Biblical Interpretation from Someone with no Training in Biblical Interpretation
I feel your heartbeat to the beat of the drums,
Oh what a shame you came here with someone.
But while you’re here in my arms,
Let’s make the most of the night like we’re gonna die young.
-Ke$ha, “Die Young”
Ooh, this song has a great rhythm.
This is really catchy.
BE GONE WITH YOU, SATAN!
-The Layman, listening to the above lyrics for the first time (really)
In his book of the Bible, James is not known for mincing words; which for me, after reading through all 66 chapters of Isaiah, is quite a relief. This is likely the only time you will see me say that reading the book of James is a relief, as his very direct style leaves a reader with no excuses for being less than perfect. Today, James bluntly tells us that temptation can lead to death. He writes
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 (James 1:14-15).
As you can see, James draws a short line between temptation, sin, and death. He is neither wrong, nor exaggerating. That which tempts us today may kill us tomorrow. To understand this concept better, let’s look at King David’s oldest son, Amnon.
Amnon, being the son of the king of Israel, could have almost anything he wanted. However, as James would put it, overcome by his own evil desires, he wanted that which he could not have. We read,
In the course of time, Amnon son of David fell in love with Tamar, the beautiful sister of Absalom son of David.
Amnon became frustrated to the point of illness on account of his sister Tamar, for she was a virgin, and it seemed impossible for him to do anything to her (2 Samuel 13:1-2).
That’s right, he wanted his sister. In fact he wanted her so bad it made him sick. This means that he was driven away from all of his normal (and probably healthier) activities to focus on his abnormal desire. Now, according to Jesus, Amnon had already crossed into sin territory, for he says in Matthew 5:27-28, “You have heard it said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” However, we’ll let Amnon off the hook for this one, as from time to time all of us are tempted to do weird things.
This lust for his sister made Amnon crazy. So crazy in fact that he and his friend concocted an oddball scheme in order to get Tamar into his arms. The story continues as his friend gives Amnon a very goofy plan,
“Go to bed and pretend to be ill,” Jonadab said. “When your father comes to see you, say to him, ‘I would like my sister Tamar to come and give me something to eat. Let her prepare the food in my sight so I may watch her and then eat it from her hand” (2 Samuel 13:5).
Oh no, that doesn’t sound suspicious at alllllll. As an aside, I’d like to note, when your temptation brings you to coming up with weird plans to arrange what you’d like to happen- people notice that something is up. Anyway, Amnon, desperate for his sister, went along with this plan and got Tamar into his room- with bread in hand. “But, when she took it to him to eat, he grabbed her and said, ‘Come to bed with me, my sister’” (2 Samuel 13:11). One can imagine how well this request went over. As a last ditch effort on her part, Tamar tried to convince Amnon to ask their father for permission to marry before doing anything too wild. Amnon knew however that this would likely be his last and only chance to do what he wanted to do. So we read in 2 Samuel 13:14, “But he refused to listen to her, and since he was stronger than se, he raped her.” By raping his sister, Amnon not only broke the seventh commandment (“You shall not commit adultery” [Deuteronomy 5:18]), he also broke the law in terms of unlawful sexual relations found Leviticus 18:9, “Do not have sexual relations with your sister, either your father’s daughter or your mother’s daughter, whether she was born in the same home or elsewhere.” So Amnon doubled dipped in sin after desiring his sister.
This leads to step three of James’ warning against temptation: death. Now James says that when sin is full grown, it brings death. Indeed, at first Amnon had gotten away with his sin. However, his sister was deemed unable to marry and ended up living with their brother Absalom. Absalom loved his sister (in a non-sexual way) and it sickened him to see his sister’s life ruined, and to live with the results day after day. The Bible records, “Absalom never said a word to Amnon, either good or bad; he hated Amnon because he had disgraced his sister Tamar” (2 Samuel 13:22). Two years later, Absalom threw a feast for all of his brothers. It was here that Amnon paid for his sin,
Absalom ordered his men, “Listen! When Amnon is in high spirits from drinking wine and I say to you, ‘Strike Amnon down,’ then kill him. Don’t be afraid. Have I not given you this order? Be strong and brave.” So Absalom’s men did to Amnon what Absalom had ordered. Then all the king’s sons god up, mounted their mules and fled (2 Samuel 13:28-29).
The story of Amnon played out just like James called it: desire-sin-death.
I am not condoning Absalom murdering his brother, what I am saying though is that though it seems extreme, James is not off-base when he confronts the issue of temptation. He’s right; temptation and sin can lead to one’s death. Paul writes,
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Knowing this and that giving into temptation can lead to death, pray that the Lord will give you strength to overcome that which tempts you. For only through a relationship with our Risen Savior Christ Jesus can we really fill that gaping hole inside us that the devil tries to push sin into. Never give up. Resist the slippery slope of temptation and preserve your life!