There are so many sources of temptation today. Though they classically come from three sources — the world, the flesh, and the devil — or what Aristotle might call their efficient causes, they manifest in many different people, places, and things. There are almost uncountable material causes, the things that the Tempter twists and offers to lead us astray. We find them online, in stores, in our imaginations, and in each other. What are we to do?
Consider what Jesus does in Mark 1:21-28, where He cures a demoniac. “In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; he cried out, ‘What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!’ Jesus rebuked him and said, ‘Quiet! Come out of him!’
The spirit asks Him a question. It asks another. It names Him the Holy One of God. And what does Jesus do with that? Nothing. He doesn’t answer the questions; He doesn’t reply to the statement. He doesn’t investigate further but simply goes on with His work–He commands the demon out.
What does this teach us? We’re not to engage or investigate. We don’t need to know why that thought came into our minds, not in the moment. We don’t need to answer the tempting questions that “friend” asks us, or that we find in our own minds. “Why shouldn’t you enjoy that?” “Who are you to say that’s wrong?” “Why don’t you take it easy?” We don’t have to engage. In fact, we shouldn’t engage. We shouldn’t look deeper into the abyss of sin but focus on God’s will, on doing what He has given us to do. That’s more than the way out of sin, in fact; that’s the way to joy!
In the end, regardless of the efficient cause — the agent doing the tempting — or the material cause — the thing used to tempt us — there is ultimately only one final cause. There is only one goal of all these temptations: our damnation. Our fallen flesh leads us that way. Our fallen world makes those paths wide and easy. And the Evil One beckons us down. We ask “What are we to do?” And Scripture, and Jesus’ example, give us the answer.
Copyright 2016, Joe Wetterling