We would agree that all temptation is veiled. If there was a giant sign on a bottle that said poison, people would stay clear right? Temptation is inherently deception. However, there is a type of temptation that is double-veiled and has different motives from the conventional form. Satan, among other ministries, has the ministry of temptation and he tempts to sway from the path of righteousness and into sin. What we scarcely know though is that not all temptation is an invitation to commit sin. Before you label me a heretic, let’s look at the most popular story on temptation in the Bible – the temptation of Jesus.
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’ ” Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘He shall give His angels charge over you,’ and, ‘In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’ ” – Matthew: 1-7 (NKJV)
Paul states in his letter to the Corinthians that Satan is cunning and his slyness was Eve’s undoing. He didn’t overpower her or hypnotize her, he simply deceived her. It is also quite clear to me from this text that he is quite sly.
Observe that the first two temptations were not temptations to sin. Turning a stone to bread is not a sin; neither is jumping off the mountain to be saved by angels. The former was to address a need and the latter is just plain ridiculous. Jump just to prove you can. Jesus at a later date performed miracles to solve the problem of hunger at least a couple of times. In one instance, He turned 5 loaves and 2 fish into enough food for 5,000 men. Also, in Luke 4:29-30, Jesus is taken to the edge of a cliff by an angry mob bent on throwing him off but He miraculously walked through them to escape death.
With that said, turning stone to bread was a thought that originated from Satan therefore it was a wrong action to take. Not necessarily sinful but not constructive. Therefore temptation goes beyond deceit or lure to commit sin against God. It is also a lure to give in to the voice of Satan. This is a fine line which most do not see therefore we often take actions that aren’t necessarily sinful but were as a result of temptation.
What’s the danger in yielding to these forms of temptation? It’s simple: You will eventually commit sin. Satan always has an agenda which ends up with sin.
Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and Him only you shall serve.’ ” Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him. – Matthew 4:8-11 (NKJV)
Satan’s strategy was to test Jesus a couple of times with these double veiled temptations within the grey areas before tempting Him to commit outright sin. He was seeking a baseline to determine if Jesus would discern his voice and obey his voice. Would He know it is me speaking? Would He do what I suggest even though they aren’t sinful? This was a gambit to set Jesus up for his main scheme which was to cause Him to bow down before him in worship. That third and final temptation was clearly sinful and was Satan’s end game all along. He was faking on the play to get a good read on Jesus.
A man who cannot discern the voice or influence of Satan would likely give in to his plots. The devil is the master of trickery and decoys. Nowhere in the Bible is he referred to as a fool. He is quite wise and rarely engages in a frontal assault. It’ll always be subtle and imperceptible.
It is clear that bowing down to worship Satan is idolatry and a sin against God, hence Jesus’ retort was more fierce this time around. Away with you Satan! – A sharp rebuke at the suggestion of sin. On previous occasions, He countered but not sternly. It is dangerous to engage the devil in a logical conversation. That’s one he will win every time.
Eve gave audience to Satan and before long, he had caused the fall of mankind. He was after Adam but he never approached Adam. Cunning much! We must be alert to discern the voice we are hearing. Just because it’s not a sin does not mean it’s not temptation or it is not of the devil. You might be in the early stages of his actual agenda and the ability to decipher his plots goes a long way in fending him off. There are times we take actions that originated from Satan though not sinful. We need to subject our thoughts to a litmus test before they become actions. Is this from God or Satan? As I got this understanding, it became clear to me that some actions I might have taken in the past were a result of failure to discern that I was being tempted. Not sinful, yet not constructive.
If Jesus had bowed before Satan, he would have succeeded in deceiving the second Adam and the redemption plan would have been a bust. He was tempted at all points but without sin. That’s what was required just as it was required of Adam to abstain from eating fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Man would not have been redeemable by the blood of Jesus due to the taint of sin, the vicious cycle that started with Adam would have continued and the devil would have won again. He aims for the most impactful blow. He is patient but lethal, much like a serpent.
Learn to discern the voice you are hearing. Is it God’s, yours or Satan’s? Shalom.