Summary: James teaches us that big sins begin with small temptations.
The Progressive Nature of Sin
“Great oaks from little acorns grow.” The mustard seed “is smaller that all other seeds, but when it is full grown...becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” (Matt. 13:31) In this life we can all think of many examples of big things that spring from small beginnings. James discusses one of those things in James 1:13-15...SIN!
Sin has been defined as “missing the mark.” Sin is an act of wrong doing that violates the law and character of God. It can become a power in our lives that separates us from God, our Creator, and can cause us to spend an eternity in Hell!
In these two short verses, James tells us where sin comes from and where it leads.
Where does sin begin? Sin begins with temptation. Temptation is anything that prompts us to consider an act that “misses the mark” of perfection which God has set for us.
Where does temptation come from? James says, “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.
How many of us have said to someone when our actions get out of control and we do something wrong, “Look what YOU made me do.”? In today’s society, this kind of attitude is rampant. Cigarette companies are at fault when smokers develop lung cancer from smoking cigarettes. McDonald’s is at fault because we eat their hamburgers and get fat. An on and on it goes. It is always their fault, never ours. Endless law suits are filed because we want to blame someone else for our weakness.
By the way, this attitude is not new. Remember when Adam and Eve were in the garden and ate the fruit. Remember Adam’s response when God asked him if he had eaten the forbidden fruit? “The woman whom you gave to be with me, she gave me from the tree, and I ate.” In other words, God, it’s all YOUR fault.
James says that we are tempted when we are “carried away and enticed by our own lusts.”
Men who trap animals in Africa for zoos, say that one of the hardest animals to catch is the ring tailed monkey. However, for those who are familiar with this little monkey, it is simple. They set a trap that is nothing more than a melon growing on a vine. The seeds of this particular melon are a favorite of the monkey. Knowing this, the trappers cut a hole in the melon just large enough for the monkey to insert his hand to reach the seeds inside. The monkey will stick his hand in, grab as many seeds as he can, then start to withdraw it. But there’s a problem. His fist is now larger than the hole. The monkey will pull and tug, screech and fight but he can’t get free of the trap unless he gives up the seeds, which he refuses to do. Meanwhile, the trappers sneak up and nab him. The monkey’s lust for the seeds have resulted in his capture. He’s on his way to the zoo and captivity for the rest of his life.
Many of us are like the monkey, our own desires get us in trouble. Thressia and I were at the mall the other day in the food court when a young woman in a very tight short skirt walked by. I “happened” to see her and followed her with my eyes as she walked away. Thressia, without even looking up from her food, said, “Was it worth all the trouble you’re in?”
Where does sin begin? With our own lust. Where does sin lead? Death! How do we get from point A to point B? One small step at a time. There is a progressive nature to sin. It starts with a small thing and ends up a very big thing.
Listen again to James 1:14-15 “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.”
Perhaps no better illustration of James 1:14-15 can be found than the incident found in Joshua 7. This tells the sad story of Achan and how his own lust led to the destruction of himself and his family.
In Joshua 5 - 6, we are told of the destruction of Jericho and the command of God in Joshua 6:17-19 that the things of the city were “under a ban.” Everything made of gold, silver, bronze or iron were to go into the treasury. Anyone taking any of those “banned” articles would bring a curse upon the camp of Israel.