“The Last Temptation of Christ” was a novel written by Nikos Kazantzakis in 1953. The original Greek version was translated into English in 1960 and in 1988 became a blockbuster movie. The central thesis of the book is that Jesus, while free from sin, was still subject to fear, doubt, depression, reluctance, and lust. Kazantzakis argues in the novel’s preface that by facing and conquering all of man’s weaknesses, Jesus struggled to do God’s will without ever giving into the temptations of the flesh. We know the biblical story of Satan’s three offers to tempt Jesus by asking him to turn stones into bread, throw himself off a high cliff, and to bow down and worship him in exchange for all the kingdoms of the world. With each offer Jesus rebuffed Satan. So how do you rebuff temptation?
Remember the hymn “Yield Not to Temptation,” with the stanza, “yield not to temptation for yielding is sin, each victory will help you some other to win, fight manfully onward, dark passions subdue, look ever to Jesus, he will carry you through.” When faced with temptation do you say, “Get behind me Satan?” Do you use your mental will power to fight whatever is enticing you? Do you recite the Lord’s Prayer, “lead us not into temptation and deliver us from evil?” Do you flee from the enticing situation and immerse yourself in something else? And how exactly does temptation appear in our lives these days?
Temptation means, “something that is alluring, or enticing, or seductive.” I wonder what the Motown Temptations had in mind when they named themselves? How does temptation evidence itself: flattery from a coworker that can quickly lead to something else—especially if either or both of you is married; foods of every variety that you know you should avoid, especially that box of donuts that appear each morning at the office; sexual stuff of every variety on the Internet, especially naked pictures of folks; Internet porn of every variety; drugs and alcohol; cigarettes, wrongfully taking other people’s money; crimes of every variety? You name it, temptations are all around us every day—enticing us to do something we probably should not do. But in a world in which “everything goes” can there be any such thing as temptations anymore—or a reason to resist temptation?
If there is no right and wrong, no moral standard except for whatever makes a person feel good, can there be hard and fast rules about temptation? How do you know that whatever is enticing you is in fact wrong? Can it be wrong for one person and “right as rain” for someone else? Can sexual infidelity be wrong for monogamous couples but “just fine” for couples who are swingers? As the saying goes, “whose morality?” And what happens to “if it feels good do it, if it looks good eat it?”
The woman who assisted the two inmates to escape from a New York prison apparently was enticed and seduced by those two guys. At what point should she have “yielded not to temptation” and stopped delivering escape tools to them? At what point should some sense of right and wrong have kicked in and told her to cease any further participation. How could she have gone as far as she did with these two guys without feeling some overwhelming sense of “this is wrong?” What exactly did these guys do that made her jeopardize her job, her marriage, and her freedom in order to help them? How enticing could two guys be who were locked up for violent murders? What could she have seen in them? And is this how temptation really works—cunning, clever, smooth-talking, subtle, something that “works it magic” on your good sense?
Can you avoid tempting by just avoiding tempting situations? Can you avoid enticing drugs by avoiding people who use drugs? Can you hang out with folks who go to dope houses and think you won’t ever become a drug user? Can you resist bad foods by just not looking at that big box of fresh donuts that someone brings to the office everyday—and what about that delicious aroma of freshly baked donuts that makes them irresistible? What about the temptation to smoke cigarettes or marijuana? Can you fight temptation with will power alone-as in “resist evil and it will flee from thee?” Can you pray your away out of tempting situation where you immediately invoke “in the name of Jesus” and overcome weakness? Do you want to overcome weakness? Do you want to resist temptation, or do you want to, dabble a bit with enticing situations hoping that things won’t go too far and you end up saying “the devil made me do it?” What was the last temptation your faced and how did you deal with it?
Copyright 2015 – L. Arthalia Cravin. All rights Reserved. No part of this commentary may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise, without written permission from the author.