Tuesday, July 16, 2013
TEMPTING: A WAY OF LIFE
I was reading this morning about Satan temping Jesus in the desert following His baptism; and suddenly I was thinking of how often we tempt one another, let alone God. We all know that Jesus rebuked Satan with these words, “Thou shalt not tempt the Lord your God.” Later translations say, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test,” but I really like the old King James Version on this one. THOU SHALT NOT. Pretty strong words. And yet we seem to do it with impunity over and over again as we keep doing what we think is best for us, rather than doing what He thinks is best for us.
The thing is that tempting each other has also become something we do with impunity. And it starts in childhood. Mom says, “No!” Child does. Mom says, No” again. Child does. We even call this “testing.” “How far can I go before things get serious,” is the big question.
I have very fond memories of Steve’s first grandson doing just that with me. When he was barely a toddler, they came to visit us in our townhouse in Las Vegas. Our “yard” was an enclosed patio that barely had room for the roses and bulbs that we planted around the already existing tiled patio space. Not much room for a toddler, so I took him outside the gate to play in the common area grass. There was a street passing by which was very quiet, but a street nonetheless. As he played he started getting closer and closer to the street and then ran right up to it, looking at me to see what I would do. I, of course, told him “No,” in very strong terms. He turned back to the grass. After about three or four times doing that, I said nothing and just looked at him with a “stern” look. He watched me for a moment and then turned on his own and ran back into the grass. We smiled at each other as I told him what a good boy he was. He did not go near the street again.
Another time, we were visiting in their home in Washington and I was watching him and his baby sister who was just a few weeks old. They had a big yard, but it was not fenced and he could not be out there alone. The patio door was open because they had no window screens and the family room needed serious relief from the heat. As I was tending to the baby, he kept going over to the door and darting out. He made me get up and come to the door after him before he would come back in. We did that game for about three times. The fourth time I just looked at him and said, “Would you like to close that door now?” He grinned and eagerly closed the door. He never went near it again that evening. It takes me awhile, but I catch on eventually. :)
All of that to say, “Children, do not tempt your parents (or other authority figures like Grandma.) And yet they do and we do.
Take the typical family argument, sibling to sibling or spouse to spouse; What is really happening during those common confrontations? We like call it “pushing each others buttons.” I have come to see it as “tempting” each other. “How far can I go?” again becomes the big question. Some of this is just a part of growing up and even playing around. But, way too often, it becomes a struggle of will and words that rises to wrath and soon everything gets out of hand. We learn early how easy it is to make our opponent angry by bringing up junk from the past; and as the arguing escalates we find ourselves attempting to draw blood on the other person. There is no good that comes from this type of “tempting” and attempting. (Note here: there is also no good that comes from allowing someone else to verbally abuse us, but that is another story not involving pushing back in wrath.)
Sometimes we excuse this kind of verbal sparing as good exercise or just the way we communicate. But it certainly is not the way God would have us communicate. As we are throwing lobs of past sins at people, God is wondering what we are talking about because he has forgotten that persons past sins (if that person has repented of them.) We have kept the information for ammo in arguments. And we learned it as children when sparing with our parents or hearing them spar with one another.
God has clearly told us to love one another and to forgive one another and to carry out our lives loving others as we are loved by Him. He tells us, He shows us, He writes it on our hearts and gives us the Holy Spirit to help us. And yet we ignore all of that and resort to “tempting” at every turn.
Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, but He never expressed anger or wrath to Satan. He kept His temper in check because this was not the time for His final victory over Satan. He simply told Satan what His Father had instructed his people over the centuries: Thou salt not tempt the Lord your God. Sometimes we desperately need to draw on the water and the feast we have eaten from His Word and simply respond in love: His love.
May we all pray for strength to resist the temptation to tempt others into anger. And may we also resist the temptation to tempt others to do what they feel is wrong for them in that moment: Like eating that piece of cake they are trying to avoid. :) Have a great day with your Lord!