So if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.
1 Corinthians 10:12-13
There’s an old Native American story about the power of temptations. A young brave once climbed a high mountain to prove his manhood. As he stood at the top, he looked down at his feet and saw a rattlesnake half-frozen by the cold. The rattlesnake said to the brave, “Please, I will die up here in this cold. Please put me under your shirt and carry me down the mountain.” The brave protested. “I cannot do that,” he said, “because I know what will happen. As soon as you warm up again you will bite me.” “No, I will not,” said the rattlesnake. “I will not because my relationship with you will be different. I will always remember that you are the man who saved my life.” This made sense, and so the young brave agreed. He tucked the half-frozen rattlesnake under his shirt and started back down the mountain.
As soon as the rattlesnake got warm under his shirt, however, he bit the brave, pumping venom into his body. The brave cried out, “How could you do this? I just saved your life. You said our relationship would be different.” To that the rattlesnake simply said, “You knew what I was before you ever picked me up.”
Some temptations can make perfect sense until it’s too late. That is the lethal danger of their logic. What temptations have crawled under your shirt, claiming to be something different than what they are? Is your old-fashioned work ethic actually a disguise for your greed? Is your desire to stop and smell the roses actually a disguise for your laziness? Is your righteous need to stand up for yourself every time you feel slighted actually a disguise for your sinful pride? Is your so-called “refreshing candor” with others really an excuse for you to be verbally abusive? When you talk about others out of “Christian concern”–is it really just a license to gossip? Your claim to be content to have a simple, childlike faith in what you learned about God as a kid–is that just disguising your stubborn refusal to gather with other believers and to grow in his Word?
When we fail to see these temptations for what they are, when we fail to see where these temptations come from, sooner or later the snake is going to bite.
Thank God for Jesus. Thank God for a Savior who withstood every temptation on our behalf. Thank God for a Savior who went to the cross and absorbed the venom for all our failures. When you’ve been bitten, there is forgiveness and rescue with our Savior, Jesus. And thank God for a Savior whose Spirit now empowers us to see our temptations with clearer eyes–whose Spirit now empowers us to leave the half-frozen rattlesnake on the ground.
Lord Jesus, when the temptations come, strengthen me in your forgiveness. Move me to leave the temptation alone. Amen.