Temptation is always a hard topic to tackle, as it shows up in countless situations in both arenas of work and play. We give in to temptation perhaps more often than we would care to admit, and when you reach the heart of the matter, you may notice that none of us are very good at accepting responsibility for our junk. This can be seen especially in a culture where it is popular to rebel. Even in the Church today, it is becoming popular to be, well, sort of bad. Let’s face it, no one actually enjoys admitting when they are wrong, much less the consequences and discipline that often follows.
You’ve probably heard the old excuse “the devil made me do it.” A group of friends and I have been studying the book of James, recently, breaking down the verses applying to trials, wisdom, perseverance, and yes, temptation. As we discussed temptation, the conversation nearly immediately sought to place blame on Satan. Matthew 4:1 reads “Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” It might be easy, then, to say that Satan is the source of our temptation. He certainly has a knack for making the most destructive things seemingly attractive.
James, however, puts it like this: “but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire (or lust, as some translations put it) and enticed.” Their own evil desire. In other words, sin is the state that we default to. Our selfishness causes us to sin — the idea that God is somehow holding out on us, and we feel cheated. I hadn’t even noticed it until someone brought it to my attention after the group had gone their separate ways. I was just fine, not knowing, too, or so I thought. Even though I have never explicitly said anything to the tune of Satan making me bad, I was way too lazy and apathetic to accept that I had any responsibility in the equation.
I think (or, rather, I hope) we can all agree that Satan never made Adam and Eve eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, in the sense that he forced them to do so. That was a choice they made for themselves. Since the beginning of time, though, individuals have plead not guilty. Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the serpent. And if we take a closer look, Adam even seems to imply that it was God’s fault, by stating that “it was the woman you put here with me.” James warns against falling into the blame game with God.
To stop here would paint a very dismal picture. It may even make you angry. There is no way around the fact that we as humans make bad choices, and do so of our own volition. To say that anyone else is responsible for our choices may even imply that we did not need Jesus to go to the cross. But James goes on to explain the beauty of grace. God made a choice, too. James 1:18 says “He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of first fruits of all he created.”
The amazing, almost ridiculous thing about the Father, is how he pursues his children. Following Adam and Eve’s foible with the fruit, God came to the garden looking for them. Naturally, he knew their physical location. When he asks “where are you,” I believe he was asking about the condition of their hearts. He desired to commune with them even after the sin had been committed. Romans says that while we were still living in sin, Christ died for us.
So the next time you face temptation, consider where the temptation is coming from. While Satan’s mission is to make death appear enticing, the choice to give in or simply walk away is entirely up to you. And know that even when you do give in, God’s promises for your life are still yes and amen. He is faithful and just to forgive. The Lord disciplines those that he loves. He still longs to commune with you, his bride.