The Origins of Temptation & Sin

by Pastor Anthony Pranno

Have you ever noticed that many people think sin is a lot more fun than obedience? Do you remember these lyrics from the Billy Joel song Only the Good Die Young?

They say there’s a heaven for those who will wait
Some say it’s better but I say it ain’t
I’d rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints
the sinners are much more fun…
you know that only the good die young

That’s what a lot of people think about God, temptation and sin. God says and the Bible clearly teaches that Billy Joel was wrong. Let’s look more closely at the Book of James and how he describes the origins of temptation and the evolution of sin…

James 1:13-15

When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

James paints a pretty vivid picture of the progression of sin from our initial desires to full-blown sin and spiritual death. Let’s examine a few of the key phrases…

Our own evil desire

There are many Bible passages that discuss the universality of temptation and sin…

Romans 3:23 – All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God

Isaiah 53:6 – All we like sheep have gone astray

Romans 7 – Paul’s struggle with sin: what I want to do I don’t do… and what I hate, I do!

Ephesians 6 – The armor of God. Why? Because the battle still rages on

Many times we like to blame something or someone else for the sin that so easily entangles us. “It wasn’t my fault!” we cry. “The devil made me do it!” James discusses the devil in short order, but he is also careful to affirm that in-and-of-ourselves, we are sinful and separated from God. That’s why we need a Savior!

Dragged away and enticed

The vivid imagery is of someone grabbing your arm and dragging you somewhere you don’t necessarily want to go. Even better, think of a cowboy lassoing a steer and dragging it down against its will.

When I think of the word “entice” I think of how something is packaged or marketed or advertised or presented to us in a way that plays on our desires… makes us want it more than we would normally want something.

  • Think of the beer commercials with happy, pretty people having more fun with beer.
  • Magazines pose women in certain ways and airbrush imperfections in order to create the fantasy of the perfect body/beauty.
  • Car dealerships put the nicest, cleanest, shiniest, most expensive, souped-up cars up on platforms and in their showrooms.

What kinds of things seduce/entice you? What commercials do you watch more intently? What magazines or web sites do you browse? What stores seem to call out your name like the siren’s song? Sometimes identifying the source of the seduction is half the battle.

Desire conceives

The next stage in the evolution of temptation and sin is when “desire conceives.” Desire conceiving is when the desire becomes real… not dreamed about or fantasized, but real. It’s no longer just a fleeting thought to sin, but a planned, pre-meditated action that has yet to be performed.

Up to this point, one could argue that we are having stupid, fleeting thoughts or fantasies about sin. But when we make the decision in our mind to “do the deed” whatever it is, that’s when desire has conceived. The act hasn’t been performed, but by planning it in our minds and choosing how to go about it, sin enters the equation.

Desire gives birth to sin

This is when the desire culminates in the “act.” Up to this point, there’s been bad decision-making, sinful thoughts and maybe even words that were inappropriate, but the outward act hasn’t been “born” yet. At this stage in the progression, the sin is “born” and begins a life of its own… And what happens after something is born? It grows…

Sin grows

We all could give examples of how a seemingly small sin started to snowball in our lives. Maybe it was a little white lie, but then it grew into something huge. Whatever the case, sin grows and grows if not dealt with. How does the Bible suggest we deal with it?

  • We admit/confess our sin
  • Ask for and receive forgiveness from God
  • Ask for and (hopefully) receive forgiveness from anyone we’ve offended
  • Repent – turn things around – do better

If we don’t cut off the growth cycle of sin, it has a way of becoming bigger and more monstrous than we ever imagined. The final stage in the progression of temptation and sin is death…

Sin gives birth to death

The life-cycle of sin is complete when we die spiritually. In Romans 6:23 we learn that the wages (what we’ve earned) for our sin is death. Sin is not only full-grown, but it causes people to splinter off into alternate belief systems… ones that coincide/correlate with their chosen actions. They not only question but sometimes completely abandon their faith in Jesus. Satan has succeeded in rendering the person completely ineffective for Jesus. Whether the person is saved eternally isn’t the important question to ask here. Many of them are, but they are basically “dead” when it comes to having any impact for Christ.

Take note of the progression or evolution of temptation and sin in your life. If you can spot it in its early stages, you have a much better chance of putting out the fire. And remember, getting right with God through confession and repentance is a daily thing. Keep short accounts with God and press on toward maturity and Christ-likeness!


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