Summary: This sermon gives "ultrasound" picture of the development of life-controlling sins and shows how God has given us all that we need to overcome them.
The Gestation of Sin
So, how far along are you? I know, that’s not really the kind of question you would expect to hear a pastor utter at the beginning of his sermon. It’s really the kind of question that one pregnant lady would ask another as they wait to see the doctor. How far along are you?
I’ve not taken leave my senses, as you might expect. I’m merely following the illustration that James gives us in the text. He compares the process by which a single sin can enter a person and grow to the process of human gestation. In a manner of speaking, James gives us an ultrasound picture of the conception, maturation, and then finally the birth of sin in our lives.
Of course, comparing the maturation and growth of sin to that of a human child is what you’d call a negative comparison. Bringing children into the world is an overwhelmingly positive thing after all. Children change your life in ways that you would never think possible. Since I became a Father, I’m less self-centered, more self-disciplined, more patient, more understanding. More concerned about other people in the world and the like. You who are parents have probably had a similar experience, I’m sure. Raising children can be one of the toughest things you’ve ever done, but God uses it to knock the rough edges off us and to show us what’s important and what is not.
This stands in stark contrast to being a “parent” to sin as James describes it. When sin is conceived within us, it has a way of changing us that is overwhelmingly negative. We become more self-centered, less concerned about other people in the world, and we actually lose the ability to understand what is important and what is not.
So James is not talking about just any sins, he’s talking about those sins that have the potential to take control of us and influence the way we think and act. Since these sins are nurtured deep within us, they are not so easy to detect at first. But eventually, as we move towards “full term” and “delivery”, most everyone can see that something is going on.
All of us have known people, or perhaps have had friends who suddenly and without explanation radically change the course of their lives without any concern of how it might affect others. A good friend of my family, who had a good husband, great children, and great life just up and left them all one day. She just said “I have to do this.” without any explanation as to why. The sin of self-centeredness she had been carrying inside herself had reached full term. Her sinful spawn was born and began to walk among the people who loved her, bringing sorrow, misery, and destruction in its wake.
So what kind of sins are capable of leading to this kind of damage? Any kind actually. Each person is different, and may be found to have certain weaknesses for different things. But as James points out, they always start with a DESIRE. That’s the tricky part, because not all desires are bad. For example, the desire for sexual intimacy is a good desire and a great blessing within the context of marriage....but once the sinful nature gets hold of this desire, it can twist it so that it is no longer a constructive blessing but a destructive curse. How many lives in this generation have been ruined by sex?
Another example, the desire to provide for your family, again a good desire, a worthy desire, an altogether proper desire. But once the sinful nature that resides within the human soul gets hold of it, it can lead to a father or mother who is so wrapped up in their work and their career that they never even see their family anymore. The original desire, and for that matter the original goal has been warped or twisted to the point where it does the exact opposite of what was intended: in “supporting” the family, they have actually withdrawn their support.
There are a number of other examples I could give, but let it suffice to say that you could take any good desire that is common to man, add that twist of the sinful nature and a potentially life-changing sin will be conceived within. What follows is the whole gestation period, when the sin is kept inside and nurtured until it is finally “born”.
When a woman becomes pregnant, she begins to think about her baby a lot. That’s good. She begins to make changes in her life to accommodate the little one that grows inside her. That’s also good. She will also read books on the subject and find herself attracted to others who are pregnant like she is. Same thing happens when anyone allows a sin to be implanted within them. They begin to think about it a lot. They begin to make changes in their life to accommodate the sin. They will resonate with books and other media that support what they are now thinking and feeling, they will find themselves attracted to others who have the same condition as they wait for it to go full term. But unlike the birth of a baby that brings new life to a household and to the world. The birth of sin, as James says, brings death.