Temptation… Sin… Is there a difference?
What is the real question here… to work on not being tempted? Or is it not to sin… after all, doesn’t temptation lead to sin? Well… it can, and often does, but it doesn’t have to. Experiencing temptation, in and of itself, is not sin… nor is it an indicator that we are not living the kind of life Jesus would want from us… after all, Jesus was tempted, but Jesus remained without sin. So… when does temptation become sin?
Recently, on an incredibly gorgeous day on campus, I asked some students the question, when did Eve’s temptation in the garden turn into sin? Was it when she first dialoged with the serpent? Was it when she first saw the fruit seeing it as something very desirable? How about when she held the fruit… is that when temptation turned into sin? Or, was Eve really innocent up until the moment when the fruit first touched her lips? Going further, if eat had taken a bite of the fruit, changed her mind and spit it out, could the sin be reversed to become an un-sin??
All of us are struggling with personal battles. And, in a society that continues to push over the top temptations everywhere we look, recognizing the difference between temptation and sin is a critical matter. So how do we address this issue? Once our temptation is expressed in an outward manner, is it too late? I believe that once my heart is focused on the object of desire, I am engaged in sin. For, the desire of our hearts will be carried out over time, for when desire is conceived, sin is birth, and, left unchecked… mature sin can bring about death (James 1:15). Some have tried to justify the duration of time temptation is present as it relates to sin. It seems to me that regardless of how long the “gestation period” is for sin, once we allow desire to conceive, sin is birthed!
The writer in 2 Samuel 23 refers to David as “the man who was raised on high”… this humble individual was indeed raised on high by God… he was referred to as the “anointed one”. David constantly proved himself to be a man of courage. And courage inspires courage… and David was a man of courage. But David was not without sin either… God’s “anointed one”… with his mind already set on the things of the flesh at the time he encountered Bathsheba, David was unprepared to resist the temptation that he faced… so much so that he crossed the line into adultery and later murder. But Jesus’ teaching from the Sermon on the Mount makes it clear that the line is initially crossed in our hearts before it manifests into sinful behavior (Matthew 5:28). Therefore, if our goal is to commit to a sin-less life, we must look at what are hearts are set on. Seeking God in all things in faith will help prepare our hearts with the proper attitude rather than just proper behavior since attitude is a matter of the heart and behaviors originate in the mind (Galatians 3:26-29, Psalm 78:72).
Heavenly Father… help me to focus on You… let me act as I would if you were sitting next to me on the couch… in the car while I’m driving… in all places. Lord you know my weaknesses… you were tempted and did not fall… help me to know that strength as I strive to be more like you in my heart and mind. You have wisdom that I yearn to know… please be with me and share your heart with me so I can know you better. Amen.