The Burning Temptation
“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.” Genesis 3:6-7
I have always found it intriguing that visual images run through the mind when reading descriptive passages of scripture or literature. The text almost seems to serve as a voiceover to still images or video created by the mind through the written word. It is at once frustrating and enthralling to me that this occurs. The fact that the images in my mind are mine and mine alone, that no-one else in the world will ever see them in the exact same way as I do makes it an intimately personal experience. That no-one else will ever see them the same way I do is what is both frustrating and fun. The details of the setting are unique and individualized; that is, until we turn the page and see the illustration or until the movie comes out. Then it is ruined for everyone.
As I read the preceding passage, the image that is formed in my mind is one that I saw in a children’s edition Bible in a doctor’s office when I was five, or maybe six years old. A blonde-haired Eve is standing, partially shrouded by strategically placed leaves in the foreground of the picture, hand outstretched towards an apple hanging tantalizingly at the very end of a branch. Adam stands behind her with an expression of anticipatory curiosity infecting his face. The serpent, which is wrapped around the tree branch dangling the apple, carries an attitude of significantly more anticipation. The earth, the fate of all mankind, and all of creation hangs on the brink of disaster. Heaven and earth are about to be rocked, and plans are already in place for God’s response to the dilemma.
The biblical account and the accompanying visual interpretations are surely understated. The turmoil of that first temptation must have been agonizing as Eve struggled to find her way through the ordeal and Adam “who was with her” seemingly stood by abdicating his responsibility to fight for, protect, and instruct his wife.
Moments later The Fall occurs.
The subsequent verses about Adam and Eve’s denial, excuses, blame, guilt, and punishment must surely be understated as well. Can you imagine the inexorable regret that accompanies the understanding that the result of your actions has been broken communion with God for yourself and all other future generations? I can’t help but wonder if God ever said, “Was it worth it Adam?” “No Father, it was not.”
Anyone who knows me knows that I L-O-V-E hot, spicy foods, salsa, and hot sauce. Oliver is just like me in that regard. Although he is only 11 years old he shares my love for capsicum. Last summer I took a walk out to the garden and found that my habanero plants were literally loaded with gorgeous peppers. I picked them, relishing both the experience of the harvest and the anticipation of the fiery flavor they would bring to whatever recipe or sauce I would employ them in. I filled a bowl and carried it into the house. Janine was out for a run so I showed them to Ollie and McKenzie. “Just look at these beautiful things. Have you ever seen anything like this?” I asked as I held up a pepper for their inspection. Suddenly the mental image I had of the Garden of Eden began to be stripped away, the apple replaced by the bright orange, glossy, waxy fruit of the Habanero. As I gazed upon it, I began to be lured into temptation. I “saw that the fruit was good for food and pleasing to the eye” and became nearly convinced that this was the forbidden fruit.
“Guys,” I said, “I have to eat one. I just have to do it.”
“No Daddy,” McKenzie said, “Don’t do it.”
“I have to,” I replied.
“Do it Dad! Do it,” Oliver urged.
“Daddy,” McKenzie said, “Think about what happened last time Mama wasn’t here and you did something stupid. I can’t drive you to the hospital.”
Encouragement came from the masculine prodigy, “Do it Dad.”
Even though I clearly knew what the consequences would be, I found the temptation too great to resist.
“OK, here’s the deal…I’m going to put it in my mouth, chew it for 20 seconds, then swallow it.”
“Do it Daddy.”
I did it. The sensation that ensued cannot even be described as heat. It was pain. I love the flavor of habaneros in small doses, but in this case, it did not even taste good. I swallowed it. Then the hiccups began. McKenzie looked on with fear in her eyes.
“Are you OK Daddy?”
“What’s it like?” Ollie wanted to know.
“It feels like chewing a mouth full of yellowjackets.”
After about 10 minutes the pain began to subside.
The next day I woke up with a whole new set of pepper related issues as my stomach began its course of punishment. As I walked through the kitchen I glanced towards that bowl of habaneros on the counter but did not see it that day in the same way I had seen it the day before. What had looked like something beautiful yesterday now looked like something I never wanted to eat again. I did not even want to look at them.
I began to think of how this is exactly like sin. At the moment it looks beautiful. It seems irresistible, and we in our fallen state seem unable, or unwilling to resist. In many cases there are two opposing forces working on us. One is warning us to steer clear (like my daughter was) while the other is urging us to go for it (like my son was). Typically though we know fully what the consequences will be if we let temptation win us over. Yet all too often we give in anyway. Afterward, what once looked so beautiful and enticing, seems putrid and disgusting. For most believers we become fraught with regret and come crawling back to the Lord with a repentant heart. For me, the feeling in my stoach is just like the one I had after eating the habanero.
Fortunately God, through Christ, is merciful and is quick to forgive. And yet, we must continually be on guard and keep equipping ourselves to overcome the sins in our lives that constantly tempt us. We must do this by putting Christ first in our lives, recognizing his Lordship. There is no substitute for reading the Word, prayer, accountability to a friend or spouse, and corporate worship and learning in a Bible-believing church. Do not misunderstand me and think that our works can earn us our salvation, but we are still accountable before God for the way we live.