Can You Eat Only One?

I’m sure you’ve heard the phrase, “I can resist anything but temptation.” When someone says this, we usually laugh, nod our heads and agree. Yes, temptation is hard to resist. And many might say resisting temptation is no fun either. When was the last time you saw or heard of someone turning away from any kind of temptation? If you believe advertisers, TV and movies, you would think it’s the only way to live. Don’t deny yourself anything: eat whatever you want, buy whatever you want, do whatever you want. You’ll be happier if you do. You’ll have more fun and enjoy life more.

Other than seeing that slogan on a bumper sticker, few talk about resisting temptation these days. It’s a bit old-fashioned, isn’t it? What’s the point? Does it matter? Paul told Timothy: “People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction” (1 Timothy 6:9, NIV throughout). I imagine those CEOs who got caught with their hands in the cookie jar are regretting giving in to the lure of riches – some from their prison cells.

Joseph is one of the few biblical characters who not only didn’t give in when tempted, he emphatically refused and ran away. It didn’t seem to do any good, as he was then falsely accused and imprisoned. Some reward, huh? It seems so at first glance, but as it says in Genesis 39:21, “The Lord was with him; he showed him kindness and granted him favor in the eyes of the prison warden.” His story did have a happy ending.

Joseph didn’t resist Potiphar’s wife’s aggressive come on because of legalism or self-righteousness. A person who actively turns away from temptation might be judged to be both. But that’s not how God looks at it. As we’ve already seen in Paul’s words to Timothy, giving in to lusts is foolish and leads to destruction.

Joseph was able to resist for three reasons:
1.    He knew it would be a betrayal of the trust placed in him by Potiphar.
2.    He knew it was a sin against God.
3.    He made the decision ahead of time.

We don’t know if Joseph anticipated his master’s wife’s advances, but he knew God and what his real Master expected of him. He trusted God, understood sin and its consequences and had already made up his mind not to betray God or man in his actions. He could have given in to other temptations as well – anger at God, self-pity, pride in his position in Potiphar’s house and in the prison, and lust for power and money.

We’re faced with many temptations, though usually not as dramatic as those of Joseph. Temptation is a part of human life that hasn’t changed in thousands of years and resisting is just as important now as it was in Joseph’s day. Why is it important? As C.S. Lewis said in Mere Christianity, every time we make a choice, we’re becoming different on the inside. We become more in harmony with God, or a “hellish creature,” prone to “madness, horror, idiocy, rage, impotence, and eternal loneliness.”

Contrary to prevailing opinion, resisting temptation is important. Let’s trust God, keep his trust and plan ahead to resist. It’s a plan that will help us not only avoid the destruction giving in will bring, but also as Lewis said, lead to “joy and peace and knowledge and power.”

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