Temptation can take us to a place we never wanted to go. Talk with anyone who’s responded poorly to temptation and they’ll agree with this. (This is every one of us who are reading this, by the way.) We’ve seen the hurt on the face of someone we’ve sinned against. We’ve felt the shame of personal defeat and regret, when we’ve given into the same sin again and again. What looks so good when we’re on the front end of temptation can be so destructive if we give in to it.
In light of all this, the perspective James gives us on sin is so important. Here's what James 1:13-15 says:
13 When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; 14 but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
James doesn’t paint temptation in any sort of cute, “it’s not that big of a deal” light. He shows us what temptation is and what it can lead to. He does this so we respond to temptation well and avoid sin.
The language James uses here in v. 14 when he talks about “being dragged away” and “enticed” - that’s specific language associated with hunting and fishing.  The picture that should come to mind is an animal that has been snared or killed and that’s now being dragged away. Or a fish being enticed by some lure, unaware of the hook that’s waiting for it when it takes the bait. (Back in the first century when James is writing this, there wasn’t a whole lot of catch and release fishing. When a fish was enticed by and caught in a hook or a net, it was game over.) This language of being dragged away and enticed, then, isn’t pretty, and it doesn’t end well. By exposing temptation and sin for what it is, James disarms it for us.
A few summers ago I was out camping with my wife and four boys, and we decided to go fishing. I’m not a huge fisher myself and it was a spur of the moment decision, so we weren’t prepared really at all. I think we had two fishing poles between four boys, and the bait shop was out of worms so we grabbed some sort of food we could stick on a hook from the cooler and headed to the lake.
Basically, it was a disaster. The noise of boys arguing about who’s turn it was to have a pole probably kept the fish away. And our bait - I think we cut up hot dogs or something - kept falling off the hook, so every time a fish saw it they saw it for what it was: Not some tempting lure, but a sharp, painful hook that wasn’t desirable at all.
In James 1, James exposes sin for what it is. He takes the bait off the hook, as it were. As tempting as sin can be, we need to see that’s all a deceitful lure. Sin is really a painful hook that will snag you and wreak havoc in your life. By exposing sin in this way, James disarms its power.
Some of you are here today and you’ve been fighting temptation - maybe for a long time - but you feel like you’re losing. The lure is starting to look really attractive and you’re swimming closer and closer to it. Let James 1 be your wake-up call as you read this - don’t bite! Don’t follow the temptation!
See sin for what it really is and take the practical steps you need to take to protect yourself from going down that path. Think about the media you’re putting in your head. Surround yourself with friends who will point you the right direction. Take proactive action and “crowd sin out” by filling your mind and time with good things - daily Bible reading, try memorizing some Scripture, be intentional about serving others, and put friends around you who help you grow. All of these things can protect us from giving in to temptation and ending up in a spot we don’t want to be.
Or maybe you’re reading this and you feel like that “temptation ship” has sailed. You’re not fighting temptation; you’ve given in to temptation. And you’ve given in long enough to know your sin is controlling you. It’s not even attractive anymore, but you’re snagged. You’re on the far end of this progression James brings up. You know how your sin has brought death. Maybe not physical death, but you know your sin has ended relationships, and killed opportunities. You can point to the wake of damage sin has done.
The good news of the gospel is that sin doesn’t have to have the final word. Whatever your situation and however deep into sin you feel like you are, sin doesn’t have to have the final word. Let me simply highlight two verses to drive this home:
Temptation can take us to a place we never wanted to go. What temptation are you facing that you need to see this way? With the important truth about sin that James puts in front of us all, let’s turn from sin and run to Jesus.
 Craig L. Blomberg and Marian J. Kamell, James. ZECNT. Zondervan, 2008. pp. 71-72.
Interested in this post? You may also be interested in...
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.