Picture this, you’re at work and wasting some time looking at your Facebook page. Out of the blue you receive a friend request from a familiar name. It is an old girlfriend (or boyfriend) from high school. This was your first, and we all know we never forget our first…
You haven’t thought about this person for years. You sure had some good times back then, you can’t help but smile, you feel a familiar tingle in a certain part of your anatomy. You accept the friend request and begin chatting. Nothing serious, just catching up after all these years, but it isn’t long until you begin to reminisce about all those good times you had. You two could really get it on, yes sir. Soon you begin chatting at home. Your significant other comes in and asks who you are talking to. You tell her no one special. After a few weeks of chatting you learn one of you will be in the area of the other. Maybe you could get together for a drink or something…This my friends is temptation.
We have all been there at one time of another throughout our lives. It may be a situation like I just described, or something completely different. Maybe it was being invited out for a few beers after work even though you really need to be somewhere else. You know you shouldn’t go but you sure are thirsty and just don’t feel like going home. Just this one time won’t hurt. Or maybe each time you go into your local convenience store you see that rather large glass jar full of donations for some charity. You wonder how much is in there. You notice after a few visits that no one ever seems to be paying attention to it. You sure could use some extra cash. Maybe you could just walk out with it. More temptation.
So what’s so bad about temptation? After all temptation isn’t a sin is it? No, temptation isn’t a sin, but it will eventually lead to sin. If you act on temptation, then it will become a sin. Satan will keep sending you these temptations and unless you have a strong faith, he will wear you down. Soon you will begin to justify why you should do it and how it wouldn’t be wrong. “If my life partner doesn’t find out, then it’s okay.” “Everybody does it, so it must be okay.” This is when you usually begin to somehow find a way to bring God into it. “If this is a sin, why would God have made it feel so good?” “Why would God have let man develop computers?” These are the things that will “lure and entice” you and lead to sin. Do I sound like I might know what I am talking about? And my favorite “We always hear that God is testing us and it must be Him who makes these temptations come our way to see if we will succumb to them and I did so I blame Him.”
Well I have some news for you, that isn’t true. He may test us in other ways, but he certainly would never cause us to sin.
Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. – James 1:13 – 14 (RSV2CE)
Do not say, “Because of the Lord I left the right way” for he will not do what he hates. Do not say, “It was he who led me astray” for he has no need of a sinful man. – Sirach 15:11 – 12 RSV2CE
God doesn’t and won’t tempt us. As St. James tells us we are “lured and enticed” by our own desires. It is these desires that lead to sin. I suppose we could indirectly link God to temptation, after all He did give us “free will” allowing us to make our own choices. We can choose right or wrong, good or evil, just as Adam and Eve did. (Genesis 3: 1 – 6) We’ll get into Adam and Eve and the subject of free will in another post, but for now we’ll just say that God gave it to us and it is up to us as to how we use it. It is up to us to be responsible. I know, I know, we live in a culture when nothing is our own fault, well succumbing to temptation is, as is sinning.
Knowing that God isn’t the one tempting us is the first step in being able to overcome temptation. He doesn’t want us to sin and will help us not to, we only need to ask Him. Temptation is not sin, but if you act on the temptation it will lead to sin. And don’t forget that Jesus himself was tempted by Satan while he was in the desert, so he knows all about it.
For because he himself has suffered and been tempted, he is able to help those who are tempted. – Hebrews 2:18 (RSV2CE)
He knows what we are dealing with and He will give us the strength to handle it. “Ask and it shall be given.” We need to recognize temptation before we can resist it. How? Every choice we make has a result. Something will happen. If we look at the result, and it is a sin, then we know we are being tempted. How do we know if something is a sin? Start by reviewing the ten commandments. If you are going to break one (or more) of them, it’s a sin. Think about your action and follow it into the future. You may think meeting up with your old high school girlfriend is okay, but where might it lead? To adultery perhaps? I know what you are thinking “I won’t let that happen to me, I’ll just flirt and that will be that.” How I wish I could have done that. If you don’t stop it, you’ll go blind. Wait that is something else. If you don’t stop it, it will get more serious, more daring, more exciting and soon you will get to the next step. We will think about how good it would feel, how pleasurable it would be. That’s the thing about sins, they do have a way of bringing you pleasure.
What can you do so you won’t be led into temptation and then sin? Well the first and most obvious thing is to ask God for the strength to resist. Sometimes it is as easy as saying “Jesus, please give me the strength to resist temptation.” Pretty simple isn’t it? The second thing to do is to remove yourself from the temptation. That person you are talking to on Facebook? Block them or even better, don’t go onto Facebook. Spend a few minutes someday figuring out exactly how much time you waste there. Filter through everything you post or gets posted to your page, and you’ll probably find that most of it is of no importance. So, stop going there or limit yourself to a few minutes a day and only check what your family members are up to. But I’ll save my Facebook rant for another day. Any temptation that comes your way can be avoided be doing whatever you need to remove yourself from it. As anyone suffering from an addiction will tell you, one of the best ways to avoid drinking is to not hang around other drinkers. My wife recently quit smoking and one way she has been able to do it is to not hang out with the other smokers at work. It can be done, I have done it. I have removed myself from almost all the temptations I used to succumb to. And those I can’t avoid I ask God for the help I need.
It isn’t easy to resist temptation, but the rewards are well worth it.
Stay awake and pray not to be put to the test. The spirit is willing enough, but human nature is weak. – Matthew 26:41 (NJB)
The more you resist, the stronger you will become. Eventually Satan will give up trying and go find someone who is weaker.
My brothers, consider it a great joy when trials of many kinds come upon you, for you well know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance – James 1:2 – 3 (NJB)
Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you – James 4:7 (RSV2CE)
It may take some doing but it can be done. I know.
Please feel free to share this post. Maybe it will help someone you know. And of course, your comments are always welcome.