When I Am Tempted...
I have a confession. I am a pastor and I face temptation.
Chocolate tempts me. And most any other kind of dessert. And potatoes. And bread. Well, food. Food tempts me.
New and shiny tempts me. Especially electronics. The new iPhone 12 is out and I feel the itch to upgrade from my current iPhone 11, even though it's functioning perfectly. Apple hasn't even released the first MacBook with its own processor that promises to be faster and more efficient, and I want one.
I could go on. And so could you. The world is filled with temptations. A lot of temptation revolves around the big three: money, sex and power. We each have our own individual weak spots where temptation is concerned, and this fallen world offers a temptation buffet. (Ironic, isn't it, that an overweight pastor uses a food illustration in talking about temptation!)
Temptation is so prevalent and so important to human beings that the first thing the first humans faced after being created was the temptation to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit. The book of Genesis only gets to chapter three and there is the crafty serpent, tempting Eve. And just like the rest of us, she gives in. And Adam follows suit (before cards were even invented). And just like them, so do we.
We have a powerful story of what to do when tempted later in Genesis. Jacob has 12 sons, and his youngest, Joseph, is his favorite. (Cue Tommy Smothers saying to his brother, "Mom always liked you best!") In jealousy and spite, his brothers sell Joseph as a slave and he ends up in the house of Potiphar, the Captain of the Guard to the King of Egypt.
God blesses Joseph, and he rises in position to become Potiphar's head servant. He is trusted like Bruce Wayne trusts Alfred. Potiphar's wife is attracted to Joseph, and seeks to seduce him. Here is what Joseph does with that:
And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her. (Genesis 39:10 NIV) Joseph resisted temptation by isolating himself from its source. He stayed away from his master's wife. And Joseph tells her why:
But he refused. “With me in charge,” he told her, “my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:8-9 NIV)
Note that last sentence. "How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?" Joseph had a different perspective on temptation and sin than we usually have. Our focus would be on how we could do such a thing and sin against Potiphar. We tend to take temptation and sin to the arena of "two consenting adults." We tend to rank sin in terms of its effect on other human beings.
Joseph understood that all temptation is temptation to disobey the One who created us and loves us beyond our comprehension. All sin is accountable to God. This should motivate us to take sin, and therefore temptation, seriously.
What does God say to do with temptation? I'll leave you with three verses of Scripture:
Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. (James 4:7 NIV) In a word: Resist!
Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22 NIV) In a word: Flee!
No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it. (1 Corinthians 10:13 NIV) Take the way out God provides. This often involves support and accountability with other believers.
And a final word: Pray. Pray for the power of God's Holy Spirit to strengthen your resolve to resist temptation and not just give in. Move closer to Christ and His power will change the desire of your heart to be like Joseph's. Temptation loses its power over a heart that is fully set on honoring God. And like Joseph, we can take the way out God always provides when temptation tests us.
All right. Enough for today. I wonder what's for lunch?