And don’t let us yield to temptation, but rescue us from the evil one. [Matthew 6:13 (NLT)]
Back in the ‘70s, comedian Flip Wilson coined the phrase, “The devil made me do it!” Actually, Wilson really can’t be credited with its origin. Eve used pretty much the same excuse when she blamed the serpent back in Eden and Adam kept the ball rolling when he blamed Eve! Instead of the devil, Aaron blamed the people for the golden calf, Moses blamed the Israelites for his failure to enter Canaan, and Saul blamed his soldiers for his refusal to follow God’s command. Of course, they all were wrong. The responsibility for all of our actions falls solely on us and yet, like them, we’d prefer blaming our missteps on someone or something else.
Although temptation frequently enters our lives, it never is God who tempts us—that’s Satan’s job. Just as God won’t force us to be obedient, Satan can’t force us be disobedient. Although God give us trials, whether we sin or not in those trials is entirely up to us.
One of Benjamin Franklin’s most famous sayings is, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Although Franklin coined the phrase in 1735 when writing to The Pennsylvania Gazette about Boston’s impressive fire prevention methods, that axiom holds true when it comes to preventing sin, as well. It is far easier to prevent something bad from happening than to fix the problem later. Nevertheless, we often put ourselves smack dab in the middle of tempting situations—the man encountering marriage difficulty who meets with an ex for a drink and a little sympathy, the recovering addict who spends time with friends who still use drugs, the compulsive shopper who “walks” in the mall, or even the dieter who regularly stops at the donut shop for coffee.
Neither of my parents were saints but they did their best not to become sinners. My father enjoyed a martini nearly every evening but, after my mother died, he completely abstained from alcohol for several months. The grieving man said he was afraid that he’d end up trying to drown his sorrows in alcohol. Recognizing his vulnerability and not wanting to add to his problems, he used an ounce of prevention by turning away from something that could lead to trouble. That’s what Joseph did with Potiphar’s wife and what David should have done the moment he saw the naked Bathsheba bathing on her rooftop.
It’s never a sin to be tempted; the sin comes in yielding to temptation! In Proverbs, Solomon cautioned, “If a bird sees a trap being set, it knows to stay away.” [1:17] Let’s use the common sense given to us by God and do the same!
We must not count temptation a strange thing. “The disciple is not greater than his master, nor the servant than his lord.” If Satan came to Christ, he will also come to Christians. [J.C. Ryle]