We Overcome Temptation Better Together
But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire.
James 1:14, ESV
Recently my son and I went on a fishing trip. We had stopped by a local bait shop asked what the fish were biting on, talked to other fishermen, read up on the lake, talked to local Forest Ranger, and headed out. As we got started, we found a spot we thought would work. We rigged our lines with some power bait that was highly recommended, and thankfully it worked! We were catching multiple fish at the time! In a few hours, we had four nice rainbow trout. The bait had done its job. It enticed and lured in our fish to take the bait! What the fish didn’t know was that under that bait was a hook. Not just any hook, but a small barbed tribble hook. The hook was so small that the fish could easily swallow this, and the hooks and barbs would surely catch the fish.
This sounds deceptive and mean. It is if you are a fish. Taking the bait will lead to death. That’s exactly how sin works. It looks good, and our desires are aroused: we see something, we want it. We think it would be nice to have, make us happy, fill us up, give us satisfaction, or even think we have to have it. Yet when we take the bait, we find the painful hooks of sin, the sharps barbs snag and pierce a piece of our soul.
As Christians, we need help from others to avoid or overcome the temptation. As a fisherman, everyone once in a while, I catch a really big fish. These are fish that have learned from experience. They are the fish that fishermen tell stories about, the one that “got away”. I imagine those experienced big fish tell the other fish, “look out, don’t take the bait, even though it looks good, don’t fall for the trick. There’s a hook under that bait, that not just a worm, that’s a hook with a worm on it!”
BIG FISH HELP THE LITTLE FISH
As Christians, we need the big fish helping the little fish to navigate the waters of life; we need each other to avoid falling into temptation. This is why Jesus said to his disciples, “Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41–42). Our flesh is weak, but God’s Spirit working in us is strong. As Jesus’ disciples needed to watch out for one another and pray for one another, so we do!
To watch out means we take an active approach and involvement in our friend’s life, so that when we see temptations or troubles, we say, “Hey watch it”, or “I wouldn’t do that if I were you.” If you hear that, it’s likely your friend has been there before; he’s the big fish in that situation who’s learned not to take the bait and doesn’t want you to get caught, cooked in a frying pan, and eaten up in life.
We need each other to overcome temptation. We must never underestimate sin, even the small ones. So many times, we think that a little sin is ok, it’s not that dangerous.
A PAPER CUT TO THE SOUL?
I recently heard a story of a man who had an autoimmune disease, such that if he got the slightest little cut or scrape, it could easily lead to his death. The doctors said that even a paper cut could be fatal. A paper cut is so small that you can barely see where the paper edge has cut the skin. It’s a very thin laceration, that although very small and harmless to most others, would be fatal to this man. The immune system is usually designed to help fight off infection, but other immune systems can go rogue and the immune system actually attack other healthy human tissues within the body. In this man’s case, even a paper cut could slowly but surely lead to death.
A paper cut? It’s hard to imagine. I’ve been cut many times by that thin piece of paper, across the finger or hand when writing or preparing my sermon notes over the years. These thin little cuts are small but painful, but fatal? That’s hard to imagine.
SIN CAN WEAKEN OUR SPIRITUAL IMMUNE SYSTEM
Sin can be like a paper cut to the soul. It’s a thin, small cut to the soul that can actually weaken and damage our spiritual immune system. These are the sins that happen in secrecy, giving into the curiosity, a lust for more or what’s forbidden, giving into the craving, pursuing these sins of the flesh.
According to the Apostle Paul, three of the most dangerous sins of the flesh are sexual immorality, impurity, and sensuality (Galatians 5:19). Sexual immorality is viewing or participating in any kind of sexual activity outside of marriage. Impurity is much broad and more subtle; it could include what you think about, imagine, lust for and crave, desire and dwell upon. Lastly, sensuality could include gluttony or drunkenness.
We are called to crucify these sins of the flesh. That means put them to death. In years past in church history, many Catholic priests and theologians rightly teach the concept of mortification. The Latin root word is “mort.” It’s where we get the word morgue or mortuary. It means death. It’s the idea that we need to mortify or kill or put to death our sins. It’s something we need to do. Paul said we need to crucify these sinful desires, and put them to death! (Galatians 5:19, Romans 8:13). Too many times we don’t kill off evil desires, but instead, we feed them, and they continue to grow. This is why we need others in our life to help us see these shortcomings, and avoid these temptations and traps.
WE NEED EACH OTHER
In closing, we are reminded in Galatians that we need to do this together. “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6:1-2) We need each other. We need help when a friend is caught in a sin, and help to avoid sin altogether.
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