The Bible has some specific information about that, of course--the Ten Commandments for starters. And later, Jesus expands on those first Hebrew laws in His Sermon on the Mount when He gives us a solid understanding that sin goes way beyond lying, cheating, or adultery. In fact, He is more concerned by then with our desire and ability to love and achieve holiness than to avoid sin.
But we do have to avoid sin, and in doing so, have to be able to see it coming. We have to figure out what sin looks like and I'm finding that I'm not nearly as good at that as I thought, at least not once we get beyond the obvious. I'm learning that I've made a much better Pharisee than a New Testament saint.
The problem appears to be this:
Sin doesn't always look like sin.
It doesn't. That's why Eve was fooled. That's why the Pharisees were fooled. And that's why we're fooled.
This became obvious today while I was reading the only plain account of Jesus being tempted:
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”--Matthew 4:5-6
Think for a minute that this was Jesus. He knew who He was. Satan knew who He was. He, and what He would do, had been predicted hundreds of years before. If anyone ever knew their 'spiritual gift', Jesus did. He was going to save the world.
On the face of it, all He had to do was exercise His gift. All He needed to do was show up, make sure everybody recognized Him for who He was, do what He had to do, and go home satisfied, brushing the dirt off His hands. There were a million ways He could have saved the world. Think about it. He could have snapped Satan out of existence at any moment.
Satan knew this. When they stood together, looking down at the city, Satan said essentially, "Go ahead. Declare yourself. Do what we both know you came to do. Why not? You were made for this." And Jesus may have considered it for a minute, nosed around that cheese--
But Jesus didn't, and this is the part that struck me. Instead, He said:
“It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”--Matthew 4:7
Who was He kidding? Wasn't it God who gave Jesus this job in the first place? Didn't He say, 'Go, save the world for me.'?
And that's when it hit.
God gives us all jobs. And He gives the gifts to do them.
Just like Jesus, we pretty much all know what we're supposed to do.
One person is a teacher, another is a chef, another a teacher or a writer or musician.
Everybody is good at something and that talent came from God. And He gave it to be used. But, like Jesus, probably not in the most obvious way.
A teacher should teach, but not necessarily in a classroom. A leader should lead, but not necessarily from behind a national podium. A singer should sing, but not necessarily in front of an audience.
What is the temptation?
Significance, I think.
We see the gift, get confirmation from other people who see it, too, and then say, 'By golly, now I'm going to use it for God's glory.' And immediately, we head up the hill, look out onto the city, and set out to show them the wonder of what God has done.
That can't be sin, can it?
Jesus didn't do that, did He?
Satan dangled His destiny before Him, acknowledged Him for who He was, and waited for Him to take the bait.
And He didn't.
When offered the chance to showcase His gift, His mission, and His glory, Jesus refused, turned around, and headed back down the hill.
And we all know where His path led. Not where anybody expected, but to the exact place required to complete the job properly.
And that's us, too, I think.
The place God wants to best use the gifts He gave us is probably not the most obvious one--not obvious to us, and not to the people around us. But, He will lead us to the proper place to use those gifts. He will provide the vision and the way, all at the proper time.
So, like always, we are not to look at the gift, but follow the Giver.
I suspect that, if we're able to do that, we'll be able not only to eat our own cheese in peace, but have plenty to share.