People from Bible times would be amazed at the way we live today. We have planes, cars, trains, and ships that transport us wherever we want to go. Farming machinery makes it possible for us to grow large quantities of food with little muscle power. Medical discoveries allow us to live longer and survive what, back then, would have been fatal accidents and illnesses. Information is at our fingertips via the Internet.
Things are different today. Times have changed. The question is: Has our lifestyle of abundance, knowledge, and technology increased our chances of falling into sin? Do we face temptations that people in the Bible never had?
A couple weeks ago some friends and I went out to eat at Cheesecake Factory.
Of course, the first thing I noticed was the tempting display of cheesecakes at the front. People in Bible times didn't have to deal with this. They didn't have a Krispy Kreme doughnut shop just blocks away. They didn't have convenient drive-throughs at fast-food restaurants or chocolate bars sitting at the checkout counters. They weren't served huge portions at restaurants-all you can eat and more.
Most of the people we read about were poor and didn't have the means to overindulge. Not us. We're used
to this biggie-size lifestyle. Overindulgence is not only tempting-it's easy. Just one more helping. Just another piece of cake. And the obesity rate in this country continues to rise.
Another temptation that comes with abundance is materialism. We go to malls and load up with shopping bags full of things we don't really need. A bigger car, a bigger yard, a bigger house. Our society tells us to buy more, spend more, and once again, materialism is not only tempting-it's easy.
So what if we don't have the money to pay for it? Just charge it. Stores advertise no finance charges and no payments for 12 months. People in Bible times didn't have Visa or MasterCard. They couldn't just go out and buy, buy, buy.
And what about temptations that come with modern technology? People in Bible times didn?t have the Internet. They didn't have easy access to such secret sins as pornography. They couldn't exchange flirtatious e-mails or surf the Internet while being paid to work. What about sending text messages during church instead of paying attention? What about spending hours and hours glued to the television or to the computer?
And then there are sexual temptations. Back in Bible times, premarital sex probably wasn't a huge deal since couples were married at a much younger age. Plus, the leaders were ready to stone those who committed adultery or became pregnant without being married. Can you imagine what would happen if the same were true today?
Perhaps we have a disadvantage in the twenty-first century. Maybe we face temptations that people in Bible times never had. But the more I think about temptations now versus then, the more I begin to question whether things have really changed.
Back to the issue of overindulgence (the Bible calls it gluttony). Why would Proverbs 23:2 warn against it if it weren't an issue back then? And Isaiah 22:13 condemns the people, saying: "There is joy and revelry, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine! 'Let us eat and drink,' you say, 'for tomorrow we die!' " It may not have been cheesecake, but it was something else.
As for materialism, remember the story of Achan? The Israelites had been told not to take anything from Jericho, but Achan was tempted by the wealth he saw and took some silver and gold and a beautiful robe (Joshua 7). King Ahab had many vineyards of his own, but he wanted someone else's so badly that he pouted till his wife got it for him by having the owner killed (1 Kings 21). And when visitors arrived from Babylon, King Hezekiah was happy to show off "the silver, the gold, the spices, the fine oil, his entire armory and everything found among his treasures" (Isaiah 39:2). Talk about materialism!
God's people weren't immune to sexual temptations, either. King David committed adultery with Bathsheba and then had her husband killed to cover up the sin (2 Samuel 11). Judah slept with a prostitute,not knowing that it was his own daughter-in-law (Genesis 38). Numbers 25:1 says that the Israelite men began to "indulge in sexual immorality with Moabite women." And how many wives and concubines did Solomon have (1 Kings 11)?
Add to this list the pile of sins and temptations that we haven't even mentioned-hatred, jealousy, selfishness, covetousness, dishonesty-and our temptations start sounding more similar than not. The reality is that not much has changed when it comes to temptations. We aren't that different, or as the Bible puts it: "What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun" (Ecclesiastes 1:9). Seems a little depressing that we're still falling for the same temptations people have faced for thousands of years, but that's the struggle between good and evil.
The good news is that we can turn to the Bible for help. We can learn from the mistakes of men and women in the Bible, and we can also learn from the positive examples of those who faced temptations and stood firm. Daniel and his three friends were offered the best food in the kingdom, but they remained true to principle (Daniel 1). Moses was tempted by wealth and abundance, a life of royalty, but he was willing to give it all up to follow God's will (Exodus 2). Joseph was able to resist the sexual advances of his master's wife even if it meant prison (Genesis 39). And Jesus, the best example of all, withstood temptation after temptation (Matthew 4).
So what can we do when we face temptations today? How can we keep from falling?
1 Rely on God's Word. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness, He replied with "It is written . . . " (Matthew 4:4). We can do the same by studying God's Word and being well acquainted with the principles and guidelines God has set forth.
2 Pray about it. "And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one" (Matthew 6:13). Jesus often spent time with God in prayer. And in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told His disciples to "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation" (Matthew 26:41).
3 Claim God's promises. 1 Corinthians 10:13 says: "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it." God promises that He will help us through any temptation, big or small.
4 Remember, God knows and understands what you're going through. "Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted" (Hebrews 2:18).
Helen Lee Robinson works as a freelance writer and editor from her home in Scottsdale, Arizona.