Sin Begins with Evil Desire
In this passage we have the troubling truth about how sin bears its ugly fruit in our lives. Indeed, I begin this devotion with another verse that buttresses what is before us: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Yes, even the regenerate still suffer from this condition when we are not guarding our hearts, and guarding our hearts means setting them on matters of the Spirit.
James begins by letting us know in no uncertain terms who is responsible for sin—and it’s not God. Now some may balk for just a moment, “Don’t the Scriptures say that God tested Abraham, and did we not read yesterday that God chastens us?” (Genesis 22:1; Hebrews 12:5-11). Yes, but God tests us for a different purpose, namely, our growth in godliness and virtue. Temptation to sin is another matter. So let us take this passage line by line:
First, “Each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” So, it all begins with our own sinful desires which are laden deep in our own hearts. That’s why I began with Jeremiah 17:9. James even gets more graphic in chapter four: “What causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder” (4:1-2). It is the war within, our passions, those desires over which we suffer because we desperately want what we cannot have without transgressing the law. Now that which enticed us was probably something in the world; however, it never would have lured us away had the evil desire not been tucked away in some dark corner of our hearts in the first place. Be careful little eyes what you see and little ears what you hear.
This is all to say that if the battle is to be won, it will be won here or not at all. Step two where desire conceives sin is already too late—which is all to say that we must be about the task of purifying our hearts and minds in the here and now, and it must be a proactive work. Minds set in neutral will naturally gravitate to sinful thinking. This is why Paul says, “Seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on things that are above, not on things that are on earth.” (Colossians 3:1-4). And John adds that if we know that we shall be like him when he appears, then we shall seek to purify ourselves as he is pure (1 John 3:3). It is the filling of the heart and mind with matters of the Spirit that kills the evil desires which lurk in the hidden recesses of the heart. Set your mind on things above, Christian, else you shall lose the battle.