On a wintry morning, shoppers scuffled through the streets of New York, wining in and out of crowds. Amid the crowd was a young woman walking along the shops with a slight frown. She looked at the toys displayed in the windows, but quickly turned away with a sigh. She just did not have the money to buy them for her two kids, not even for this Christmas season. After her ex-husband had walked out on her, she could only provide food on the table; and at days, even that had been hard to do. Then something from the corner of her eye caught her attention. She moved toward the brown object lying by an Italian restaurant. A wallet. She opened it, and blinked. A wad of cash. She fingered through it and calculated that it could pay off this month's rent; maybe even the next month's. If nothing else, it would be able to supply more than decent presents for her kids. She rummaged through the wallet and found a drivers license, which showed an address in a wealthy community. She could take some of the money and drop the wallet off with the police; the owner of the wallet definitely wouldn't miss his missing money. What a great temptation she held in her hands!

What would you do if you were in her shoes? Would you be overcome by the temptation and take the money, or would you overcome the temptation and give back every penny to the rightful owner?

As you think it over, let's talk about temptation. "Temptation" is something or someone that entices or allures someone to do something that is against God's will. People can be tempted due to their personal want or need. A temptation can be harmless in itself, such as the wad of cash in the wallet that the woman found in our story. At other times, a temptation can be evil in itself, such as pornography.

The Bible says, "Let no man say when he is tempted, 'I am tempted by God,' for God can't be tempted by evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each one is tempted, when he is drawn away by his own lust, and enticed. Then the lust, when it has conceived, bears sin; and the sin, when it is full grown, brings forth death." (James 1:13-15, WEB) This tells us:
a) God never tempts anyone to do evil
b) Only the person who gives in to temptation is to blame
c) A person is tempted when something entices his desires or lusts. But if he ignores his lusts, he will not commit any sin. However, if his lusts overcome him and he falls for the temptation, then he has sinned. Then the sin leads to spiritual death (separation from God). So if the woman in our story took some money from the wallet, she would be overcome by the temptation, thus committing the sin of stealing (Exodus 20:15). However, if she returned the wallet without taking a dime from it, she would overcome the temptation and remain acceptable in God's eyes.

Every one of us has faced temptation at least once in our lives. There is no unique temptation, even though our situations may be unique; all types of temptation are common to humanity (1 Corinthians 10:13). But just because all of us encounter temptations does not mean that we will always be overcome. In fact, "God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted above what you are able, but will with the temptation also make the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it." (1 Corinthians 10:14)

So how can we overcome temptations? To help us answer this question, let us see how Jesus Christ overcame his own temptations, so we can learn from the example he has set for us. Jesus' account is found in Matthew 4:1-11:

Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. When he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was hungry afterward. The tempter came and said to him, "If you are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread."
But he answered, "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'"
Then the devil took him into the holy city. He 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 will put his angels in charge of you.’ and, 'On their hands they will bear you up, so that you don't dash your foot against a stone.'"
Jesus said to him, "Again, it is written, 'You shall not test the Lord, your God.'"
Again, the devil took him to an exceedingly high mountain, and showed him all the kingdoms of the world, and their glory. He said to him, "I will give you all of these things, if you will fall down and worship me."
Then Jesus said to him, "Get behind me, Satan! For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve him only.'"
Then the devil left him, and behold, angels came and served him.

Here, we have three recorded temptations that Jesus victoriously overcame. The lessons we can learn from them are:

1) The first temptation involved human need, the strongest force that pulls a person into a temptation's trap. After Jesus fasted forty days, he was naturally very hungry. Taking advantage of his hunger, the devil tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread to satisfy his need. Since Jesus was to live a life solely dependent on God, to meet his needs on his own by turning stones into bread would be against God's will for him. But Jesus overcame the temptation by focusing his true need on God and God's Word. To fight off the tempter, he quoted from the Scriptures: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God." (Matthew 4:4 from Deuteronomy 8:3)

When our strongest needs for life's necessities, such as for food and clothing, tempt us to do something against God's will, such as stealing or committing robbery, we must turn our attention from our physical needs to our spiritual needs: the need to obey God's will. Our spiritual need is the true need, because when we are able to satisfy this need, we will be satisfied eternally, for those who do the will of God will have an eternal sacred relationship with God that no one and nothing can take away from us. On the other hand, to satisfy a physical need by disobeying God is to satisfy a temporary need in the expense of our spiritual need. When we satisfy our physical need by doing something against God's will, we will jeopardize our relationship with God. Thus, if we are placed between the choice to meet our temporal needs and the choice to meet our eternal spiritual needs, we must choose to meet our spiritual needs over our physical needs. Of course, if we can meet our physical needs without having to fall for a temptation, then there's absolutely nothing wrong with it.

2) The second temptation involved faith in God. Jesus was tempted to throw himself down from the pinnacle of the temple in order to express his faith in God. But as pious as it seems, this is actually an act to put God to the test, to see just how faithful God is when it comes to saving His people. Testing God is a grave sin. Does what is created have the right to test its Creator? Even though God promises to help us overcome our temptations, we have no right to test His promise. Thus, Jesus quoted from another verse of the Scriptures: "You shall not test the Lord, your God." (Matthew 4:7 from Deuteronomy 6:16)

When we face a temptation, we must not head straight into it, thinking that God will save us. We have the responsibility to live with common sense, caution, and prudence. To live a reckless life and expect God to save us regardless of how irresponsible we act is to put God to the test. Thus, if we purposefully go to a certain place that we know will tempt us to commit sins, such as going to a strip club where people engage in fornication, and expect God to protect us, we would be testing God, something we must avoid doing at all times. So whenever possible, we must avoid things and places that greatly tempt our lusts.

3) The third temptation involved one's ultimate devotion and worship of the only true God. Jesus was tempted with the world's kingdoms, which would belong to him if he bowed down to the devil only once. However, he knew that "You shall worship the Lord your God, and you shall serve him only," which he quoted from God's Word (Matthew 4:10 from Deuteronomy 6:13). Since there's only one true God, and that's Yahweh, then only He should be worshipped, exclusively. Thus, Jesus gave up the world's riches when he refused to perform a single act of worship of the tempter. He overcame the temptation by focusing on his ultimate purpose in life: to glorify God alone, not the devil, and not even himself.

If we are given the chance to receive great material riches in the expense of the exclusive worship of the true God Yahweh, then we must choose God over the riches. No worldly riches can ever surpass the value of the eternal wealth: a sacred relationship with God and Jesus in God's forthcoming Kingdom on Earth.

Now, notice that there's a common thread running throughout Jesus' defense in all three temptations. Can you tell what it is?

That common thread is the Word of God. Each time, Jesus used the Word of God (the Bible) to fight his temptation...and won. Thus, whenever we meet a temptation, we must remember what God's Word says, and apply that to our situation. Even though the Bible was written thousands of years ago (the earliest portion is about 3,500 years old), its principles are ageless, and therefore, they can be applied to any circumstance no matter where we are or what we do.

Tempted to steal? Remember: "Let him who stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing that is good, that he may have something to give to him who has need." (Ephesians 4:28)

Tempted to insult someone back for insulting you? Recall: "Let all bitterness, wrath, anger, outcry, and slander, be put away from you, with all malice." (Ephesians 4:31)

Tempted by a married woman's charms? Heed Jesus' words: "I tell you that everyone who gazes at a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart." (Matthew 5:28)

Yes, God's Word is "the way of escape, that you may be able to endure" and prevail over your temptations, anytime! (1 Corinthians 10:14) So next time when you're tempted, you'll know to where to turn. :)

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Shirley Cheng (b. 1983) is a blind and physically disabled award-winning author with twenty-seven book awards, proclaimer of Yahweh God's good news of salvation through Jesus Christ, Bible teacher, founder of www.Ultra-Ability.com Ministry, summa cum laude graduate with Doctor of Divinity, motivational speaker, poet; and author of nine books (including "Do You Love Jehovah?"), contributor to twenty-five, and an editor of one. Shirley has had severe juvenile rheumatoid arthritis since infancy. Owing to years of hospitalization, she received no education until age eleven. Back then, she knew only her ABCs and very simple English; other than that, her book knowledge was non-existent. However, after only about 180 days of special education in elementary school, she mastered grade level and entered a regular sixth grade class in middle school. Unfortunately, Shirley lost her eyesight at the age of seventeen. After a successful eye surgery, she hopes to earn multiple science doctorates from Harvard University. http://www.ShirleyCheng.com

Do you have questions about the Bible? Something you don't understand? Do you need a bit of guidance in developing a relationship with Jehovah? Then Shirley would like to help you! Please contact her via her site at http://www.shirleycheng.com and she would be more than glad to do her best to answer your questions! Never hesitate to ask questions, for no question about the Bible is ever too small or stupid.