Looking at that fruit dangling from a forbidden tree once caused a ruckus in the Garden of Eden. Giving in to temptation, we lost our innocence, and mankind has never been the same.
Temptations are bred by cravings, and we crave all kinds of things: power, recognition, chocolate, revenge, success, talent, looks, money, just to name a few. It is our weakness. We wouldn’t be tempted to commit a single crime if we weren’t craving. So in order to get to the bottom of temptation we need to ask why. Why are we craving?
Eve’s temptation was preceded by one simple question: “Did God really say?”
Somehow doubts and insecurities have wormed their way into Eve’s heart, and she was ready to take advice from a snake. Why was she even listening? She must have doubted all along, and all it took then was a little push, and off she went – into the wrong direction.
As far as God is concerned, He has no problems with doubts. He does not crave anything; He does not need anything – How could He be tempted? James wrote in a letter (James 1:13):
“When tempted, no one should say, ‘God is tempting me.’ For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;”
So here it is, concise and clear: God can’t be tempted. His love knows no fear. No doubts are assailing Him. He is completely immune to any kind of temptation.
But then God became a baby, slipped into flesh and bones and inherited our human DNA. The Son of God certainly understands temptation. He was rattled; He was hungry and tired; He was in pain and agony – still He did not give in to temptation. How did He do it?
The gospels describe how Jesus was tempted in various situations. Here is one example:
Jesus was wandering in the desert. He went without food for forty days, so at this point He was beyond hungry. His body running out of fuel, all of His body cells were screaming for sustenance. I find it interesting that the tempter did not just dish Him some freshly baked bread. Instead He asked Him to turn some of the desert rocks into bread because he knew that Jesus is fully capable of doing that. So the temptation here was really two-fold: the struggle to overcome the urges of hunger, and the struggle to misapply His power.
Instead of abusing His power Jesus chose to relinquish it to God – not to the tempter – and whichever temptation came His way, He fought it. He dug in His heels and did not give in. Jesus trusted God on all accounts.
Trusting God is the key ingredient to beating temptation. However, trust is organic. It grows and it shrinks. Trust really depends on keeping in touch. Jesus is known for His alone-time with God. He sought Him out regularly.
Our alone time with God nourishes our faith and our trust in Him. Cutting down on our quality time with God, we get estranged faster than we think. Soon, God becomes an acquaintance and we start quoting the truth without being personally vested in it. Our words become hollow and meaningless. Temptations come our way, and we fail big time. But then again, every twist and turn of our life’s journey provides the opportunity to come back to God.
God, who can’t be tempted, is also not tempted to drop us like a hot potato when we fail. And Jesus who knows how it feels to be tempted could not be more empathetic.