James: Are Desires Good or Evil?

by Randy Carlson

Desire is a very powerful force in our lives, and I am convinced it’s the root of why it’s so difficult for us to live intentionally. The reason we get into trouble is because our desires are not aligned with what God has for us.

James 1:14-15 says, “Each one is tempted when, by this 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.”

There are four things James notes about the word, desire, that can help us be more intentional in our lives.

1.     James says desire is personal. We are drawn away are tempted by our own evil desires. Satan is a deceiver and a liar, but ultimately, his biggest trick is to build desires within you that will draw you the wrong direction. But ultimately you choose to follow your own desires.

2.     Desire is powerful. James describes it like you are being dragged away. Have you ever experienced a desire for something, and it felt like someone grabbed you by the collar and pulled you into it?

Let’s just get real for a minute. In psychology, we talk about food filling a hole of some unmet need in your life, which is true.  We could analyze these things, but the fact is food can develop as a desire center. How about the desire for power?  We see power in politics, and how it corrupts. People go through great loss when they lose power. How about the desire for sex, which is God-given? As Christians, in marriage, should have the best sex lives. 1 Corinthians 7 is pretty clear about that, but we take things that should be normal desires that God has placed in a box, and they become distorted.

The desire for control for some people is a big issue.  I wrestle with that one. You’ve always got to know where the boundaries are in having that sense of control. Intellectually I don’t control much, but I have this desire to make sure there are things I can control.

3.     Desire is progressive after it is conceived. It is like a seed is put into the ground, growing and developing into whatever that seed is.

Desire demands more to be satisfied, but it is never satisfied. Some of us have family with an addiction – it’s a very powerful force. There’s draw that pulls people into needing more and more, even though intellectually they know the desire for that ultimately will kill them, it overtakes their life.

4.     Desire is perilous. Ultimately, according to our verses in James, left unchecked, it will lead to sin and death.

God’s intention for us to be led by His desires. His desires drive us to live.

How do you know when you are driven by your desires?


Our biggest enemy is ourselves.

I’m the one that gets in my own way. Have you ever noticed that you get up and you realize that our greatest enemy isn’t our spouse, our neighbors or our culture? Some days it’s not even Satan, it’s you!  For example, we:

·       Procrastinate on important things.

·       Eat what’s unhealthy for us.

·       Say things that are unkind.

·       Buy what is unaffordable.

·       Trust those who are unreliable.

·       Support rules that are unjust

·       Think what is untrue.


That is how many of us live our lives.  In fact, we even have a vocabulary to identify this thing of the problem of self.  We use phrases like, “I’m my own worst enemy,” or “I’m going to shoot myself in the foot.” We set ourselves up for failure.

The problems we face in life have roots that go into yesterday’s desires and into yesterday’s actions.  We become a product of the things that we desire in our lives. The desires of our heart get us into trouble. Even the Apostle Paul had this challenge in Romans 7.  He said, “For I have the desire to do what is good, but I can’t carry it out.” He admits that of all the things that he knew in his relationship with Christ, and all that he went through, the biggest problem he had was himself. He got in his own way.

We live in a world of good intentions.  Living intentionally in Christ is hard because the desires we have can be the problem.  If you change your desires, that changes your actions, and ultimately changes your life.

What is desire? From a biblical perspective, the word desire means something I long for.  It’s a deep, abiding thing that grabs hold of me, and I desire it. The world tells us we should desire – a new car, a new way of living, or a new experience.  The world constantly places things in front of us to distract us. If we pick those things up, they become the desires of our heart, and unfortunately create problems.

God’s intention for us to be led by His desires. His desires drive us to live.

Think about your desires. Where did they come from? How did your desires from yesterday impact your life today? What one thing can you do during these next 30 days that will help you align your desires to God’s desires to bring Him glory? 

The Psalmist in Psalm 37:4 says: Delight yourself in the Lord and he will give you the desires of your heart. In the Hebrew, the word delight means total dependence upon, and pleasure in. When you have total dependence, and pleasure in God, then he will give you the desires of your heart.

Take a challenge for the next 30 days. Every day, get up and say, Lord, give me the right desires in my heart that are in alignment with your intentions for my life.  Whatever the desire I have may it be in accordance with your will because I am totally dependent upon you.  

www.theintentionallife.com. Used by permission of the author.

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