Temptation is not sin, but it encourages you to peep over the fence! The Pharisees created a practice called the “hedge around the Law”; they added a plethora of secondary laws to ensure that the Mosaic Law was not infringed.
Similarly, the Society of Friends developed what is known as the “Quaker Hedge”, the plain customs of speech, dress, and life that created a quarantine or buffer zone between the holy and the worldly, to ensure they did not fall into sin. Modest dress, “custody of the eyes” (basically minding one’s own business!), and avoiding some centres of leisure where there will be a lot of alcohol consumed and raucous, bawdy behaviour are normal; they are all measures we might put in place to guard against temptation. For we know too well that we are but frail and human, and can so easily make mistakes we later regret.
In our study passages, we see some of the weapons against temptation identified: Jesus’ intimate knowledge of the Scriptures safeguards him from the wiliness of temptation; Jesus urges his friends to keep watch in prayer as a defence against temptation; Paul reminds us that a humble attitude will be a shield against the temptation to self-righteousness when we have to sort out situations arising from someone else’s sin; and James says what should be obvious but so often is not – the mess we get ourselves into is not God’s fault!
Jesus was tempted to break his discipline to satisfy his senses: can you think of examples of this in our modern society?
Jesus was tempted to show off his spiritual status for his own glory: have you sometimes been tempted to name-drop or show off for your personal advantage?
Jesus was offered power in exchange for forming a corrupt alliance and creating an unholy allegiance. In modern politics, do you think it is possible to avoid this and retain personal integrity?
We take refuge with you, O God our redeemer and our rock. You who made us and understand us know so well that we are weak-willed and a lot less clever than we think. Help us and protect us, we pray; strengthen us and hold on to our hands, that we may not lose our footing as we walk the straight and narrow way of eternal life. For we ask it in Jesus’ holy name; Amen.