Beware the Tempter
Old Testament Reading- Genesis 3:1-7
New Testament Reading- 1 Peter 5:6-11
By Henry J. Rafferty CP -February 26, 2023
Temptation is common to us all, in fact, I would say it is part of the human experience. There is seemingly no limit to what we may be tempted with, and for all the myriad of items, one thing is common to all, desire, the desire to possess something or experience something and to claim it as our own.
We often want what we don’t have, or at the very least, we think we want it. We often think of temptation as a bad thing. Some are tempted to eat more than they should. Others are tempted to partake in an activity that is not good for them like doing drugs. Still others are tempted to steal or commit murder. We know this list could go on and on, and these types of temptations we can easily understand are not good for us.
The human desire to possess someone or something though is not always a bad thing in the beginning. Imagine that an opportunity arises where you could earn a lot of money that you could then give to those in need, wouldn’t that be tempting? Or imagine that we are given a job opportunity that could help feed our family better than we could in our current situation. Certainly, we could be tempted by this kind of offer.
Let’s look at this situation. A man owned his own business but ran himself into trouble by trying to grow the business too fast. This increased debt was running him into trouble by lowering the amount of money he could spend on giving his wife and children what he felt were good things. One day while he was doing his quarterly income taxes, he decided not to claim as much income as he really made, this way he would have the cash to spend on the upcoming bill for his children’s private school tuition that was due. He told himself, he would make it up the next quarter by claiming more than he really brought in, no one would be the wiser and, in the end, it would all come out right. “No harm, no foul,” we like to say.
Here is another scenario. A woman from a broken, no, I would say a no-good family, has just found out she is pregnant for the second time in her young life, and that the father of this baby just bailed when he found out, just like the first one had. This young woman has now found herself alone with two young children and a job that will not support this little family. She loves her children and wants the very best for them, but she is not wise when it comes to picking the kind of man in which to fall in love. This newest gem she has found tells her he has a great idea for her to make money. He just happens to be friends with a man who owns a seedy strip club downtown that would hire her for nights on the weekend to dance. He tells her she will be bringing in ten times more in one weekend than she could working a whole week and for some of the money, he will watch the kids while she works. She isn’t crazy about the offer, but how else could she support her children and give them good things. She will make some good money upfront and save it, then she can quit before the kids are old enough to know what she is doing. Again, “no harm, no foul,” right?
Satan is a liar, but he does know Scripture.
After Jesus was baptized by John in the Jordan River, He was guided by the Spirit into the desert. This is the account as recorded in Matthew 4:1-11,
“Then Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry. The tempter came to him and said, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.”
Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.”
As you can see from this Scripture, when it comes to temptation, Jesus was no different than us. He was just at the beginning of His important ministry when He went into the desert to pray. Through fasting and prayer, Jesus purged Himself of all comforts, food, drink, and shelter and relied on God to sustain Him and to provide Him with direction for this new part of His life. Like Noah, Jesus waited forty days in hardship, trusting in God. At this point Jesus was in need of help and might be most open to temptation, that is when Satan made his attempt.
Satan is a liar, but he does know Scripture. Through manipulation and misdirection of God’s Word, he tries to use Scripture against us by twisting it to his own will. Jesus was hungry, so Satan uses Scripture, “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” Jesus doesn’t fall for it and uses God’s Word to counter with, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
Again, Satan knows Jesus is just starting out in His new ministry and he may after forty days in the desert, be struggling in some way. He tells Jesus to throw Himself off a high part of the Temple to prove He is the Son of God. Satan is no fool, he knows who Jesus is, but uses Psalm 91:11-12 to try to trick Jesus into doing what he asks. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
But again, Jesus uses the Word of God from Deuteronomy 6:16 to counter Satan with, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Lastly, Satan pulls out all the stops and offers Jesus glory and honor by being ruler of the earth if only He will bow down and worship him. Maybe Jesus in His want to help the people of the earth would take the ability to have great influence over them. But, Jesus is not as weak as Satan supposes, when again He commands Satan to get away from Him and corrects him for the last time with Scripture from Deuteronomy 6:13, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”
As is often the case, Jesus goes through different life experiences just like we do. Jesus experienced sorrow, anger, joy, love, new life, death, and temptation. He shows us in all these instances a model of how we should try to be, but He also shows us that if we put our faith in God and rely not on our own understanding, but on every Word of God, we have power untold.
James 1:2-4 tells us, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” God is strengthening us in each trial that we meet for His purposes because He loves us. The Apostle Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 10:13, “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. 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 endure it.”
So, back to our two stories. The businessman now has been cheating on his taxes for years because what started out as a way to do something for his family has turned to something else, his desire for material wealth. The man has now run himself into a real problem that could land him in jail for tax evasion. He is wracked with guilt, shame, and worry, but still won’t stop for fear of losing his so-called position in life. He doesn’t go to church, but recently heard a sermon at a church event his wife asked him to attend. Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians ring in his brain, that God always provides a way out.
Satan whispers in his ear, “The IRS will never find out, what are you afraid of? You don’t want to go back to not having money, do you?” Then he remembered something else he learned in Romans 13:1-7, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.
This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.”
After much internal struggle and much needed prayer, he decides to come clean to his wife about what he has been doing with the taxes. She is not happy, but she loves him and tells him to turn himself in to the IRS. The IRS makes him payback all that he owes plus fines, if he can do this, he can avoid jail time. He has to sell much of what he owns, but in the end, even after selling his house and moving into a much smaller one, his debt is paid.
Our other story is not going well either. The young lady who only thought she would
dance for a little while ended up being too trusting and dependent on her so-called
boyfriend, who through power and money turned her into a junky prostitute that controlled her as her pimp and drug dealer. She had sunk so low that she never thought she would see the light of day again. Her kids were taken from her, her health is fragile, and her thoughts are consumed by darkness.
One day she was at a city mission when a pastor walked up to her, gave her food, and started talking to her. The pastor could tell that she was as low as low could be and decided to send her home with some literature. She took it to be polite, but for weeks it sat, forgotten on a nightstand. One morning she knocked the nightstand over and when she was picking up the papers, she read the words from John 8:3-11,
“The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?” They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.
But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there. Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
She was amazed at this, could it be true? Would God forgive her? Satan whispered in her ear, “Not you, you are too bad, and besides you need me.” Then she saw another pamphlet with a reading from Psalm 37:3-6,
“Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture. Take delight in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.”
She went back and found that pastor and asked for help. He set her up with a safe house and a social worker that would help her with getting off drugs and help her get back on her feet financially.
These two people, both in desperate need of God’s help and both found their strength to renew their lives in the Words of Scripture. So, with that I leave you with Scripture, in the words from 1 Peter 5:6-11,
“Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that the family of believers throughout the world is undergoing the same kind of sufferings.
And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever.