From time to time I enjoy a good practical joke. When I was in college I had a friend who lived on the second story of an apartment complex and he had a balcony big enough to place a couple of chairs where you could sit and talk. One particular night, several of us were over at his apartment playing Risk and we had taken a break. I announced that I needed to run to my car to grab something and would be right back. When I left, instead of going to my car, I walked around the building to his patio. I climbed up the side of the building, quietly hefted myself over the railing, and then made a very sudden, very loud entrance through the unlocked patio door. I caused a few mild heart attacks and made someone else spew a drink out of their nose in fright before they realized what had happened. At least for me, it was stinking hilarious. And the entire prank was possible because no one ever thought about locking the patio door. After, all, it was on the second story of the building. No one would be able to get in that way, right? But after that night, I never found the patio door unlocked again.
When we deal with temptation one of the greatest dangers we face is the assumption that we are safe from certain sins, that particular temptations hold no danger for us, and so we don’t guard against them. We leave the door to the balcony unlocked. This tendency is what James was addressing when he wrote, No one undergoing a trial should say, "I am being tempted by God." For God is not tempted by evil, and He Himself doesn't tempt anyone. But each person is tempted when he is drawn away and enticed by his own evil desires. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and when sin is fully grown, it gives birth to death (James 1:13-15, HCSB). Temptation very rarely is a danger because of our outward circumstances. Yes, someone may make us an inappropriate offer. Yes, we may find ourselves in a difficult position where doing something wrong is easier than pushing through and doing the right thing. But the circumstances in which we find ourselves are not the most important factors in temptation. Our own desires are what trip us up.
When we refuse to acknowledge those hidden desires, those things that linger in the hidden recesses of our hearts, those things no one else knows about, we fail to guard against those particular temptations. After all, what is the point of locking a door nobody can get to? What is the point of reinforcing a foundation that isn’t in danger of fracturing? If we think we are safe, we do nothing to safeguard ourselves. Thus, it is vitally important that we acknowledge those areas where our desires might get us into trouble.
If we yearn for the latest technological gadget but we don’t have the money to spend on it, we might need to avoid Best Buy for a while. If we have trouble controlling lustful thoughts, we might need to avoid being alone with that good-looking co-worker we’ve caught staring recently or even stay away from the internet entirely. But when we refuse to acknowledge our own desires, we end up putting ourselves in positions that are unsafe for us, positions that will eventually see us yield to a temptation we could have guarded against.
Be honest about the desires that lurk within you. Hiding and denying them only sets you up for failure. Acknowledge them and guard against them. Confide in someone who can hold you accountable and help you set up safeguards. Maintaining a pretense of super spirituality is difficult when your temptation sneaks in through your balcony.