There is no shortage of headlines in the news today telling of someone who committed an atrocity that leaves us scratching our heads and thinking, “How could someone come to a point where they’re willing to do something like that?”
Is everyone a product of their family upbringing, societal influence and experiences? To a degree, sure. Much of who we are is a result of our environment, those who have influenced us, and what has happened to us. But even with all those external influences, we are not without responsibility for who we eventually become.
James sheds some light on the issue when he says: “13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. 14 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. 15 Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:13-15)
He starts off by clarifying that no-one can say God has tempted them to sin. That’s kind of like saying that a Michigan fan encouraged someone to root for Ohio State (oops.. I left out “THE” Ohio State) on rivalry weekend. It’s totally against who they are. God doesn’t have it in his nature to tempt someone to sin. That's also not to say that rooting for Ohio State is a sin, that's for each individual to decide. ;)
Then James says that when we are tempted, it begins with us being led away by our own desire, our own fleshly hunger for sin. See, desire happens in our mind. We want something. That doesn’t necessarily mean we are going to act on that desire. You can want to consume the entire candy aisle at Walmart, but you choose not to do so because you know that this desire would end badly. No-one likes hugging the toilet.
It’s important to note that desire is not the same as acting. Desires can be refused. It’s when we allow those fleshly desires to permeate, unchecked, not confronted… James says that these desires, when fully conceived give birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown, brings forth death.
Nobody wakes up one day and says, “Hey, I think I’ll be a rapist/mass-murderer/ extra-marital-adulter..” (Sorry if this just got really strong.) It all begins with seemingly small desires from our flesh, that if not challenged, cast down and replaced with Godly thoughts, will lead to sinful actions. Sinful actions that are not repented of and turned from, grow and grow and grow, until one day we wake up and wonder, “How did I get to this place?”
Take a few moments today to pray and evaluate your life. What seemingly small things, or fleshly thoughts are you allowing to remain in your life because, after all they’re not a “big deal”…? Maybe, just maybe they’re bigger than you realize because big things start small.