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Then the desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:15)
Again, all fleshly attractions spring from man’s desire [hunger] (ἐπιθυμία epithumia) to satisfy his own flesh and personal forbidden desires. So, James is describing for his reader the sequence of sin, which is evident by his using “then” (εἶτα eita), a relatively rare word in the Greek New Testament (Mk 4:17; 1Ti 2:13; Heb 12:9), which consistently denotes a sequence, “afterward,” “then,” “later.” Now that the temptation has carried us away, enticed (δελεάζω deleazō) our desires, the next stage in this sequence is that the desire (lust) is conceived (συλλαμβάνω sullambanō). In other words, it is brought to consummation (completion), as the desire leads to the birth of sin, a sinful action. When that sin is fully grown (ἀποτελέω apoteleō), that is, to the point of becoming a practice, i.e, living in sin, the result is (spiritual) death.
Then the desire, when it has been conceived, is evident in meaning. When the desire we have as a natural course is stirred (entertained), it is moved to action, resulting in sin. As the desires (fleshly appetites) that we may have due to being mentally bent toward evil (Gen. 6:5; 8:21), possessing a treacherous heart (Jer. 17:9), naturally leaning toward bad, form in mind as a thought, they cannot be considered a sin. However, the moment we begin to entertain or indulge in such thinking, we have preliminarily sketched out in our mind the immediate gratification that we will have. We have started the process that will result in sin. This has given birth to sin. The result of the above is actual sin. When we have considered, given thought to, formulated, and imagined in mind, it has culminated in sin. This sin, when it is fully grown, brings forth death. The result of sin that has become a practice, a way of life, where no repentance exists, is not only spiritual death now, but eternal death to come with no hope of a resurrection. The apostle Paul told the Thessalonians that God will be “inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. These ones will pay the penalty of eternal destruction.” (2 Thess. 1:8-9) Willful living in sin produces death. There is a marked correlation between this statement and what the apostle Paul wrote (Rom. 6:21–23). It is possible that James had Paul’s words in his mind, as Paul wrote Romans in 56 C.E., while James penned his letter six years later in 62 C.E. Having this knowledge should motivate us to dismiss and wrong thought that enters our mind at once. We should not give it a moment’s consideration, as in a moment, it can get mastery over us. And if we should fall into a sinful practice, we should seek help from a pastor at once.
Temptation always begins with an enticement towards one’s lust or an unwarranted desire. If not cast down, one then is carried away by the bait of the enticement. Then soon after, one will take the bait, give in to the temptation, and satisfy the lust of his flesh. For this reason, James writes that the desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin. James continues with the progression stating sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. Once the desire is conceived, or the individual gives actions upon that temptation by giving into its evil desire, it gives birth to sin that can lead to death.
James is telling these believers that once sin is conceived and begins to take root in the heart, if it is not dealt with, it will become full-grown within the heart to attain what their hearts desire. James makes it very clear that once we give into the temptation of that lust, it will inevitably give birth to sin. What was meant to produce pleasure and satisfaction now only causes chaos and devastation. James warns these believers that the only result of fulfilling their lust brought about death. This death could, for some, have led to physical death depending upon the lust they were giving into. James has a deeper meaning in that it was causing spiritual death to these believers when they passed over into sin.
Again, we can see from Adam and Eve that when they ate of the fruit, they did so out of their desire and pleasure for power and control that stemmed from their lust. When they ate the fruit, the promise of fulfillment only resulted in death. When Adam and Eve ate of the fruit, they faced spiritual death, in the fact that their sin had separated them from God. In turn, because of the curse, they would also suffer physical death due to their sin. James is warning these believers of the severe danger of temptation and the consequences if they were to give in to their lust. James wants his readers to understand that for the one who persisted in his temptation and living in that manner, and then, in the end, he would face eternal destruction. Paul wrote in Romans 7:20-21, “For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. Therefore what benefit were you then deriving from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the outcome of those things is death.”