Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God; for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempteth no man: but each man is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it hath conceived, beareth sin: and the sin, when it is fullgrown, bringeth forth death.
These passages have taken a central role in controversy over the person of Jesus, His Godhood and His humanity. It has been said that verses 14-15 include Jesus of Nazareth as a man who was tempted to do evil but refrained from doing so. It has also been said that lust in these passages refers to the normal human lusts that are acceptable and proper as long as one does not succumb to the temptations and commit the acts of sin.
To the contrary, I do not believe that such a contention represents the meaning of these verses. Consequently, Jesus cannot be included in them at all and the attempt to do so degrades our Saviour. Further, such a position makes lusting after evil things an acceptable condition of a Christian's heart. That makes Jesus, and us, as bad as the worst of ungodly, lustful humanity. These things we will clearly see in this chapter.
A distinction must be made in the word temptation here. The temptations of James 1:2, 12 refer to trials and afflictions that one experiences while standing firm in the faith. We are to be joyful when such trials come and by enduring them, we benefit by spiritual growth and have the promise of a crown of life. On the other hand, the temptations in James 1:13-15 deal with temptations related to evil things of the flesh; that is a different person from the faithful one who endures trials and afflictions.
God and Temptation
"When he is tempted" (by evil things), in James 1:13, is from a single word, a present, passive, participle, which means while being tempted, one cannot say that God is tempting him; God is not the source (apo, from) of the temptation; He does not tempt any man with evil things. The reason why this is so is given in verses 16-17. The very nature of God is contrary to such an action on God's part.
He further says that God, Himself, cannot be tempted with evil things. "Cannot be tempted" is also from a single word, apeirastos. This is a compound of the Greek letter alpha (a), which makes a negative out of the word to which it is attached. The alpha is combined with peiradzo, the same word that is used three other times in this passage. The word can be understood either as an active, meaning untempted, or as a passive, meaning untemptable. If we take the active meaning, untempted, we cannot conclude that it is possible for God to be tempted with evil but that it just has not happened before. However, nearly all translators and lexicons render it as passive, untemptable. For a discussion of reasons, see A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures, Vol. VI, pp. 17-18, Bauer, p. 83.
James 1:13 says that God cannot be tempted (apeiradzo) by evil things and He does not so tempt (peiradzo) any man. However, as we have seen in the last chapter, God can be tempted (peiradzo)! I Corinthians 10:8 says that Israel made trial (peiradzo) of God, tempted Him. Hebrews 3:9 says that the fathers tried (peiradzo) God by proving Him. So, James 1:13 says God cannot be tempted (peiradzo) and other passages say He can be tempted (peiradzo). Is there a contradiction? No. The passages are talking about two different things.
Further, James 1:13 says that God does not tempt (peiradzo) any man. Yet, God tempted (peiradzo) Abraham, Hebrews 11:17. God tempted (peiradzo, LXX) Israel, Exodus 16:4, Judges 2:11. Is there any contradiction here? No. The passages are talking about two different things.
The temptations of James 1:13 are temptations in regard to evil, licentious things. The word evil in verse 13 is from kakon, the genitive, neuter, plural form of kakos. The word universally refers to evil, bad, base wrong, wicked things, Thayer, p. 320, Bauer, p. 397. There are several other places in the New Testament where this same genitive, neuter, plural form is also found. Romans 1:30 condemns the gentiles as "inventors of evil things." I Timothy 6:10 says that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. I Corinthians 10:6 warns that we "should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted." In Romans 1:30, it is the human person that did the inventing of the evil things; the evil things came from his own imagination and craft. In I Timothy 6:10, the love of money is coveteousness, lust, that brings the evil things. In I Corinthians 10:6, the individuals are the ones who do the lusting after the evil things; it starts within the heart and then looks for ways of fulfilling the lust, or manufactures the outlet to satisfy that lust.
Though God cannot be tempted by evil things, and He does not tempt man with evil things, James does tell us the source of temptations in regard to evil things. It is not God, but rather our own lusts.
Lust is something within a person, a condition of the heart. It is often translated as covet. The word for "lust" in James1:14-15 is epithumia. "Epithumia is an old word for craving (from epithumeo, to have a desire for) either good (Phil. 1:23) or evil (Rom. 7:7) as here," A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in The New Testament, Vol. 6, p. 18, referring to James 1:14. When in the few instances it occurs in a good sense, the word still refers to an earnest, ardent desire, a craving, as with Paul in Philippians 1:23. The term is used in only four places in regard to something good; all other places refer to lusts for evil things. It means an intense feeling, "desire, longing, craving," Bauer, p. 293.
A cognate form, Epithumeo, which Robertson says is the origin of epithumia, means "to fix the desire upon (epi, upon, used intensively, thumos, passion)," Vine, Expository Dictionary, p. 224.
Cremer says of epithumia, "In these cases it denotes the lusting of a will which is not in conformity with God's will ... Jas. i.14.Ó Herman Cremer, Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek, p. 188.
Thayer says of epithumia, "Desire, craving, longing ... desire for what is forbidden, lust." Thayer, p. 238.
"... idios one's own. epithumia desire, strong desire directed toward an object, lust." Rienecker and Rogers, Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, p. 723.
Recall that Robertson says that epithumia came from epithumeo. Moulton says of epithumeo, "to set the heart upon; to desire, long for, have earnest desire." Of epithumia, the form in James 1:14, he says, "earnest desire ... irregular or violent desire ... impure desire, lust." Of epithumeites he says, "one who has an ardent desire for anything." Moulton, Analytical Greek Lexicon, p. 156.
These three forms of the word can be used interchangeably. Romans 7:7 says, "I had not kown sin, but by law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet." The word "lust" is from epithumia and "covet" is from epithumeo. The words are interchangeable; they mean the same thing. I Corinthians 10:6 says,
"Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted."
"Lust after" is from epithumeites, and "lusted" from epithumeo. Thayer says that epithumeites means, "one who longs for, a craver, lover, one eager for," p. 238. It is used interchangeably with epithumeo. I Corinthians 10:6 specifies that the craving and eagerness was for evil things, kakon, the same word as in James 1:13.
The term lust, desire, without question refers to attitudes and emotions within a person; lust is not impersonal. Even if it is a lust for something good and beneficial, it still first exists in the heart of a person. If it is a lust for evil things, it also first resides in the heart of a person. Those who claim that these lusts are the normal, inherent desires God gave us at birth must also admit that these are resident lusts that exist within us before any opportunity to act appears.
Some say the word lust is a neutral word and therefore must be understood in a neutral sense. The conclusion from that is, the lust in James 1:14 is just normal inherent desires with which we are born. But, they shift definitions on the word neutral; they shift from neutral, meaning it can apply to either good or evil to neutral meaning it is passive. While it is true that the various words for lust can refer to a strong desire or craving for something good, most appearances are about strong desires or cravings for evil things. Lust is not passive. It is a craving for something. Look at the definitions!
Rienecker and Rogers says epithumia is "strong desire directed toward an object, lust." Vine says epithumeo means "to fix the desire upon." That is neither neutral nor passive. James 4:1-3 says,
"Whence come wars and whence come fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your pleasures that war in your members? Ye lust (epithumeo, "fix the desire upon"), and have not: ye kill, and covet, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war; ye have not, because ye ask not. Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may spend it in your pleasures."
The word "amiss" comes from the adverb form of kakos found in James 1:13, evil things. Here it refers to asking wickedly. Remember Mark 7:21-23 that says all such evil acts come forth out of the heart, which is where the lust is. That is neither neutral nor passive.
The insistence that "lust" is just a neutral word leads directly to a whitewashing of lust. As we have noted, one such individual insisted that on the one hand lust is just another word for desire and on the other Jesus desired to do evil but just refrained from the act. So, one might as well talk of Jesus lusting after evil as that He desired to do evil; one means the same as the other. The message that this sends to all of us is that if itÕs all right for Jesus to lust after evil then it is all right for us to lust after evil, to desire to do evil things, just as long as we do not engage in an act of the evil things! Nonsense!
James 1:14 is talking about lusting for evil things, as in James 4:1-3 and I Corinthians 10:6, not for something good. That is evident from what is said in verse 13 and the fact that the temptation here is about wicked things; the "temptation" here does not refer to one's being tempted regarding something good. That should be obvious!
In the Old Testament, several passages tell us of the wickedness of man's heart and what it does. Genesis 6:5 says,
"And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
Out of all the people that existed on the earth, God saved only eight from the flood. Nearly the entirety of humanity had a wickedness of heart that was behind all of their ungodly acts. Note:
"And ye have done worse than your fathers; for, behold, ye walk every one after the imagination of his evil heart, that they may not hearken unto me." Jeremiah 16:12.
"Deceit is in the heart of them that imagine evil." Proverbs 12:20.
"Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts (epithumia, as in James 1:14) of their hearts unto uncleanness." Romans 1:24.
The "lusts of their hearts" means the same as the "vile passions" of verse 26 that says, "God gave them up unto vile passions." The lustful, vile, passions existed before the acts of sin were committed. Mark 7:21-23 says,
"For from within, out of the heart of men, evil thoughts proceed, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetings, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, railing, pride, foolishness: all these things proceed from within, and defile the man."
The "evil thoughts" refer to "thoughts of evil things." These are the same "evil" things James is talking about; even the word "evil" is the same in both places. Jesus says that these things come out of the heart; the heart is the source for such wicked acts, the beginning place. John says, I John 2:9-11, 3:10-12, 15,
"He that saith he is in the light and hateth his brother is in the darkness even until now. He that loveth his brother abideth in the light, and there is no occasion of stumbling in him. But he that hateth his brother is in the darkness, and walketh in the darkness, and knoweth not whither he goeth, because the darkness hath blinded his eyes ... whosoever doeth not righteousnes is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother. For this is the message which ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another: not as Cain was of the evil one, and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his works were evil, and his brother's righteous ... Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him."
The heart is the source of the murder, but the hatred is also condemned, just as coveting is condemned. It wasnÕt the presence of Abel in the field that enticed Cain, that then produced the hatred in his heart for his brother and then prompted Cain to kill him. The hatred already existed in his heart long before and only sought the opportunity to fulfill it in the act of murder.
Galatians 5:24 says, "And they that are of Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts (epithumia) thereof." Here are the lusts of the flesh that must be abandoned. They could not refer to the normal appetites of the human body with which all are born; when we are converted, we do not give up any normal appetites. The lusts of the flesh did not come from God. Ephesians 4:22 says, "... that ye put away, as concerning your former manner of life, the old man, that waxeth corrupt after the lusts (epithumia) of deceit." These lusts have taken up residence in the inner man; they must be abandoned. I Peter 2:11 warns us to "abstain from fleshly lusts, (epithumia) that war against the soul." I Peter 4:2 says that "ye no longer should live the rest of your time in the flesh to the lusts (epithumia) of men, but to the will of God."
It should be evident to every Bible student that the lust in James 1:14 is an intense desire for, a craving for, evil things; it comes from the heart of the individual who is responsible for developing such lusts there in the first place. Keep in mind the context. God cannot be tempted with evil things, and does not tempt any man, but each man is tempted by his own lust. Surely, no one would say that lust in James 1:14 refers to a desire for something good, something righteous! Jesus says in Matthew 5:28 that to look on a woman to lust after her is to commit adultery with her already in the heart. A sex drive is built into humans and is normal, but to "lust after," from the single word epithumeo, is sinful and is a defilement of the heart!
By His Own [Lusts]
Keep this passage clearly in mind - God tells the men of Judah, in Jeremiah 18:11-12,
"return ye now every one from his evil way, and make your ways and your doings good. And they said, There is no hope: but we will walk after our own devices, and we will every one do the imagination of his evil heart."
The men of Judah would have no problem understanding James 1:13-15! The devices they walked after were their own and came from the imaginations of their own hearts. See also Jeremiah 3:17, 7:24, 16:12.
James 1:14 refers to each man's being tempted "when he is drawn away by his own lusts." The lusts are "his own lusts." This compares with I John 2:16 that speaks of "the lust (epithumia) of the flesh and the lust (epithumia) of the eyes and the vainglory of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world." John refers to lusts that did not come from God. These are not inherent in us by birth. They may be perversions of what we are as flesh and blood, but the emphasis is on the perversion called lust. These are our "own" cravings toward evil things.
The word used here for "own" is idios and means "pertaining to one's self, one's own; used a. univ. of what is one's own as opp. to belonging to another," Thayer, p. 296. Bauer, p. 369 adds to that, "peculiar to oneself." In John 5:18, Jesus calls God "His own Father" and the Jews rightly concluded that He made Himself equal with God. "His own Father" stated a relationship that was peculiar to Jesus. That is also why Romans 8:32 says that God spared not "his own Son." That was a one of a kind identity. I Corinthians 7:2 says that each man is to have "his own wife," and each woman is the have "her own husband." Those are particular relationships that belong to each individual alone that they share with no other. The list of the ways that the word idios is used can be multiplied, but the meaning should be clear by now.
"His own lusts" in James 1:14 do not refer to the inherent, God-given, acceptable desires that we equally share with all of humanity. The passage would have had to be stated that "each man is tempted when he is drawn away by the inherent, God-given desires that are common to all men and enticed to sin by outside influence." But, that is not how the passage reads nor is it what the passage teaches.
Each person has lusts of his own making, whether few or many, and differing from the number or kind of some other person. What one person craves is not necessarily what another craves at all. II Peter 3:3 speaks of mockers who would come "walking after their own [idios] lusts (epithumia)." This could not be said if the passage was speaking of what is common to all men by birth. This would have to be reworded to say they walked after lusts that everyone has! Further, these people could not walk after their own lusts until they had their own lusts to walk after; the lusts came first.
II Timothy 4:3 speaks of apostates who "will heap to themselves teachers after their own [idios] lusts (epithumia)." These are teachers who share the same lusts for evil as found in the apostates. Today, homosexuals will seek out religious leaders who will approve of their lusts. But, not all men share the lusts of the homosexuals, nor do they approve of their defenders; others, in their turn, may despise homosexuality but lust after the opposite sex, have eyes full of adultery. Each has his own list.
Some have objected in regard to these passages, about those walking after their own lusts, that they only "describe individuals already yielded to 'lust,' not individuals being tempted to sin." No, that objector has missed the point in a big way. James 1:14 is not at all talking about temptation coming from something outside the individual. To get that idea, it would have to read, "Each man is tempted to sin when he is drawn away and enticed by evil things that are thrown at him." But, it does not say that, nor does it say, "Each man is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by sinful acts that he sees around him." Just compare those versions with what the passage actually says, "each man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed." That is a very big difference.
The preposition "by" is from hupo. When used with a noun in the genitive and following a passive verb, it refers to agency. Whatever the noun may be, it is the agency of the action of the verb. In Matthew 4:1, Jesus is led into the wilderness [by] the Holy Spirit, that is, by the agency or means of the Holy Spirit. Further, He was tempted [by] (hupo) the devil, that is, by the agency of the devil. The temptations in the wilderness came from outside of Jesus, from Satan, and were attacks upon Him. In James 1:14, it says "by (hupo) his own lusts;" the agency of the temptation is man's own lusts for evil. The temptation arises from within man, not from without. The man of James 1:14 does it to himself.
Further, "drawn away" and "enticed" are both the exact same grammatical form joined by a conjunction. This means that the man of James 1:14 is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by means of his own lusts. His lust is the agency for both being drawn away and being enticed. The enticement is from within himself. Let us look at some other translations of these passages.
"But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when is sin is accomplished, it brings forth death." New American Standard.
"But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death." Revised Standard
"Temptation arises when a man is enticed and lured away by his own lust; then lust conceives, and gives birth to sin; and sin full-grown breeds death." New English Bible.
"And each one is tempted, by his own desires being led away and enticed, afterward the desire having conceived, doth give birth to sin, and the sin having been perfected, doth bring forth death." Young's Literal Translation.
"But each one is tempted, when he is drawn away and enticed by his own lusts. Then lusts, after having conceived, brings forth sin; and sin, when perfected, brings forth death." Estes Tranlation.
"When anyone is tempted, it is by his own desire that he is enticed and allured. Then desire conceives and gives birth to sin, and when sin is mature, it brings forth death." Goodspeed.
"But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death." NIV.
"But when a man is tempted, it is his own passions that carry him away and serve as a bait. Then the passion conceives, and becomes the parent of sin; and sin, when fully matured gives birth to death." Weymouth.
"But temptation is the pull of man's own evil thoughts and wishes. Then the evil thoughts lead to evil actions and afterward to the death penalty from God." Living Letters.
Weymouth probably states it the best: "when a man is tempted, it is his own passions that carry him away and serve as bait." Living Letters also presents it properly; "temptation is the pull of man's own evil thoughts and wishes."
Progression From Bad to Worse
Some still insist that the lust in these passages must be man's normal, inherent, God-given desires. If they were lusts toward evil, the man would sin already in his heart before committing an act of sin. Since sin does not appear until after the "conception," then the lusts must be acceptable. Actually, we have already seen from previous material that the lusts are lusts to do evil and not the harmless God-given desires. But, let us ex-plore it further.
The word "conceive" is from the word sullambano. It is an aorist, active, participle in James 1:15. It means "having conceived." It is used as a figure of speech here, coming from the idea of a woman conceiving in her womb. The conception of James 1:15 occurs in the drawing away and enticement by one's own lusts and takes place in the heart.
Psalm 7:14 says, "Behold, he travaileth with iniquity, and hath conceived mischief, and brought forth falsehood." The word "conceived" in the LXX is sullambano, as in James 1:15. The Hebrew word is harah and parallels sullambano in meaning. It is also used metaphorically in Psalm 7:14. Mischief is conceived, and falsehood is the product. Keep that in mind as we look at some other passages that use the Hebrew word harah.
Job 15:35 says, "They conceive mischief, and bring forth vanity, and their belly prepareth deceit." This is like Psalm 7:14, they conceive mischief. While in the Psalm they deliver iniquity, here it is vanity. At the same time, the belly (womb) is preparing deceit; there was more evil to come.
Isaiah 59:4 says, "None calleth for justice, nor any pleadeth for truth: they trust in vanity, and speak lies; they conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity." Again, this is like the other two verses. The word "iniquity" in the Septuagint is anomia, lawlessness, as in Matthew 7:23. It refers to lawless deeds.
Now, notice Isaiah 59:13, "In transgressing and lying against the Lord, and departing away from our God, speaking oppression and revolt, conceiving and uttering from the heart words of falsehood." The lies were first conceived in the heart and then from the heart the lies were spoken, just like in Mark 7:21-23. They proceed forth from the heart and defile the man.
In each of these passages, they conceive and prepare mischief, deceit, falsehood and bring forth in action, iniquity, vanity, deceit and lies. Each is talking about going from bad to worse, not from good to bad. It starts in the heart, the wickedness is already there, specific items are conceived and then brought forth in action.
Romans 7:5 says, "For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were through the law, wrought in our members to bring forth fruit unto death." There is no doubt that the "sinful passions" here are referring to lusts to do evil residing within them. The law defined them so they knew that they were sinful passions. He says that these sinful passions wrought in our members [bodies]. The word "wrought" is an imperfect middle verb, energeito, that refers to something that continued; it was not just a single act of something. It comes from energeo from which we get our English word, energy. It is a compound of the preposition en and ergon, meaning work. Lit-erally, it means to work in. Energy is an appropriate word for energeo. It means to work energetically, be operative in us; Bauer, p. 265 says, "the passions were at work in our members Ro 7:5." This is effort going on within the individual. The sinful passions were operative. Now, what was the result of that? The word "fruit," from karpophreo, is an aorist infinitive preceded by the prepositon eis. Eis with the infinitive establishes purpose. The sinful passions energetically working within the individual had only one purpose and result, bringing forth fruit unto death.
The question is immediate. Were not the sinful passions sinful of themselves before producing the fruit unto death? Well, it would be strange to say otherwise; sinful passions are sin. Why in the world then would Paul say that the sinful passions work-ing inside of us produced fruit unto death. Romans 7:4 says that our goal should be to bring forth fruit (karpophreo) unto God. But only good ground can produce good fruit (karpophreo), Matthew 13:23. In Romans 7:5, the ground is bad and can pro-duce only poison fruit.
Romans 7:5 parallels James 1:14-15. They both start with lusts to do evil, sinful passions. The lusts increase with intensity and activity, which is the being drawn away and being enticed by the sinful passions; that is the point of conception. "They conceive mischief, and bring forth iniquity." The sinful acts are then engaged. But, there is only one end to all of this: death.
Here is another passage that sheds light on our subject, I Timothy 6:9-10,
"But they that are minded to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and hurtful lusts, such as drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil: which some reaching after have been led astray from the faith, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows."
Being "minded to be rich" and "love of money" are saying the same thing. They refer to the lust in the heart for riches, coveting. That lust in the heart leads ("being drawn away and enticed by one's own lust") to all kinds of evil things that bring destruction and perdition. This one is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own lusts for riches and then goes downhill from there; it all started with the lust in the heart.
These passages are talking about the progression of sin, from bad to worse. Matthew 5:28 says, "every one that looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart." The sinful passions are already working in his members and thatÕs bad enough. All he lacks is the opportunity to fulfil the sinful passion he has activated toward the woman. The next step is to carry out the action conceived in the heart and bear the only fruit that such sinful passions can produce. James 1:14-15 deals with the whole range of bad to worse, taking into view the whole picture, as do other scriptures. Let us look at some other passages that tell us the same thing.
Romans 6:12 says, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey the lusts thereof." Sin would not reign in the mortal body if not for the lusts that were there first. The lust is the parent of the sin and bad enough of itself. Why add the act of sin to the evil lusts of the heart when the lusts were bad enough to begin with? Why did he not just say, "Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body" and stop there? Probably, he said it this way to show the progression from bad to worse. There is something worse than just looking on a woman to lust after her. The fulfillment of the lust in the act of adultery would include another person in the sin with all the evil consequences that come from that.
Romans 13:14 says, "Make no provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof." No doubt, this is talking about the lusts of the flesh as in Galatians 5:19ff. These cannot refer to the lawful, inherent desires we all received by birth; it is certainly lawful and proper to make provision to fulfil the lawful desires of the flesh. These lusts of the flesh are evil lusts. Just having the lusts of the flesh is sinful enough, but to go ahead and fulfil those lusts in acts of sin only compounds the sinful condition. Can anyone imply from this passage that it is all right for us to have these evil lusts of the flesh as long as we do not "fulfil" them? Certainly we cannot say that. Well, why add all the other provisions when Paul could have just said "do not have any lusts of the flesh?" There may be several reasons why God wanted things worded the way they are, but we do not have to know all of His reasons. This is just one way the Bible teaches us. Mark 7:21-23 says,
"For from within, out of the heart of men, evil thoughts proceed, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, covetings, wickednesses, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, railing, pride, foolishness: all these evil things proceed from within, and defile the man."
The word for "evil things" is the same word as in James 1:13. Jesus said that these things "proceed from within" and that defiles the man. Well, do not these things just residing within the heart defile us without proceeding from the heart? Certainly they do. Why did Jesus say it that way, then? Well, He is telling us where "evil things" come from. To hold such evil in the heart is bad enough, but to let it out is even worse. The Jews thought that what went into the person defiled a man, but Jesus said it was what came out of man that defiled him.
Some have raised the point of a difference in length of time between the lust, conception and birth of sin in James 1:14-15. They say, "it is not until the 'lust' yields to enticement that sin is brought forth. Therefore, a man can have these cravings and not be guilty of sin until he commits the overt act."
James 1:14-15 presents the subject in a figure of speech and we had best be careful about literalizing the figure. Sin is the baby born of lust conceiving and death is the result of the growth of sin to adulthood. If we try to literalize this figure, we have nine months between conception and birth of the sin and years to go until it is fullgrown at which point death enters the picture. If we put it on a temporal basis, death does not occur at the time we sin but long after. But, that is not true. James is just showing the order of the events; one follows the other. Romans 5:12 says, "by one man sin entered the world, and death through sin; and so death passed unto all men, for that all sinned." Romans 6:23, "the wages of sin is death." One follows the other.
The same is true even in regard to good results. Naaman had to first accept the word of the prophet, dip seven times in Jordan and then he was cleansed of leprosy. Israel had to believe God, turn and look at the serpent and then they were healed. The walls of Jericho fell only after they were compassed about for seven days. We must believe certain things, repent of our sins, confess the Lord before men, be baptized and then we have remission of sins. A certain order, a progression from one to the other is presented.
James 1:14-15 tells us that it all starts with lust for evil things in our hearts and progresses to death. Jesus had no such lust to do evil to begin with. There was no unrighteousness in Him, John 7:18. When men saw Him, they saw the Father because Jesus had the same character as the Father. The temptations that came to Jesus came at Him from without; they did not arise from within, as in James 1:14-15. He was perfect man, had all of the inherent, normal appetites that all men share, but He had all of those appetites under perfect control. Further, there was nothing unlawful, wicked or ungodly that man could put before Him that affected Him in the least.
II Peter 2:7-8 says, "And delivered righteous Lot, sore distressed by the lascivious life of the wicked (for that righteous man dwelling among them, in seeing and hearing, vexed his righteous soul from day to day with their lawless deeds)." Lot was certainly not as righteous as Jesus. If such ungodliness vexed Lot as it did, consider how Jesus reacted to all of man's ungodliness, inside and out! Jesus was more righteous than any person that ever lived on this earth, absolutely pure from the inside out.