The hazy sunlight filtered down through the floating algae creating columns of highlighted water from the shadows above. In the chilled, lower layer of the lake lurked a large-mouthed, round-eyed, seven-finned master of his own destiny, a slave to none but his own desires. Daily, smaller fish would swim through the columns of filtered sunlight above casting a shadow of their own demise on the beady eyes beneath. In a dash and a gulp, a massive jaw would open engulfing the prey leaving nothing but swirling algae as a reminder of the little life recently lost. On this morning, as the roar of a thousand grasshoppers began to drill across the lake, there was a splash in the water above. As a little fish darted above carelessly, the beady eyes locked onto their target. With the carefree swimmer dancing through a column of sunlight, the monster from the depths leapt at the sparkling little body and gathered it into its mouth in one fluid gasp.
But as the mouth closed around the prey, something was different. From within the little fish a thin wire led out of the large fish’s mouth. As he gulped the little fish, something yanked on the wire and a sharp hook imbedded itself in the mouth of monster. Splashing and jumping, rolling and flipping, fighting with every ounce of strength his body could muster could not prevent the inevitable. By his own uncontrolled desires he had been snared and had now become prey himself. Desire had brought his death.
Many of us go through life seeking to live by principles and making all our moves by distinct direction and resolve, but unfortunately there are moments that we, like a mindless large-mouthed bass leap at the bait of our own desires. With the view of danger and destruction clouded by desire and the offer of pleasure, we blindly abandon principles and inhibitions and plummet headlong into our own demise. Our unbridled desire brings our own destruction.
As James continues to explain the need for wisdom in the life of a Christian, he takes us on a tangent truth that must be clarified. He started his book talking to believers about the inevitable persecution and challenges that they would face and described how they should endure patiently through their suffering by trusting in the goodness and wisdom of God. There is however a different set of troubles that we may experience at times and we should not simply confuse these with the sanctifying work of a gracious God. These other troubles, as it were, come from our own sinfulness. James tells us that before we go on enduring trials as if they were God sent, we should first check to see if we were brought into these hard times by our own unbridled desires that have cultivated a quickly metastasizing sin problem.
If like the duped fish, we have been baited into sinning, endurance is not what is needed, repentance is. We should turn from our sin immediately. James tells us that we should “lay apart all filthiness,” and in verse 16, he says, “do not err,” and that we should “receive with meekness the word” of God which is “able to save our souls.” Endure trials. But if those trials are self-inflicted by our desire and sinning, realize that repentance is what is needed. If we go on sinning, we will not survive. James warns that those who let sin run their lives find only death and destruction at the end of it. The pursuit of Godless pleasure brings Godforsaken pain.
Food For Thought: Why do people sin? What is the difference between how we should react to the trials brought by God and trouble brought by sin?