But every man is tempted - Successfully solicited to sin, when he is drawn away of his own lust - when, giving way to the evil propensity of his own heart, he does that to which he is solicited by the enemy of his soul.
Among the rabbins we find some fine sayings on this subject. In Midrash hanaalam, fol. 20, and Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 17, it is said: "This is the custom of evil concupiscence, הרע יצר yetser hara : To-day it saith, Do this; to-morrow, Worship an idol. The man goes and worships. Again it saith, Be angry."
"Evil concupiscence is, at the beginning, like the thread of a spider's web; afterwards it is like a cart rope." Sanhedrim, fol. 99.
In the words, drawn away by his own lust and enticed, ὑπο της ιδιας επιθυμιας εξελκομενος και δελεαζομενος, there is a double metaphor; the first referring to the dragging a fish out of the water by a hook which it had swallowed, because concealed by a bait; the second, to the enticements of impure women, who draw away the unwary into their snares, and involve them in their ruin. Illicit connections of this kind the writer has clearly in view; and every word that he uses refers to something of this nature, as the following verse shows.
But every man is tempted, when he is drawn away of his own lust - That is, the fountain or source of all temptation is in man himself. It is true that external inducements to sin may be placed before him, but they would have no force if there was not something in himself to which they corresponded, and over which they might have power. There must be some “lust;” some desire; some inclination; something which is unsatisfied now, which is made the foundation of the temptation, and which gives it all its power. If there were no capacity for receiving food, or desire for it, objects placed before us appealing to the appetite could never be made a source of temptation; if there were nothing in the soul which could be regarded as the love of acquisition or possession, gold would furnish no temptation; if there were no sensual propensities, we should be in that quarter above the power of temptation.
In each case, and in every form, the power of the temptation is laid in some propensity of our nature, some desire of that which we do not now possess. The word rendered “lust” in this place ( ἐπιθυμίας epithumias), is not employed here in the narrow sense in which it is now commonly used, as denoting libidinousness. It means desire in general; an earnest wish for anything. Notes, Ephesians 4:22. It seems here to be used with reference to the original propensities of our nature - the desires implanted in us, which are a stimulus to employment - as the desire of knowledge, of food, of power, of sensual gratifications; and the idea is, that a man may be drawn along by these beyond the prescribed limits of indulgence, and in the pursuit of objects that are forbidden. He does not stop at the point at which the law requires him to stop, and is therefore guilty of transgression. This is the source of all sin. The original propensity may not be wrong, but may be perfectly harmless - as in the case of the desire of food, etc. Nay, it may furnish a most desirable stimulus to action; for how could the human powers be called forth, if it were not for this? The error, the fault, the sin, is, not restraining the indulgence where we are commanded to do it, either in regard to the objects sought, or in regard to the degree of indulgence.
And enticed - Entrapped, caught; that is, he is seized by this power, and held fast; or he is led along and beguiled, until he falls into sin, as in a snare that springs suddenly upon him.
Επιθυμια Epithumiain the New Testament, is sometimes employed in a good sense, Luke 22:15; Philemon 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:17; often in a bad sense, as in Mark 4:19; John 8:44; Romans 1:24; Romans 6:12; Romans 7:7; 1 John 2:16; but there is no difficulty in making the distinction; the context easily determining the matter. And this passage in James seems at once to fix down on επιθυμιας epithumiasthe sense of evil or corrupt desire. That it can mean a “harmless propensity;” or that it is a propensity on whose character the apostle does not at all pronounce, is incredible. It is said to “draw away a man and entice him;” to “conceive and bring forth sin:” and a principle from which such fruit springs cannot be very harmless. Without doubt, the apostle traces the whole evil of temptation, which some falsely ascribed to God, to the sinful desires of the human heart; and, as our author remarks, he seems to take the common sense view without entertaining any thought of nice philosophical distinction. We cannot for a moment suppose the apostle to say - “the evil is not to be traced to God, but to a harmless propensity.”
The whole passage, with the words and figures which are used, show that the idea in the apostle‘s mind was that of an enticing harlot. The επιθυμια epithumiais personified. She persuades the understanding and will into her impure embrace. The result of this fatal union is the “conception” and ultimate “bringing forth” of actual sin, which again brings forth death. This is the true genealogy of sin (McKnight); and to say that the επιθυμια epithumiaor evil desire, of which the apostle says that it is the “origo mali,” is harmless, - is to contradict him, and Paul also, who in a parallel passage says that he had not known the επιθυμια epithumiaor inward desire after forbidden objects, to be sinful, unless the law had enlightened him and said “thou shalt not covet.” Mr. Scott has spoken in strong terms of the folly of some parties who understand επιθυμια epithumiaHere only of the desire of sensual gross indulgence, to the exclusion of other sinful desires; but the extreme of interpreting it as meaning nothing sinful at all, deserves equal reprehension. The reader, however, will notice that the author does not venture on this assertion. He says “it may be so,” and otherwise modifies his view.)
Need of Heart Change, Not Change of Location—Will we be clear to let such things be concealed and sins hidden, with no real evidence of repentance or reform? Your leaving California does not give you a new heart. You are out of sight of the infatuating influence of your “adorable charmer,” but this does not change the affections or impulses of the heart. Elder W might have finished his course with joy had it not been for sensual practices, but he was led away of his own lusts and enticed. The days and years which might have been his very best were his worst. TSB 189.4Read in context »
You have made evil and lustful practices appear harmless, and some have been led away with their own lust and enticed because they had not moral courage to rebuke you, a minister, for your iniquitous practices. There have been not a few who have sacrificed conscience, peace of mind, and the favor of God, because a man whom the people have set as a watchman on the walls of Zion has been their tempter—a wolf in sheep's clothing. TSB 204.3Read in context »
Satan, that archdeceiver, transforms himself into an angel of light and comes to the youth with his specious temptations and succeeds in winning them, step by step, from the path of duty. He is described as an accuser, a deceiver, a liar, a tormentor, and a murderer. “He that committeth sin is of the devil.” Every transgression brings the soul into condemnation and provokes the divine displeasure. The thoughts of the heart are discerned of God. When impure thoughts are cherished, they need not be expressed by word or act to consummate the sin and bring the soul into condemnation. Its purity is defiled, and the tempter has triumphed. 4T 623.1
Every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lusts and enticed. He is turned away from the course of virtue and real good by following his own inclinations. If the youth possessed moral integrity, the strongest temptations might be presented in vain. It is Satan's act to tempt you, but your own act to yield. It is not in the power of all the host of Satan to force the tempted to transgress. There is no excuse for sin. 4T 623.2
While some of the youth are wasting their powers in vanity and folly, others are disciplining their minds, storing up knowledge, girding on the armor to engage in life's warfare, determined to make it a success. But they cannot make life a success, however high they may attempt to climb, unless they center their affections upon God. If they will turn to the Lord with all the heart, rejecting the flatteries of those who would in the slightest degree weaken their purpose to do right, they will have strength and confidence in God. 4T 623.3Read in context »
5. Sentinels of Heaven Gave Warning—It seemed certain to him [David] that he must, at last, fall into the hands of his pursuer and persecutor. But could his eyes have been opened, he would have seen the angels of the Lord encamped round about him and his followers. The sentinels of heaven were waiting to warn them of impending danger, and to conduct them to a place of refuge when their peril demanded it. God could protect David and his followers; for they were not a band in rebellion against Saul. David had repeatedly proved his allegiance to the king (The Signs of the Times, September 7, 1888). 2BC 1019.1
6-16. The Effects of Evil Surmising—The spirit of evil was upon Saul. He felt that his doom had been sealed by the solemn message of his rejection from the throne of Israel. His departure from the plain requirements of God was bringing its sure results. He did not turn, and repent, and humble his heart before God, but opened it to receive every suggestion of the enemy. He listened to every false witness, eagerly receiving anything that was detrimental to the character of David, hoping that he might find an excuse for manifesting his increasing envy and hatred of him who had been anointed to the throne of Israel. Every rumor was credited, no matter how inconsistent and irreconcilable it was with the former character and custom of David. 2BC 1019.2
Every evidence that the protecting care of God was over David seemed to imbitter and deepen his one engrossing and determined purpose. The failure to accomplish his own designs appeared in marked contrast to the success of the fugitive in eluding his search, but it only made the determination of the king the more unrelenting and firm. He was not careful to conceal his designs toward David, nor scrupulous as to what means should be employed in accomplishing his purpose. 2BC 1019.3Read in context »