Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.
The day was sunny, and the prospects bright. Itacyara and I were beginning a long-awaited, much-needed vacation in the company of very good friends. It was our first day in the beautiful Chapada das Mesas region of Maranhão, and we were anxious to get to our first sight-seeing destination, a waterfall called “Cachoeira do Dodô”.
The lady at the front desk of the hotel had given us general directions, and the GPS seemed to confirm what she said. After traveling for about half an hour on the main highway, we turned off the asphalt onto a narrow dirt road.
Unbeknownst to us, our GPS was leading us into a trap. A sand trap, as it turned out. Before long, our little rental car was axle-deep, and completely stuck. We weren’t going anywhere soon.
The End Game
For the past few verses, James has been talking about temptations. He first distinguished them from trials, letting us know that the urge to sin does not come from God. Rather, it comes from within us. Now, turning from sin’s origin, he puts the spotlight on its destination.
As it turns out, the end result of sin has not changed since the Garden of Eden.
“…but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.”
And since the Garden of Eden, humanity has been embarked on a quest to convince itself – collectively and individually – that “You will not surely die.”
It was a lie then, it’s a lie now.
You don’t get a pass.
As we look at this text, it is important to constantly remind ourselves that the overall context is how the Christian is to think about tribulations in his or her life. This quasi parenthetical discourse on sin and its consequences, in the middle of a long discourse on God’s purpose in our trials, serves, I believe, to highlight a very important point: suffering is not an excuse for sin.
This has been a particularly devious mental trick I have played on myself, and I can’t imagine I’m the only one. “Look at all that I am going through right now. Surely I cannot be begrudged this one guilty pleasure.”
Surely I can. James is telling a group of people facing tremendous trials in their lives “Don’t go there.”
No matter who you are, or what you are going through in life, if you take that fateful wrong turn, don’t be surprised if you find yourself up to your bumper in consequences.
Banner image: Us, as we contemplated the tragic consequences of leaving the path.
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