TEMPTATION – HOW DOES ONE DEAL WITH IT?

Do you recall when I wrote in the last Bible Study blog about King David and his strolling around on the roof at night to cool off?  He saw a woman bathing on another rooftop below, and he should have turned away.  Instead, he stuck around and gazed at her long enough to see that she was beautiful.  Seeing the woman was the temptation, and his sticking around long enough to see she was beautiful, there was the sin that was the basis for all the resultant calamities that befell him and the nation of Israel.  I mentioned then a promise that is found in I Corinthians 10: 13:

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.

Temptation is the act of thinking about doing something when you are pretty sure you shouldn’t do it.  That’s my definition.  Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary {copyright by Cambridge University Press and viewed on 9/8/2020} defines it as “the desire to have or do something, esp. something wrong, or something that causes this desire”.

Now let’s look at the verse above.  As a child, did you ever do something to a sibling or a classmate (or forbid, to a parent) and you ran like crazy to get away?  But the person you just wronged caught up to you and grabbed you by your shirt or by your arm?  You couldn’t get away, could you?  You were grabbed so tightly and forcefully that you could not wriggle away from the grip.  That’s the meaning of the word “seized” in the verse.  That first sentence in the verse states that the desire to do something you know you shouldn’t do has grabbed you by the shirt and won’t let go – that desire is common to all humankind: men AND women, to you and me.

What could be your temptation?  It may be wanting to talk nasty to a family member, desiring to putting them down rather than encouraging them.  Perhaps it’s wanting to stay up late playing a video game (me) or working on a project that could wait until later instead of going to bed and approaching the next day refreshed and ready to address any task.  Perhaps it’s to lie to a spouse about where you’ve been when you know they wouldn’t approve. Perhaps it’s calling in sick to work or school when you are feeling perfectly fine so you can watch a game on TV.  Maybe you would like to fudge a bit on the figures in your income taxes so you can keep more of the money for yourself.

Consider, if you will, that there are areas in your life that are not a temptation for you but might be for others.  When I walk into a store, I am not tempted to put something in my pocket and try to walk out the doors with it.  That’s not an area of temptation for me.  But for some others, it could be a real struggle each time they enter a store.  I have other areas of temptation, but that’s not one of them.    This idea of temptation is far-reaching, and it could be anything that fits the Cambridge definition above.  This is not a psychology class, so that’s about as far as I’m going to take this particular idea of what triggers a temptation.  You get the idea.

What does it say next?  “And God is faithful”  Where have you seen this phrase before?  How about in the great promise of confession in I John 1: 9? 

“If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

In short, you can count on God; God is trustworthy.  He is unwavering in his love for you (see John 3: 16) and his desire to see you have a full and meaningful life (see John 10:10).  And the promise of this sentence in the verse we’re studying is that, as a result, God will not let you be crushed by the temptation.  When you recycle cardboard (I hope you do recycle), you can rip the box apart at the seams, cut it up with a box knife, or you can stomp on it to flatten the box for preparation to recycle.  Have you tried to do the same to an old refrigerator?  I can tell you that you won’t be able to do it.  To pursue this metaphor, you as the stomper represent the temptation for someone, and God makes it so the person tempted will not be crushed or flattened by your stomping on the refrigerator of their will.

And this next part in 1 Corinthians 10: 13, is really neat.  WHEN you are tempted (the Apostle Paul, as the writer of the letters to the church in the city of Corinth, did not say, “If” . . . it’s going to happen . . . God will provide an escape route so that you will be strong in confronting the temptation.  If you are tempted to do something that you know isn’t right, you don’t have the right to say as Flip Wilson’s character Geraldine, “The devil made me do it.”  [Yes, I dated myself, but I’m sure you can find Geraldine on YouTube.].  Or Abbott and Costello: 

https://youtu.be/zXMHaYoc9J8

God has provided you the means to make the decision that you know is right and not make the decision that you know is not pleasing to him. The decision is your decision and no one else’s.

For another thought on this matter, if you consider yourself to be a godly person, you may be TEMPTED to judge others who are struggling in their lives. “Why do they keep drinking when they know it’s bad for them.”  “Why do they keep shooting heroin or snorting coke?”  “Why don’t they stop smoking tobacco?”  “Why are my pain medications disappearing from my medicine cabinet?” Medically, this falls into the area of addiction as a disease rather than a moral shortcoming.  The body or brain has come to need those chemicals to function, and almost always, the addiction can usually be cured only by professional intervention and/or the addict’s strong will power to break the chemical’s hold on the person.  The TEMPTATION was in being enticed to try it the first time, either by someone’s persuasive argument, peer pressure, or just wanting to try something new.  The SIN was in trying it out the first time or enough times to become dependent on the chemical rush those products provide.  After addiction, then it’s time for love and encouragement rather than personal judgment for the person to help them decide for themselves to want to change their chemical dependency.

While we’re on the subject of temptation, did you know Jesus of Nazareth was tempted?  He was tempted in the Wilderness to forego his designation and appointment as a Messiah, as Christ, and take the easy way out.  Later, in Hebrews, the writer states the following:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin. [Hebrews 4: 15, NIV]

There is nothing that you are tempted to do or to think or to have an attitude about in which Jesus, the Christ, the Son of God, hasn’t already been tempted.  And as it says in our feature passage, the temptation that has grabbed ahold of your shirt and is forcing you to make a decision about pleasing God or not pleasing God is not your special, “you-only” temptation.  Whatever it is, it is common to the human race – and Jesus has already been there and has chosen to make the right God-pleasing decision.  This verse is very encouraging to me as it tells me that Jesus has already experienced every kind of temptation, but he chose to not do the act or give in to the attitude that is wrong in the sight of God.  Remember that my definition of “sin” is “anything that interferes with your relationship with God, with others or with yourself.”  Temptation is the decision-making stage before what you are wanting to do becomes a sin or becomes a decision that pleases God.

Photo by fauxels on Pexels.com

Published by John M

I think differently. Every once in a while, I have an insight or a thought that could be useful to others. My background is over 30 years in church leadership & 30 years in social work with M.Div. and M.S.W. degrees - and yes, I do enjoy retirement. My heart is in teaching. And I try to teach in a way that you don't have to have a degree to understand it. So, join me on this journey we call Life as we explore God, the Bible, the Church and the world around us together. I've been married to my wife for 48 years. We have three grown and married children of whom we are very proud. And they have blessed us with seven grandchildren. We both grew up in Washington State, but we now live in North Carolina with a lot of experience between those two points.

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