Blessed is anyone who endures temptation.
(James 1:12 NRSV)
Tonight we unfortunately happened to tune into a program entitled: “World’s Dumbest Thrill-seekers.” I must admit that the title was true. One man did a back flip off the roof of his house (looked to be about 30 feet up). Another attempted to fly off a mountain (in one those flying suits) seeking to catch a balloon tied to a rock. He crashed into the rock and broke his leg. There were many other things that these people were tempted to do which absolutely boggles the mind.
There are times when all of us are tempted to do things that aren’t real smart. Shirley, Camile (who was my girlfriend and Shirley’s best friend at the time) and I were in the front seat of Camile’s Corvair. We had the really bright thought that one would steer, another would change gears, while the third would work the peddles. I think we were seventeen. You would have thought our brains should have been more developed by that age… guess not.
We proved that none of us ever escape some form of temptation. Of course, some of us are tempted more dramatically than others.
William Willimon tells an amusing and yet sad story about something that occurred in a Women’s Thursday Morning Bible Study he was leading in his church. The group was studying Jesus’ temptations. Dr. Willimon asked the group, “Have any of you ever been faced with temptation and, with Jesus’ help resisted?”
A young woman who was attending her first Bible Study raised her hand. Verleen was different from the rest of the women present; she grew up differently and had a different set of values. She began: “A couple of years ago I was into cocaine really big. You know what that’s like! (I am sure the ladies in the Bible study shook their heads in agreement – yeah, we know what that is like). You know how that stuff makes you crazy.” She told the women that a few years before she and her boyfriend robbed a gas station. “It was as simple as taking candy from a baby,” she said. That night her boyfriend also wanted to rob a convenience store, but something inside of Verleen told her it was wrong. Her boyfriend beat her up for refusing to go along with him but she felt good saying no, “cause that was the only time in my life I ever said no to anything,” she told the group.
Through the stunned silence Dr. Willimon muttered, “Well, er, uh, that’s resisting temptation. That’s sort of what this text is about.” He then led the group in the closing prayer.
Temptation is relative. All of us are tempted. Some to do what could have been a tragic stunt with a car. Some might even go so far as being extreme thrill-seekers. But there are others who are tempted to do things we would not even imagine. We need to be aware that there are people who are tempted daily with situations that you and I cannot even imagine… and we need to pray with them and for them that they may see the error of their thinking before they go so far that they hurt someone else or themselves.
Dear Jesus, help us, your people, to win the battle with temptation. And when we read about people who do some awfully foolish things… we need to remember the old saying… “there but for the grace of God go I.” In and through Jesus. Amen.
Grace and Peace