“Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him. 13Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am 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 full-grown brings forth death.”
The above passage is one for great reflection. There are many different topics that could be focused on, but I’ll be focusing on the latter half. In verses 14-15, we see the downward progression of the spiritual life when God is not at the center of one’s being.
Let’s break it down: “each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.” Is this not the start of all life’s problems? We see something that is desirable and we seek after it. This can obviously be a good thing, if we are looking at desiring a good or virtuous thing. However, it also points to the ease of the slippery slope of falling into temptation. We are tempted by things that lure us and that we desire. This can be something as simple as that extra piece of cake, or complex as the ill will aimed towards someone out of jealously or disordered desires that lead us astray. But it is the verse that follows that gives the explanation of the problem. It is only in acting on those disordered desires and temptations that bring forth the act of sin. This then leads to the persistence in sin, which leads to death. This shows us that in the spiritual life, there is a process of degradation that leads to death. Additionally, along the way God desires for us to recognize our faults and turn back to him.
But as we see in verse 12, not all trials and temptations are bad. In fact, this is the way that we are able to confirm our hope in the saving power of God. Though we may face temptations, through the grace of God we are able to withstand them when we call on the Lord. Additionally in God’s great mercy, he is continually offering us the chance to repent when we do give into temptations and fall into sin. Often, it is the greatest sinners who make the greatest saints because they recognize the enormity of God’s love and forgiveness.
This whole process is shown beautifully in the Old Testament story of David and Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11-12. In the beginning of the story, David has sent his troops into battle but had not led them out himself as kings are supposed to do. This can be seen as his desire to rest from his duties, while letting others do his work. In doing so he has opened himself up to the occasion of sin. He then sees Bathsheba bathing and instead of looking away, he gives into temptation and moves further into sin by desiring her. After committing adultery with her and realizing she is pregnant, he tries to cover up his sins, but in the end does so by killing Uriah, the husband of Bathsheba. Through this progression of events, we see this whole cycle played out, starting from David’s temptation in not doing his kingly duties and ending in adultery and murder. After these events, Nathan the prophet helps David see the error of his ways and he repents and turns back to God.
While this example plays out the physical side of temptation leading to death, it is important to note the implication this has for our spiritual life. Is it not a greater pain to think that a spiritual death and separation from God will come from following out our temptations and disordered desires to their full conclusions? When we think that our thoughts or actions are not so bad, we need to keep in mind that all sin starts small and brings on death when it is full grown. Again as we look at verse 12, we are blessed when we endure our trials, choosing to do good and follow God.
In reflecting on these verses, let us realize that any temptation is an opportunity to grow closer to God by choosing him over a temporal desire. Let us then always trust in the Lord to give us grace and strength in our trials and temptations as we journey closer to him.
This article was originally published at Verbum Domini.
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