Obviously, here is a scripture which talks about money – riches, wealth. We have positive comments, like – “Godliness with contentment is great gain.” We have positive exhortations, such as – “Having food and raiment let us be therewith content.” And then there are the negatives, like – “The love of money is the roof of all evil.’ But it’s not in these things that I’m primarily interested this evening.
Let’s think more about the tendencies of temptation generally. While Paul is applying his thoughts to the subject of riches, his words apply to many areas of our lives. In verse 9 he might have said, “They that desire pleasure or fun….” He might have said, “Those who long for luxury and ease….” “Those who have a passion for fame….” “Those who want to be successful….” This could apply to a thousand different things. And just as I want to be more victorious over sin and temptation in my life, I hope you have same desire. There are two essential ingredients to the improvement of our society. First, God’s people must knuckle down and fight their own personal sins. Then, and only then, will they be able to lead Satan’s people to new life in Christ Jesus. And that is when this world will begin to improve morally and socially.
This evening, I want to address, primarily, the tendencies to temptation which are found in us.
First, there are certain TYPES OF CHARACTER which are more prone to cave-in to temptations.
The more strong-willed and ambitious we are, the more susceptible to sin we become. And that flies straight into the face of common thinking. We are taught from infancy to adult-hood that the stronger we are the better we are. We should be tough, especially boys, and never let anyone think we are losers. We should set for ourselves goals from the moment we can set goals and focus on attaining them. Sounds good? Perhaps not always. Isn’t it interesting that many of our goals actually are the goals of our parents. Dad wants his five-year-old son to become the greatest quarterback NFL history. Mom wants her little darling to marry a rich husband, to eventually live a life of ease and luxury. And perhaps those kids do reach their parent’s goals, but what might be the cost? The son has a few concussions before he reaches his teens and suffers for the rest of his life. And the daughter finds that she has married a man who will do anything for money. Is the price they paid worth the results?
People who are strong-willed often become people who are self-willed. They set goals, but sometimes they can’t be legally reached, so they change the rules. A while ago, I was waiting for an appointment and spent a few minutes in a sports magazine. I saw a couple heart-breaking articles. One involved college wrestling, and the deaths of three college wrestlers in about a month. All of them were trying to wrestle in weight classes naturally too light for them. The last one lost 17 pounds in three days in order to make his weight, but… he died. They all died of different problems, but they killed themselves trying to reach unrealistic goals. In the second article I read that 175,000 girls, ages 9-12, use steroids to build unnatural muscles. That figure is twice what it was six years ago. And there nearly 400,000 boys 12 years and under who are using those illegal and dangerous drugs.
Notice the language of verse 9, “They that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare.” The person who decides that he will be rich, will eventually do whatever it takes to become wealthy. He will lie on his 1040 tax return or not file that self-employment return. Then he will justify his cheating by denouncing the sins of the government. He will justify his sin by magnifying the sins of others. Or He will unjustly raise the price of his product simply to make more profit for himself. He will claim more hours than he actually worked. He will skim just a little bit of boss’s money into his own pocket, but that skimming will grow and grow. “They that will be rich fall into temptation and snares, foolish and hurtful lusts.” They that “will be successful” will redefine “success” or manipulate the process of reaching it.
And like those who want to be rich, those who insist on any victory in worldly things will face temptations. The man who wants to be president of the company may be involved in the destruction of his predecessor. He may use every available bit of slander and deception to bring down his opponent. He may do everything in his power to hide the real truth about himself. Remember the woman who wanted her daughter to be cheerleader, so she plotted the murder of her daughter’s rival? How many young people have been destroyed because they just had to have some particular boy-friend or girl-friend. When desire reaches a certain strength, morality goes out the door and temptation comes in the window.
Don’t mis-understand me to say that goals and targets are in themselves sinful. More often than not we don’t accomplish things because we don’t plan or try to accomplish things. If you haven’t planned to read your Bible through this year, then I guarantee that you will not. If you don’t have a plan for living more healthily then you will probably not live healthy. Setting goals and having ambitions is not sin. But the pattern that the Word of God gives to the Christian is this: “If the Lord will, we shall do this or that.” “If I can serve the Lord Jesus according to the pattern of the Word of God, and still be the greatest linebacker in the NFL, then that is my goal.” And if you haven’t noticed, no one can be a NFL linebacker and faithfully serve the Lord in His house every Lord’s Day. If it is the Lord’s will that I be a famous movie star, then that could rightfully be my goal in life. But it appears to be impossible to be a successful movie star and still please the Lord. With the Lord’s help I will loose 15 pounds this year, but without His help, I probably won’t. When we “will be rich”, when we “will be famous,” when we will, at any cost do this or that – “we fall into temptations, snare, and foolish and hurtful lusts, which bring down men in destruction and perdition.” The word “perdition” is the Greek “apoleia” and is sometimes translated “damnation.”
These “will be at any cost” sort of people are not the only ones easily taken by temptations and snares. So are the people who live for the moment – the impulsive people. If the first group premeditate their sins and justify their actions, these are prone to sin without thought. These are quick to loose their tempers and sin with their lips. These see a pretty skirt and forget their wives and their children. These see a lady leave her purse on a park bench and they swoop down like a buzzard. Another variety is the intensely lazy and sluggish, which can be just as sinful. As far as Christians go, these people are often discouraged and discontent.
And how about the people who must have lots and lots of friends? They too are temptation and snares. It is not good that man should be alone, but there are some who feel that they cannot live without lots friends. Some of them are restless even in their own homes, if there aren’t visitors beside them. There is certainly nothing wrong with having friends, but be careful what you must do to have those friends. If you have to buy their friendship, you will eventually have to pay more than you can afford. Those friends might cost you your purity and morality. If that is the case, then they are worse than enemies, and should not be called “friends.” Those so-called “friends” may tempt you to associate with others even worse than themselves. The first offer of sinful temptation should remind you of verse 11 – “Flee.” The longer you stand at the enemy’s fire, the stronger will be the temptation to deny Christ. “My son, if sinners entice thee consent thou not.” “Flee youthful lusts.” There are various aspects of our character which make us susceptible to snares and foolish and hurtful lusts.
But there are also CERTAIN TIMES in our lives when any temptation has more power and force.
Someone is more likely to loose his temper when he is tired than when he is rested. Someone is less able to say “no” when he is sick than when he is healthy. Experts tell us never to go grocery shopping when we are hungry, because we will spend more than if we’ve just eaten. One of the problems of credit cards is the loss of our ability to resist temptation. Don’t carry a credit card and you’ll be less prone to succumb to the lust of the flesh.
These are some obvious things. There would be a lot less adultery in the world if husbands and wives were more loving toward one another. There would be a lot less lust for the things of the world, if there was more time spent in the Word of God. There would be fewer occurrences of the sin of worry, if there was more prayer. There would be less sin in our lives if we took the worship of God more seriously. These things explain why there are periods in our lives when sin is more prevalent.
But generally speaking there is one period of our lives, when we are more susceptible to temptation. It is when we are young. Proverbs 20:29 says that the glory of young men is their strength. But generally speaking that strength is physical not moral or emotional. It is not without reason that the Bible spends considerable time warning young people. Ecclesiastes 11:9 – “Rejoice, O young man, in thy youth, and let they heart cheer thee in the day of thy youth. And walk in the way of thine heart, and in the sight of thing eyes. But know thou, that of all these things God will bring thee into judgment.” Before the judgment throne of God, there will be no acceptable insanity pleas. And no one will be able to say, “But I wasn’t of voting age.” Scripture says, “Flee youthful lusts.” Don’t mess with them, don’t entertain them, don’t tease them. Flee from them with fear in your heart. And to where should we run? Verse11 – “But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness.” “Set your affection on things above not on things on the earth.” Purpose every morning to follow righteousness, godliness, faith love, patience and meekness. These things honor God and they are the building blocks to great character.
By the way, there is another period in our lives, when temptation is almost always victorious. It is when we are struggling against sin, without the presence of the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ. Christ Jesus came into this world to destroy the works of the Devil – I John 3:8. He is the only reason why and the only means to victory over the Devil in our lives. If you want to have real strength and the ability to use the word “no,” then you need the strength of Christ.