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Desire When It Has Conceived Gives Birth to Sin (James 115 and Proverbs 724-27)

Desire When It Has Conceived Gives Birth to Sin (James 1:15 and Proverbs 7:24-27)

James 1:15 says, “Desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” James 1:15 compares sin with pregnancy, pictured in Proverbs 7:24-27. When the foolish young man sinned with the harlot, the union’s most obvious and natural result is pregnancy. The child produced from that pregnancy, or sin, is death!

Consider these people who were killed by, of all things, their pets:

We know many animals are deadly. There are lots of stories of people being killed by animals. These stories stand out because the people kept the animals as pets.

All these people had one thing in common: they thought the animals didn’t threaten them. They thought the animals could be tamed and controlled. They thought they could have these animals in their lives without problems.

Marius owned the hippopotamus, and the article reads, and I quote, that he was “[warned repeatedly] that it was a wild animal that could never be tamed.” But he said, “There’s a relationship between me and the hippo, and that’s what some people don’t understand. They think you can only have a relationship with dogs, cats, and domestic animals. But I have a relationship with the most dangerous animal in Africa.”

This sounds crazy to us. Most of us agree that keeping wolves, bears, and hippopotamuses is a bad idea. These people thought the animals were safe because they got them when they were small and harmless. Over time, the animals grew and became deadly.

This illustrates what can happen with sin. We tend to treat our sin like a pet. It starts small and seemingly harmless, but then it grows into something deadly and kills us as well. This is the main point of James 1:15: “Desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.” And it is illustrated in Proverbs 7:24-27:

Proverbs 7:24 And now, O SONS, listen to me, and be attentive to the words of my mouth. 25 LET NOT YOUR HEART TURN ASIDE TO HER WAYS; DO NOT STRAY INTO HER PATHS, 26 for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain are a mighty throng. 27 Her house is the way to Sheol, going down to the chambers of death.

Don’t you hear the father pleading with his son?

  • Proverbs 1:8 Hear, MY SON, YOUR FATHER’S INSTRUCTION, and forsake not your mother’s teaching…
  • Proverbs 1:10 MY SON, if sinners entice you, do not consent…
  • Proverbs 1:15 MY SON, do not walk in the way with them;
  • Proverbs 2:1 MY SON, if you receive my words and treasure up my commandments with you
  • Proverbs 3:1 MY SON, do not forget my teaching, but let your heart keep my commandments,

Proverbs 4, 5, 6, and 7 begin the same way. The word “son” occurs almost 50 times because Proverbs is written as a father speaking to his son. Proverbs is indeed for everyone. It is the book of wisdom, and we all benefit from gaining wisdom; however, because Proverbs is written as a father talking to his son, young men receive a special benefit.

So, young men can read these verses and hear me pleading to resist the harlot. Young men hear Solomon, the human author of Proverbs, pleading to resist the harlot. But I hope even more that you look past Solomon and me to the even greater Person pleading with you in these verses, and that is God the Father.

We know from the previous verses that the foolish young man was killed by the harlot. So, the Father lovingly reaches out to his sons, trying to prevent them from experiencing the same. He says, “After seeing what happened to the foolish young man, listen to me, pay attention to my words, so you don’t end up like him.”

Sin Begins in the Heart

Proverbs 7:8 [He passed] along the street near her corner, taking the road to her house

Now, I’m not trying to sound overly simple, but the foolish young man physically headed toward her house. Now look at what the Father says in verse 25:

Proverbs 7:25 Let not YOUR HEART TURN ASIDE TO HER WAYS; do not stray into her paths,

So, which is it? Did he turn aside toward the harlot, or did his heart turn aside toward her? Yes!

In verse 25, the words “turn aside” suggest walking somewhere, but obviously, our hearts don’t walk anywhere. So why does it say this? The heart is being personified as someone with the potential to go somewhere.

So here’s something we should learn from this: Before the young man physically turned aside toward the harlot’s house, his heart had already turned aside and gone that way. Before he ever took a physical step in that direction, he had already taken a step in that direction in his heart. This is why we’re told to guard our hearts:

Proverbs 4:23 Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life.

There’s an emphasis on keeping or protecting our hearts because the rest of us will follow where our hearts go. Our hearts determine the course of our lives. If we let our hearts go where they shouldn’t, we will soon find ourselves going where we shouldn’t. Listen to Jesus’ words that also make this point:

Matthew 15:18 What comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. 19 For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.

Before we say anything, it first comes out of our hearts. Our hearts determine our speech. Jesus makes the same point about our actions in the next verse. Before we ever commit these sins, they first come from our hearts. Our hearts determine what we do and think. So, the real battle with sin occurs in our hearts, so we must keep them from turning aside toward the wrong things.

Even the Strong and Mighty Must Be on Guard

The chapter is about a foolish young man, described in Proverbs 7:7 as simple and lacking sense. So it’s pretty easy to look at him and think, “Sure, he failed. He’s foolish and simple.” We might even say, “He’s weak. We would expect this to happen to him.”

And then, what do we think next? “But this would never happen to me! I’m not that foolish or simple. I wouldn’t have the same problems as him. He was weak, but I’m too strong for this to happen to me!” To prevent us from thinking this, God says:

Proverbs 7:26 for many a victim has she laid low, and all her slain ARE A MIGHTY THRONG.

The harlot doesn’t just take down simple, foolish men. She has taken down plenty of mighty, strong men as well. How is she able to do this? Sin deceives us. It lies to us. It appeals to our pride and makes us believe we’re strong enough to handle it.

If there were certain places in the Bible we should remember, this is one of them: remember that sin has taken down many mighty men. Remember this verse when you let your guard down and believe you won’t have any problems. When considering giving in to temptation, you might even turn to these words, read them, and remind yourself of the strong men who have been slain by sin.

The Wages of Sin Is Death

Notice death is the theme in these verses:

  • In verse 22, an ox to the slaughter and a deer in a trap
  • In verse 23, an arrow pierced a deer’s liver, a bird in a snare, and the foolish young man didn’t know it would cost him his life
  • In verse 26, she has slain many strong men
  • In verse 27, her house leads to Sheol and death.

There are 8 references to death in 4 verses. God wants us to know that sin leads to death!

Sin Is Compared to Pregnancy Because It Gives Birth to Death

James 1:15 When desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.

This verse is filled with the language of pregnancy: “conceived,” “gives birth,” and “brings forth” are all ways of describing pregnancy. James is talking about sin having a child of its own. He’s saying that if sin is allowed to mature when it is full-grown, it will bring forth – or it will have a child of its own – and that child is death. It may take years for sin to grow to this point, but when it does, it produces death. And this is far from the only place in Scripture to compare sin with pregnancy. Consider these verses:

  • Job 15:35 They CONCEIVE TROUBLE and GIVE BIRTH TO EVIL, and THEIR WOMB PREPARES DECEIT.
  • Psalm 7:14 Behold, the wicked man CONCEIVES EVIL and is PREGNANT WITH MISCHIEF and GIVES BIRTH to lies.
  • Isaiah 59:4 No one enters suit justly; no one goes to law honestly; they rely on empty pleas, they speak lies, they CONCEIVE MISCHIEF and GIVE BIRTH TO INIQUITY.

When we see a theme in scripture such as this, it is an example of God repeating himself, something he does to ensure we don’t miss something. So, we don’t want to miss that sin is compared with pregnancy.

James 1:15 compares sin with pregnancy, and that’s pictured in Proverbs 7! When the foolish young man sinned with the harlot, what was one of that union’s most obvious and natural results? Pregnancy!

One of the reasons a harlot might have been chosen to personify sin is because when the young man sinned with her, there was the possibility of pregnancy. And the child produced from that pregnancy, or sin is death! Death is described this way in James 1:15, illustrated in Proverbs 7:22-27. Commentators who see it this way:

When we think of sin, we think of it causing problems, hurting people, leading to regret or shame, and requiring repentance. But we probably don’t think of it leading to death. That might even sound a little dramatic.

Have you ever rebuked someone and said, “Hey, if you don’t repent, it will kill you?” Probably not, unless they were committing a sin that you could see killing them, such as reckless behavior or an addiction to drugs or alcohol.

So, why are there so many verses about sin giving birth to death when we know sin doesn’t typically result in death? How many times have we sinned, yet we’re still alive? It isn’t talking just about physical death. Eventually, sin leads to physical death, but before that, it leads to plenty of other deaths.

The main point is that sin is incredibly destructive. For example, sin can lead to the death of a job. How many people have lost jobs because of sins they committed?

Sin can lead to the death of people’s health. Even if people haven’t died because of sin, they still experience the physical consequences of sin, such as diseases or wear-and-tear on their bodies from years of sinful living. Many verses make this point:

Psalm 31:10 My life is spent with sorrow, and my years with sighing; MY STRENGTH FAILS BECAUSE OF MY INIQUITY, AND MY BONES WASTE AWAY…Psalm 32:3 MY BONES WASTED AWAY through my groaning all day long. 4 For day and night your hand was heavy upon me; MY STRENGTH WAS DRIED UP AS BY THE HEAT OF SUMMER. Selah…Psalm 38:3 There is NO SOUNDNESS IN MY FLESH because of your indignation; there is NO HEALTH IN MY BONES because of my sin.

The psalmist said his sin sucked away his vitality and described the physical toll his sin took. David wrote this after he committed adultery and murder. It was killing him physically!

Sin can lead to the death of self-respect and dignity. How many men can’t lead their families well because they don’t respect themselves because of the sin they’re committing?

Sin has caused the death of how many marriages? How many families and relationships have been killed by sin? Relationships with children, parents, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.

Because we can’t lose our salvation, I’m not going to tell you sin leads to the death of our relationships with Christ. But I can tell you there’s a death sin causes that we probably don’t think enough about, and that’s the death of our sanctification. Sin kills our sanctification. Sin reverses sanctification and makes us less like Christ.

And the list could go on with all the potential deaths caused by sin. There isn’t one specific death sin can produce. Sin can produce death in many areas of our lives. Charles Spurgeon said, “If you will not put sin to death, sin will put you to death. There is no alternative. If you do not die to sin, you shall die for sin. If you do not slay sin, sin will slay you.”

Sin Is Compared to Pregnancy Because It Is a Process

Pregnancy and sin are not instantaneous. Both take time. We think of sin as a single act, but God sees it as a process, and that process is described in James 1:14 and 15:

James 1:14 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 fully grown brings forth death.

Think of the foolish young man in Proverbs 7. Was he walking along, tripped, and fell, and the next thing you know, he found himself committing adultery with the harlot? No, he took many steps. His sin was a process. Consider David in 2 Samuel 11. He had to go through a process to sin with Bathsheba, and then he had to go through another process to murder Uriah.

The first degree [of temptation] relates to the mind – it is dragged away from its duties by the deceit of sin. The second aims at the affections – they are enticed and entangled. The third overcomes the will – the consent of the will is the conception of actual sin. The fourth degree disrupts our way of life as sin is born into it. The fifth is the flesh’s goal, a hardened life of sin, which leads to eternal death.

Kris Lundgaard, The Enemy Within, 1998, P&R Publishing, p. 58.

This also means that before we sin, there are many opportunities for us to turn from, or repent, of the course we’re on:

1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.

This verse means that before sinning, we can decide to use the means of escape God provided.

Sin Is Compared to Pregnancy Because It Grows

James 1:15 says, “Desire, when it has conceived, gives birth to sin, and sin WHEN IT IS FULLY GROWN brings forth death.” Unfortunately, here’s the thought we often have when it comes to sin: “I’ll stop eventually. At some point, I’ll repent and bring this to an end. Just not yet. And until I do, my sin will remain the same. It won’t get any worse.”

So, let’s say we plan on repenting weeks, months, or years down the road. By the time we repent, do we think our sin will look the same as it does now? Do we think it won’t have grown, taken over some part of our life, and become stronger and harder to remove? Sin is not stagnant. It doesn’t remain the same. The longer sin is in our lives, the stronger and more mature it becomes. It keeps growing and growing and growing.

Assuming we don’t repent, sin grows in our lives just like a baby grows in the womb. Without repentance, our lives become the incubators for sin to thrive. This is one of the most important reasons in Scripture that we must repent as early as possible. It’s the only way to remove sin before it grows.

This is why repentance is a continual part of Christian life on this side of heaven. Repentance is not a one-time act. It is the behavior of Christians who want to conform to Christ’s image and likeness.

But What About When We Still Sin?

No matter how many sermons we hear like this, we will continue to sin. Like Paul, we will find ourselves saying:

Romans 7:15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

So here’s some encouragement: We are deeply convicted not to sin, but we can be freely forgiven through the gospel when we do.

Think about David’s adultery and murder. Something that made them even worse was his accountability: he was the king of God’s people. God blessed him greatly, bringing him out of that shepherd’s field to be the leader of Israel. And making him most accountable, he knew God’s Law very well. He wasn’t ignorant. He wasn’t like the Ninevites. He wasn’t like Saul before he became Paul. He wasn’t even like those who crucified Jesus, not knowing they were crucifying the Son of God.

We’ve been talking about sin giving birth to death, and if anyone’s sins ever should’ve resulted in death, it was David’s. But he confessed, and Nathan said:

2 Samuel 12:13 “The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die.”

As freely as David could be forgiven and his sins taken away, we can be freely forgiven and our sins taken away. The grace and mercy David knew when he sinned is the same grace and mercy we can know when we sin. Earlier, I shared half of Romans 6:23, but here’s the whole verse:

Romans 6:23 The wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We are going to experience physical death because of our sins. But we don’t have to experience eternal death. Because of Jesus’s perfect, sinless life and sacrifice on the cross, we can be given eternal life.

2 Responses

  1. “I would like you to be free from concern. An UNMARRIED MAN is concerned about the Lord’s affairs-how he can please the Lord. But a MARRIED MAN is concerned about the AFFAIRS of this world- how he can please his wife, and his interests are divided.”
    1 Corinthians 7:32-34

    “I will remove the heart of stone from your body and give you a
    HEART OF FLESH.
    I will give you a new heart, and a NEW SPIRIT I will put within you.
    AND I will put my spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws”.
    Ezekiel 36:26-27

    “Take delight in the Lord and He will give you the DESIRES OF YOUR HEART”
    Psalm 37:4-5

    1. Hello Jerry,
      Thank you for sharing these verses, but did you want to give any context to them? In other words, would you like to explain the relationship you see these verses having to the post? Thanks and God bless!

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