When wrong feels right
There is a path before each person that seems right, but it ends in death. – Proverbs 14:12
13 Remember, when you are being tempted, do not say, “God is tempting me.” God is never tempted to do wrong, and he never tempts anyone else.
14 Temptation comes from our own desires, which entice us and drag us away.
15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
16 So don’t be misled, my dear brothers and sisters.
Who among us is not seen at least part of a Roadrunner and Wiley Coyote cartoon? Wiley is always chasing after the Roadrunner but never manages to catch him. Wiley conceives and attempts outrageous plans to capture the roadrunner. No matter what extravagant or audacious scheme he attempts, it always comes to naught. How many times has Wiley run himself off a cliff, gotten run over by a truck, blown himself up, or been squashed? All these attempts seemed so right, but they are wrong. Picture in your mind Wiley running as fast as he could to catch the roadrunner? He mistakenly runs off a cliff. In midair, he suddenly realizes he has made a terrible mistake right before he falls to the ground below and gets splattered.
In life how often does wrong, feel right? How many times have we thought we were doing what we thought was right when we suddenly looked down and realized that we run ourselves off the cliff?
Is it not just too easy and convenient to rationalize? When we want something bad enough, we mull it over and over, even pray about it, until it seems right. Why is this so? It is part of our fallen DNA. What we want appeals to our flesh and sinful nature. How often are logic and truth tossed aside and our analysis is too superficial?
When wrong feels right, any child of the King can be misled. The limitations of our fallen humanity kick in and we are overcome and led astray (1 Corinthians 12:2).
REFLECT & PRAY
“Sin will take you farther than you want to go, keep you longer than you want to stay, and cost you more than you want to pay” (Zaccharias).
Father I cannot count how many times I have been tempted and succumbed to doing wrong because it felt right. Temptation is always there. Encourage me to do what is genuinely right and to resist doing what feels right.
Sin happens! We seem predisposed to blame others or even God when we fail (Genesis 3:12-13). But the Scriptures are quite clear that sin is a choice, our choice. Putting it in simple terms, the reason we sin is because we want to. Have you ever asked yourself “How does sin happen?”
The book of James helps us out here. James explains the step-by-step process of succumbing to sin.
James 1:14 But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust.
Perhaps in the back of his mind, he was thinking about how people hunt for food or catch fish with a hook. Fish by nature are repeatedly on the prowl for food, but at the same time, they are cautious and often shelter in a secure location. The angler must lure the fish out of hiding. They use bait to draw out the fish. The fish sees the bait and its desire is aroused. The fish takes the bait and is hooked.
The Greek word translated tempted is peirazo. Peirazo can refer to any trial or test with no negative connotations. On the other hand, it can signify being tempted. In James 1:14, peirazo means to be put to the test, to tempt, or to solicit to sin.
The Greek word translated lust/desire is epithumia. Epithumia signifies craving, longing for, or having a strong desire for something which can be either good or evil. When the object or activity longed for is something that the Father is disallowed, forbidden, or off-limits, it is translated as lust or wrong desire. “It is when we want to satisfy these desires in ways outside God’s will that we get into trouble” (Wiersbe).
The Greek word translated carried away, dragged away, drawn away, or lured is exelkoomenos. The term translated enticed is deleazomenos. Deleazomenos means being led astray. “The word ‘lure’ suggests a fish enticed to a hook and drawn out from the water, while the word ‘entice’ suggests attracting a prey to a trap by bait” (UBS). It is hard to tell when one ends and the other begins.
“Drawn away carries with it the idea of the baiting of a trap; and enticed in the original Greek means ‘to bait a hook.’ The hunter and the fisherman have to use bait to attract and catch their prey. . .. The idea is to hide the trap and the hook. Temptation always carries with it some bait that appeals to our natural desires . . .. It is the bait that is the exciting thing” (Wiersbe).
James does not focus on any particular temptation. Rather than identifying the external stimuli, his purpose is “to pinpoint the source as the evil impulse within a person, thus highlighting our own personal responsibility for sin” (UBS). Our inner appetites and misguided desires are stirred up and energized by that which is forbidden. Paul puts it like this.
Romans 7:5 When we were controlled by our old nature, sinful desires were at work within us, and the law aroused these evil desires that produced a harvest of sinful deeds, resulting in death.
James’ point is that we drag ourselves into sin. What a remarkable insight into the human soul (Richardson).
James provides a formula for sin:
temptation + desire/lust = lured and dragged away
It is as though temptation is on the hunt and we are the prey. We are lured on and seduced by our own desires. When temptation is mixed with desire and lust, the result is sin. “We entice ourselves with the object we desire” (Richardson).
But there’s more. Like any good bait, the lure not only attracts us but also obscures the collateral damage and consequences. Yielding to our desires gives birth to sin, and sin gives birth to death. What a horrid paradoxical, oxymoronic concept.
James 1:15 These desires give birth to sinful actions. And when sin is allowed to grow, it gives birth to death.
Desire is not sin. Yielding to the misguided desire of the wounded heart is sin. It is one thing to be tempted to sin and ruminate on carrying it out. It is another thing to choose to sin. When temptation is acted out, it becomes sin. “You cannot keep birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from nesting in your hair” (Luther).
How do we escape the temptation trap? “The Word of God is a better guide than that ‘which seems right unto a man’” (John G. Butler).
Psalms 119:9 How can a young person maintain a pure life? By guarding it according to your word!
“Conscience needs to be informed by God’s Word and ruled by God’s will to make it a safe guide” (Spence-Jones).
Psalms 119:11 I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you.