No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it. I Cor. 10:13
Is it just me or do you sometimes think that no one in the history of mankind has ever been subjected to the same temptations as you? In looking for a personal application for this verse, I couldn’t help but think that the 21st century is chock full of opportunities to step off the narrow path that I’m sure Paul had no experience with when he wrote the verse above back in the year A.D. 55 (give or take) as part of his first letter to the church in the Greek city of Corinth.
And even though Solomon might have been right when he wrote “there is nothing new under the sun” in Ecclesiastes, he wrote it 3,000 years ago. I betcha he was never the only guy around the water cooler who doesn’t watch popular movies celebrating sex and other forms of immorality like The Hangover or television shows with anything-but-Christian values like Glee or GCB.
And I can say with certainty that Paul didn’t look at his coworker’s PowerPoint presentation – which made his presentation look like it was created by a toddler – and wish that someone would press the “Delete” key (by accident, of course).
So how can I take to heart Paul’s assessment of “common to man” temptations when the recipients of his letters didn’t have to deal with links to porn websites lurking on every Google search results list or the capability of “sexting”?
As it turns out, neither Paul nor Solomon were off base – not even a little bit. Is it possible the world has changed so very little in these past couple thousand years?
The Romans, conquerors of Paul’s people and the people he preached to, may not have had access to TV, but they loved Mime theater, a type of entertainment that depicted realistic violence and sex and scoffed at Christianity.
Popular Greek Satyr plays were full of amorality, drunkenness, the exploitation of sex and other bodily functions, and the breaking down of traditional barriers.
And while none of the early Christians had to worry about being made to look bad in the boardroom, Paul was still quick to warn of the traps of “selfish ambition” and “envy”.
So while the means of access to these temptations are different, depending on whether you lived in the 1st century or the 21st century, the temptations themselves are basically the same.
The good news, though, is that God knows my breaking point as far as temptation goes. He doesn’t tempt me but He will allow me to be tempted. After all, I have to live in this world and it’s full of (more from Paul’s warning list) sexual immorality, hostility, jealousy, anger, drunkenness, etc. But He also wants me to be victorious in overcoming these temptations; so much so that he promises he won’t let me get in over my head and will guide me safely through it if I just stay in the center of His will. Daily prayer and studying His word are the first steps to ensuring that.
So you can a) grit your teeth and try to white-knuckle your way through temptation or b) be a totally committed follower of Jesus and trust God to “provide a way out”. I choose “b”.
“Father, I know I’m bound to be tempted at some point – even Jesus was tempted. But I pray that you would strengthen me, keeping a firm grip on me and guiding me through (or, even better, around) the traps the prince of this fallen world lays for me. Be ‘my strength and my shield’.”
And He will be.