Temptation  

25.1.09

When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Genesis 3:6, NIV

When I was younger, I held a grudge against Eve. I guess most people do at some stage or another. After all, if she had just walked away and refused to listen to the serpent, the world wouldn't be in this state, right? It took me along time to realize that in many ways, I am Eve. I don't mean that in a new-agey, the-Bible-is-just-a-spiritual-allegory way, but in the sense that I share her mindset and motivations. A quick look around the nearest shopping mall or in any mainstream magazine will tell you that all of us do. And what were her motivations?

I don't think she deliberately set out to disobey G-d that day. She didn't eat the fruit just because G-d said not to. She ate the fruit because she was thinking in the short term. She didn't want to see the long-term consequences of her actions, though she had been warned of them. She saw what the fruit had to offer now, and made a decision that the entire earth has both regretted and emulated since. What promise did the fruit hold? What was so compelling about it that Eve chose to take her eyes off her Creator and focus on it instead? It held the same empty promises which lead to the same foolish decisions we make today.

First, it was good for food. It wasn't that they didn't have other food. She didn't need that particular food. So why did she choose it over her other foods? I don't know, but I know why we do today, because many of us make that decision too. We fear somehow that the One who granted us life in the first place is unable to sustain it. We many times are afraid to do what G-d has called us to do because we are worried about how we'll live, what we'll wear, what we'll eat. Jesus said not to worry about those things, that if we seek first the kingdom of righteousness, all those things will be added unto us. Maybe Eve forgot that. Maybe we do too.

Second, it was pleasing to the eye. Ah, this one we recognize. It's the feel good mentality that at first glance seems so sweet. After all, why would G-d make something pleasurable if we weren't meant to use it? If it looks good, do it. If it feels good, do it. But that's not what G-d said. Again, it wasn't the only good-looking fruit in the garden. There are many pleasurable things in life that we are meant to enjoy, it's just that there are instructions for their use. Some things are bad for us altogether, and others are good only in certain circumstances or in moderation. It wasn't that Eve could find pleasure nowhere else, it was that she wanted the forbidden pleasure. We understand this feeling. That's what makes a little child steal lollies and treats from their parents, when if they simply asked for them they would be allowed them anyway. It's that feeling that leads to adultery too. The feeling of doing something wrong and getting away with it is exciting. What we tend to forget though, is that nothing is hidden from G-d. Even if no-one else ever knows, He does, and it will catch you up. Be sure your sin will find you out. And ultimately, the pleasure is not worth the pain. Not for Eve, not for us.

Third, it was desirable for gaining knowledge. This one's a little harder to write about. I don't understand it the way I understand the other two. If you look up at verse 5 though, we get a bit of context. “For G-d knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like G-d, knowing good and evil.”. I think with this temptation it's not so much the wisdom itself, but the pride that is the problem. Losing sight of who G-d is and who we are is fatal. That was Satan's big mistake, and much of the time it's ours too. But I think it also means that we should guard our minds. Knowledge and learning and reasoning are all good tools, please don't misunderstand me. But we need to be careful not to let them replace G-d. And we need to keep in mind that it's often throuh our minds that we are attacked. When Satan deceived Eve, he did it by twisting G-d's words and planting little doubts. If someone tells you G-d said something, first be sure that he really did say that, and second, be sure that you have it in the right context and that it lines up with the rest of Scripture. Always guard your mind.

It's interesting that Jesus' temptation followed this same pattern.

First, he was told to command the stones to become bread. Now, unlike Eve, Jesus really did need food. I've never gone forty days in the desert without food, but remembering how hungry I was after just forty hours or World Vision, I can guess he'd be pretty hungry. He could do it too. He performed a similar miracle not long afterwards at a wedding. But unlike us, he stood firm and refused.

Second, he was offered all the kingdoms of the world. I don't know about you, but I imagine they would be rather pleasing to the eye.And besides, Jesus was a king, wasn't he? Should a king not have a kingdom? In fact, why not all the kingdoms, seeing they were on offer? All the power on earth, that's quite a heady concept. But Jesus remembered what we don't- that he was not of this earth. He was the King of a much higher kingdom. When he consider even the tiny glimpses of Heaven we've been granted, the splendour of earth starts to look pretty tarnished and faded. And so he resisted.

And the third, the mind again. By now, Satan realized that nothing could sway his faith in G-d and his stand on truth. But what if he could twist the truth a little, make Scripture say something that it wasn't intended to say.. what then? And so he attacked the mind. “Come on, he said he'd protect you, right? What harm is there, just a little demonstration? Don't you want to even try?”
We like to push the boundaries a bit, to see how far we can go. We want to see if black and white are really so, or if on closer inspection they turn a little grey. Do not put the LORD your G-d to the test.

And so it is through our bellies, our hearts, and our minds that we are tempted. Temptations will come, they're part of life and we don't get a choice about that. But we can choose what to do with it. Will we keep giving in to it as Eve did and we all have since? Or do we resist as Jesus did?

What will you do?

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