Carm.org has one of the best single-sentence definitions for temptation I’ve seen. The definition is broad, but very simple:
“Temptation is that which moves us to sin”
I mentioned earlier about temptation and that it is always a motivation for us to consider ourselves above others. When we think about it, can we be tempted to do good? We can't, can we? The aspect of temptation that makes giving into it a sin is always rooted in our selfish desire to think of ourselves first. Giving into temptation is sin because it is acting on that selfish desire, and giving in to selfish desires is always detrimental to relationships. The root of all temptation is selfishness.
Other things to continuously remind ourselves of are that Satan does not take vacations, and he has had thousands of years to perfect the effectiveness of his skills.
In the previous section, in 1 Corinthians 13:13 we see the critical importance God places on relationships through His contrast between love and many other things. Without love nothing else we do, or can do, or have, or be, matters to even the slightest degree. In the previous section Relationships, Love, and Sin we see that selfishness and selfish motives hurt relationships which are so very important to God.
Sometimes we are motivated to do what initially seems noble and honorable, but we go about achieving those goals in a different way than what God intends. Philip De Courcy in his series Battle Ready (www.ktt.org/battle-ready) states about temptation
"Many times the goal seems to be something legitimate. However, Satan will encourage us to “fulfill the temptation illegitimately with the wrong person, in the wrong way, or at the wrong time”.
For those things that are legitimate, acquiring them becomes sin when we try to obtain them outside the will of God; when we try to obtain them our way instead of His way.
Money is one of the greater temptations we face. Money isn’t inherently evil as is thought by some. Some have said that the Bible teaches that money is the root of evil. The Bible doesn’t teach that money is the root of all evil, but that the love of money is. This warning shows that we can lose our proper focus on money,
1 Timothy 6:10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.
The potential issue with money is that unlike other obvious temptations and sins, money has potential for great good. However, it also has potential for great harm when our motivations aren't in line with God. Our desire to do good with money can transition to sin if we’re not careful and lose sight of why we earn money. We can end up focusing on making money for the sake of money and lose focus on our concern for relationships, causing hurt to those relationships. Again, if what we do or if our motivations bring harm to relationships, it is sin.
We can see through 1 Timothy 6:10 the reasoning for the wording that the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. Like a weapon, money is neither good nor bad. What makes it good or bad is how it is used, and the motivations behind its usage. Money can be very beneficial when used to help others, donated to organizations, and assisting those in need. However, it can be bad when the acquiring of money is the primary motivation that drives our decisions, when our primary motivation is to acquire it just to have more.
I had heard that someone asked one of the Rockefeller family, a wealthy businessman, “How much was enough?”
His reply was, “Always a little bit more.”
And Warren Buffett was asked which million he earned was his favorite.
His answer was, “The next one.”
Credit / Debt
Is using credit sin? It depends. When we at times have a need to use credit to purchase a house, perform a major repair of a vehicle, the replacement of a vehicle or other legitimate and necessary purchase, it isn’t sin. However, when we knowingly use credit to gain things that are wants and not needs, when we use credit to acquire things we can’t afford, it possibly is.
When it comes to debt, the Bible has great insight. There are also sites below with great information on finances and debt.
Proverbs 22:7 The rich rules over the poor, and the borrower is the slave of the lender.
Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money."
Should a Christian have or use credit cards?
What's Wrong with Credit Card Debt?
What does the Bible say about going into debt?
Crown Financial Ministries
I also remember seeing the host of a financial program illustrating the difference in spending over time when considering leasing a vehicle as compared to purchasing the same vehicle. We've all seen those advertisements to lease very nice vehicles for a noticeably lesser monthly payment than to purchase.
The host gave the example of two young people starting they're forty year working career. The first person starts a lease of a vehicle and transfers into a new lease every three years. The second person purchases a car and keeps it for 10 years, and then trade this car in on a new car that they keep for 10 years. And then does the same for the last two decades.
The host of the program indicated that even when factoring some occasional expensive repairs, the second young person would spend enough less over their forty year career that they would be able to retire 5 years sooner.
The host then showed a picture of the car he drove. It was a regular sedan in great condition, and it was over 10 years old! Being he was the host on the financial program, I'm sure he could have afforded a much nicer vehicle but he placed a higher value on not spending more than he needed to.
Remember what I indicated earlier?
"Money is a limited resource. When you choose to spend your money on certain things you are automatically choosing not to spend your money on other things".
Is gambling a sin? That depends. What is the motivation behind the desire to gamble?
I’ve mentioned to our sons that some people gamble as a form of entertainment. Like budgeting a certain amount of money to go to dinner and a movie, they budget a certain amount of money to gamble because they really enjoy gambling and it is entertainment for them. I don’t believe that the Bible’s teaching would consider this a sin.
Other individuals will gamble in the hopes they will win money. I’ve even heard some say that if God let them win the lottery, they would give some of the winnings to God/the church. When asked what they would do with the rest, they talk about the cars/trips/house(s) they would buy, and they would quit work. Sometimes people use money to gamble which they can’t afford to use because the money is needed for their family, (food, house payments, etc.). An example is the disproportionate number of poor people who play the lottery. This link shows that those who purchase a large percentage of the tickets are those who can afford it least.
Who plays the lottery, and why: Updated collection of research
Out Of Luck Trailer
Many who gamble and play the lottery are hoping to use the money they spend to gain more money. I believe that the Bible teaches this as sin, especially considering that gambling has become an addiction for a number of those who started gambling, even if started innocently. This has led to some losing their homes, spouses, and families. Once again, this damages relationships which God so highly values.
I remember when our sons were young our family stayed at a hotel in Vegas which had a casino. I thought of a teaching opportunity as I was pulling into the parking structure. Before we went in, I told them that we would need to walk past part of the casino area to get to the elevator to go to our room. I told them,
“When we go through the casino, look at the faces of all of the people you can see who are gambling and see if those people are smiling.”
They found out very quickly that none of the people they could see were smiling. I told them that the commercials showing people gambling and laughing and excited are not what is seemingly true of most of the people who gamble. As well, the beautiful architecture and beautiful fountains and structures at the casino hotels were paid for by the money people lost through gambling.
As to the issue of gambling being an addiction for some people; like most addictions, it is usually not discovered before the addiction has become a problem in the person’s life. Since there is the possibility of addiction for some, and the potential negative problems through addiction, does it seem like a good idea to take up gambling as an activity?
Is Gambling Wrong?
Should Christians be Involved With Lotteries or Other Forms of Gambling?
Why is Gambling Wrong?
Is Gambling A Problem?
Wanting Something for Nothing
Considering again being tempted to fulfill whatever the selfish desire we have at that moment, the thought of giving into the temptation will always initially look more appealing than resisting that temptation. This verse in Matthew clearly illustrates this:
Matthew 7:13-14 “Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
It is so very easy to lose sight of the negative ramifications of giving into a temptation. Not only that, as Christians we have invited Christ into our heart to live with us. As such, the Holy Spirit is with us everywhere we go. This is a great confidence, but a great condemnation too, since when we sin, we force the Holy Spirit to be with us in our sin.
Considering Temptation again, it is often only after we give into temptation that we are jolted back into the reality of the consequences of the sin. These consequences can include embarrassment, shame, hurt to loved ones or friends, suspension, expulsion, breakup, divorce, the loss of our job, the loss of our family, a DUI, jail time, prison, physical injury to ourselves or others, and even ours and/or another’s death. When we sin, how many of us think about the possible consequences of giving into a temptation before we give into that temptation? When was the last time you thought about the consequences of giving in to a temptation?
Sure, there are instances when we think we’ve gotten away with a sin, simply because it seems that no one has discovered our sin. We need to remember though that God knows and has seen it. Nothing is hidden from Him. And not only has he seen our sin, He knew before we ever made the decision to sin.
Again, the Bible emphasizes the importance of relationships and our love for others is of greatest importance. How we treat others is of supreme importance to God. Again, the potential of sin in a temptation is to consider giving in to our own wants without considering others.
Temptation often has the appearance of being innocent, with that temptation distorting our ability to see the sin within the temptation. This is especially true in those times when the goal seems honorable, as Philip De Courcy’s quote again indicates:
“Satan will encourage us to fulfill the temptation illegitimately with the wrong person, in the wrong way, or at the wrong time.”
Because of this characteristic of temptation, we often don’t recognize the potential sin until after we have fallen for it. They kind of “sneak up” on us. Since the temptation starts out subtly, we don’t notice as it grows and becomes harder for us to control until it’s too late.
How many married individuals have allowed an innocent work relationship to turn into adultery and ruin their marriage? Many who have had this happen comment that they felt blindsided and that it took them completely by surprise.
Again, many temptations start out seemingly innocent and subtle, and some even noble. There have been those with the desire to make money to help others with the money, and then found themselves consumed with the desire to just make more money. With the temptation for more, the desire changed from helping others to simply personal gain, thinking of themselves rather than thinking of others.
Remembering the following may help to resist temptation better in the future.
The desire to give in to the temptation will always be stronger than the desire to resist it.
Remember also who is behind the temptation. It is Satan, a created being, and he is only interested in our destruction, and in causing pain to God. God, who has created us and loves us so much that Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sin. It is he who wants the best for us, and he knows that our resisting temptation is the best for us. Remember also that God will allow difficulties and temptations because they are the primary way that we can develop characteristics which he wants to grow in our lives; characteristics that we won’t be able to develop further once we pass into eternity.
Think about what tempts you. How could you honor God by resisting it, and what characteristics is God wanting to grow in you through the temptation? It isn’t that we should look forward to being tempted, but if God is allowing temptation in our lives, maybe we should look at that temptation as a way to develop strength in characteristics which God desires us to have and that Satan does not want us to have. Each of us has to determine who we will serve.
Some mistakenly believe that God temps us, that he is responsible for the temptation we experience. But is allowing temptation the same as causing temptation? What does the Bible say?
James 1:13 Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one.
Does God tempt us to sin?
Does God tempt people or not?
Does God tempt?
Francis Chan on Temptation
When you know a person wants what is best for you, don’t you find it much easier to listen to them and consider what they want? And if we know that God wants the absolute best for us, shouldn’t this motivate us to follow his will and his plan for our lives?
The quote below shows how uncontrolled temptation can progress to the destiny of our lives:
“Sow a thought; reap an action.
Sow an action; reap a habit.
Sow a habit; reap a character.
Sow a character; reap a destiny.”
Will Wilson, a guest pastor at our church said the following as an application of the quote above,
"It is not all about me. It is not all about now. Choices I make today effect who I am tomorrow and who I am tomorrow effects a whole lot of people."
It is important to remember again that temptation itself is not sin, and that God does not tempt us. However, how we handle and respond to that temptation determines whether it is sin or not. As Philip De Courcy says in his audio series below,
“Temptation is inevitable, yielding to it is not.”
Some have believed that no one understands what they are going through. When we are in the middle of the struggle of fighting a temptation it may seem like no one else is going through what we are going through. The verses below show that what you are going through is not only much more common that you think and also a temptation to many others, but that Jesus also endured temptation while He was here.
1 Corinthians 10:13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.
Hebrews 4:14-15 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.
Think again about your thought life and your character. They are fully exposed to God. He knows us better than we know ourselves. What are you allowing to feed your thoughts? Like other things already indicated, we can only think of one thing at a time. If we are allowing ourselves to think and dwell on one thing, we are automatically choosing not to think about something else.
In the book Every Man’s Challenge, (Stephen Arterburn and Fred Stoeker) the following are a few of the questions posed to the reader:
Do you linger at the lingerie section of a newspaper ad?
Do you watch women’s gymnastics, and other women’s sports to see the uniforms, not because you really like the sport?
Do you pass a cute girl and think to yourself, nice ____ (fill the blank with a body part).
I thought of a question related to this one.
“Do you pass a cute girl and find it easy to remember certain anatomical details, but find it hard to remember her face?”
Again, remember where I mentioned the resources of time and money. When you spend some of either resource on something, you are automatically choosing not to spend that resource on something else.
Think about this applying to your thoughts.
It has been proven that the human mind can only think about one thing at a time. Some have a better ability to quickly switch between things that they think of, but even those persons are still only able to think about one thing at a time. So our thoughts are similar to time and money, in that when we choose to think about something we automatically choose not to think about something else. When we choose to dwell on something that doesn’t glorify God and which could lead to acting on that thought, we automatically choose not to think on things that are glorifying to God. When we dwell on lustful thoughts, we are choosing to not dwell on Godly thoughts. Think about the following verses and then think about your thought life in comparison to them.
Romans 12:2 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.
1 Peter 5:8 Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour.
Philippians 4:8 Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.
Thoughts And The Mind
These verses and others can be found at the above link. They are a command for us in what we should think about according to God. If these thoughts are what God commands us to think on, how would you characterize thoughts that are opposite these? Would it be fair to call this opposite type of thoughts garbage?
I mentioned earlier the computer programming acronym G.I.G.O. It stands for Garbage In – Garbage Out. Essentially it means that the only information a computer can process is what has been entered into it. When garbage information is entered, the computer returns garbage. When good information is entered, good information is returned. The computer can’t turn garbage into non-garbage. When we realize that our brains are the most sophisticated computer that will ever exist, we should also realize that when we similarly put garbage into it, we will only get garbage in return. So, are your thoughts honoring to God or are they garbage, tempting you to dis-honor God?
Luke 9:51 shows the determination Jesus Christ had in accomplishing His goal of dying to provide us the opportunity for salvation.
Luke 9:51 When the days drew near for him to be taken up, he set his face to go to Jerusalem.
This phrase “set his face” was explained by our pastor as Jesus Christ being fully determined to accomplish his goal, even knowing fully well what it would cost Him. If Jesus was so passionate to pay for our sin, then shouldn’t we be passionate in our efforts to avoid sin and not give into it? I hope the above realizations will help you to resist temptation in the future.
The following sites will give you good information on our thoughts and temptation, and recommendations as to how to recognize it and keep it from controlling your life.
Sow A Thought…Reap A Destiny
What the Bible Says about Temptation
When Temptation Appears
How does one gain victory over temptation?
How to Overcome Temptation
Top 8 Ways for Christian Teens to Avoid and Overcome Temptation
7 Tips to Avoid Temptation
God is Better - Francis Chan
When Sin Looks More Enjoyable Than God - Francis Chan
Battle Ready - Philip De Courcy
A Study of Jesus Victory in the Wilderness
Next Page: Time Management