James 1:13-15 13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man: 14 But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed. 15 Then when lust hath conceived, it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished, bringeth forth death. – KJV
James 1:13-15 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 one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. 15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. – NIV
James 1:13-15 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. – ESV
Greek Transliteration of James 1:14 with [Strong #] and brief definitions:
hekastos  each, every de  and, but, now… (conjunction) peirazo  test, entice, tempt, prove, try hupo  prepositional place (at, beneath, by, in, of, under…) ho  the (article or indefinite pronoun) idios  one’s own epithumia  longing, desire, lust exelko  entice, draw away, drag forth kai  and, also, even, so then, too deleazo  entrap, delude, allure, beguile
1.14.0 Introduction to James 1:14
Verse 14 begins to take us down the path leading from our natural state to death. It begins with our own nature under exposure to temptation. In this part of the study we are reminded of the source of temptation, told how the process of death begins, and we get a chance to explore the nature of temptation and desire as they relate to us.
1.14.1 Who tempts?
This question should be review. Satan is the father of lies and temptation. When a man tempts he is only doing what Satan has taught him to do. When a man falls into temptation through his own desire he is acting on the fleshly nature passed down through the corrupted seed of Adam. [See also the questions from James 1:2 and 1:3.]
1.14.2 What is the route from Satan to death?
James 1:14-15 But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. The path begins with the originator of lies, Satan. Satan told the first lie in the Bible, followed by the newly corrupted Eve, then Adam. Eve experienced the sensation of desire when the enticement was put before her. She lacked the knowledge of good and evil at the time, though, so one could argue she didn’t have the capacity for comprehending the moral implications of disobedience to God. Regardless, she found what Satan offered to be something she desired. The desire gave way to action, the action being sin because it was an action opposing the will of God. Ultimately, the fact Eve was deceived was no excuse. Sin earns death (Ro 6:23).
If God does not intervene in this progression and all of mankind suffers the genetic flaw of the corruption of flesh handed down from Adam and Eve, then there is no hope. The key then is to obtain God’s intervention. The good news of the Gospel of Jesus is God’s intervention plan.
Jesus took upon himself the sin, paying the penalty of fleshly death on our behalf to intervene and break this curse we took upon ourselves. He asks nothing of us that we weren’t created with, namely that we come to Him, know Him, and believe in Him. He made it as easy for us as he could by stooping to our level, giving us not only atonement for sin through the blood of a perfect sacrifice, but a human face with human words and a human example we can look at and in so doing realize God spoke the Truth from the very beginning. We see it can be done, that death can be overcome, because it has been. Jesus told us ahead of time he would die on our behalf, he would come back from death, and he would go to heaven. He did these things. He promised more. If he can do these things, surely he can and will do the rest of what he’s promised, including giving us eternal life in whatever form and whatever place He deems best for us.
1.14.3 What is the route from God to life?
The answer is weaved throughout the tapestry of scripture from the first few pages through the last. The verses to follow are but an overview of the totality of the answer.
Gen 1:1 In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The route to eternal life begins with God himself. He is the creator of life and the grantor of eternal life.
Luke 11:10 For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened. We recognize the need to find the route to eternal life when we recognize we are on the road to death and we need to find the other route. Thus, the next logical step is to seek. In Jesus’ own words we have a promise that when we earnestly seek him, we will indeed find him.
Jn 3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. In the final analysis the route includes several steps, but belief in Jesus is the only step we ourselves can and must accomplish on our own.
Ac 17:30 The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent After you accept the fact of God’s existence and you seek him, you find him, and you begin to believe in him, you will begin to change. The word “repent” literally means to change your ways. In the biblical sense it means to change from sinful ways to ways obedient to God. The word “command” implies specific direction from God. To believe in Jesus by definition includes submission to his authority to command us and subsequently obeying his commands.
Heb 4:4 By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. And through his faith, though he died, he still speaks. Righteousness is the substance of faith. Righteousness is obedience based on faith.
Jude 21 keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. This verse speaks of our Lord Jesus’ mercy and how it lead to eternal life. There are numerous other verses that speak of grace, mercy, and the subject of eternal life, but this one ties together in just a few words the very most important concepts. We are to hold onto the love of God, loving and being loved, enduring patiently for the mercy of Jesus. In the end it is a free gift, nothing we can earn, just something to be freely accepted. To believe and live that belief is how we accept it. This is the conclusion of the route to eternal life.
1.14.4 How does temptation work?
The passage from James provides excellent insight to the production of sin from raw temptation. Temptation plays on desire, manipulating it for the specific purpose of enticing us to carry out a sinful act.
Having spent a number of years in corporate marketing myself, I can tell you that the purpose of advertising is to create an interest and desire for a product. Once the potential customer is made aware something they might want is available, you then target the customer with information about the product that will make most attractive to that customer. Whenever possible targeted marketing programs provide information as specific and personalized as possible. When the customer is approached with something they recognize as desirable and it is presented personally with enticing messages designed to lead to a purchase, this is “good advertising.” This concept of targeting selected information for a selected audience is also called propaganda. The term propaganda is generally associated with an organization having a specific agenda. A company manufacturing a product is an organization with a specific agenda, namely to sell their product and beat their competition in the process.
Temptation can be easily explained as Satan’s marketing program. The devil’s propaganda is designed to play on man’s natural desires. While advertising as a great way to explain temptation, there is one important difference between them. Temptation is the form of advertising designed specifically to lure you to do something sinful. It attracts you toward doing something outside of God’s will. Not all advertising has this purpose. Certainly telling the Good News of Jesus Christ doesn’t fit the definition of temptation according to James.
Temptation is not sin. Sin happens when you “buy” the goods being sold by the devil. A purchase is an exchange of one thing of perceived value for another thing of perceived value where the buyer and seller agree that the exchange is mutually acceptable. Simply having a desire or being exposed to advertising which plays on that desire is not the same as sin. Sin, by definition, is disobedience toward God. It is helpful to always remember that temptation is a lie. It is a lie because what you get in return for your disobedience is never worth the price.
1 Cor 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. The propaganda, no matter how well targeted and personalized, is not new or unique. Everyone is tempted by a common list of commercials. Different people tune in to different commercials (temptations) by natural inclination (desire). The good news is that we don’t have to buy the lies. This verse alone doesn’t begin to explain the mechanics of how God protects us from being overcome by our desires, but we have the promise that He can and will, and that’s enough for now.
1.14.5 What is desire?
Synonyms include longing, want, wish, passion, covet, crave. Webster’s uses the phrase: a feeling that accompanies an unsatisfied state. This would seem a highly accurate description of desire. If there is something unsatisfied within us, the resulting feeling draws us toward whatever we think will provide satisfaction. This feeling, called desire, makes us vulnerable to temptation. This explains how desire ties to temptation.
In this passage KJV actually uses the word “lust” in lieu of desire. The Greek word epithumia is translated lust, desire, longing, crave, covet, or some variation of any of these throughout the New Testament, depending on the translation you choose. Since we are concerned with understanding what is meant by the Greek and we are constrained to using English to do the job, it stands to reason we would want to use an English word that most closely approximates the meaning of the original language. I prefer the word desire when used in this passage in James because it doesn’t have the more narrow sexual connotation of a word like lust or other more restrictive terms such as covet. Temptation is a very broad term and the word desire is equally broad. In researching the Greek term epithumia, I learned it is used to indicate a want of God just as much as a want for carnal satisfaction.
1.14.6 Where is the desire?
Ro 5:12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned. Desire springs up from within. Satisfaction and dissatisfaction are deeply personal. Since desire is, by definition, the feeling of not being satisfied, this feeling comes from within the human heart. You may say it stems from the human spirit or from the human flesh. Any given desire may come from either one. Certainly a thirst for water after working in the sun is a physical desire while the desire to share a conversation or embrace is emotional. Emotional desires seem to come from the same place as all other emotions, a place we call (for lack of a better term) the human heart. Sin is the result of acting outside God’s will to try and satisfy a feeling of dissatisfaction. Paul explains it is passed down to all mankind genetically. Our flesh and our spirits are born from the corrupt. It is part of who we are. It isn’t what God wants us to be, however. The good news, of course, is that Jesus Christ’s blood was shed to wash away the filthiness of our hearts and bodies and make us free from our sin, if only we accept His cleansing gift.