variety of human desires: hunger, power, riches, glory, and so on. Jesus kept these desires in check, both in that wilderness experience and throughout His life. Therefore, Jesus never sinned.
Jesus wants to teach us how to avoid temptation, and for this reason, we are His disciples – learners, pupils, students. Correspondingly, He is our Teacher and Lord.
When you chop a branch from a tree, the leaves don’t in that instant turn brown, curl up, and fall off. In fact, the leaves stay green and soft for a while and only gradually decay and eventually fall off the branch. So it is with death. When we sin, we are instantly cut off from God. We lose our consciousness of His presence and His love for us. This is spiritual death. Physical death will ultimately come, but that can take a while. God told Adam and Eve that they would die in the day they sinned. They did die the day they sinned, though it took hundreds of years for physical death to occur.
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord, help us be more concerned about spiritual death than physical death. Strengthen me to control the lusts that temptations seek to arouse…(this is where you remain quiet in order to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.
(All scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the NASB.)