A father and son were on an errand to the grocery store for a loaf of bread. Of course the bread aisle was in close proximity to the donut case and very quickly the inevitable request was voiced. And that dad, being a “dad,” allowed him to get one. While they were getting into the car, the next request came: “Can I hold the bag?” “Okay, you may HOLD it, but DON’T eat it.” “Okay, Daddy.”
You know what came next, don’t you? They were not even out of the parking lot when the bag began rustling. Dad glanced over his shoulder. “I’m just looking at it, Daddy.” “Okay, you may LOOK at it, but DON’T eat it.” “Okay, Daddy.”
That lasted less then a minute, and then the bag began rustling again and Dad looked back just in time to see some icing go into the boy’s mouth. “I’m just tasting it, Daddy!” Dad took the bag away. Some temptations are just too hard to resist.
But some temptations are not only hard to resist, but they are also complex. Look at the circumstances of Joseph’s temptation (Genesis 39):
- It was unexpected — it came at a time when he and Potiphar both were enjoying uncommon blessing (v. 5).
- It came from an unexpected source. Not only was the seductress Potiphar’s wife, but she was also Joseph’s superior.
- It came with favorable terms — “no one will know” (vv. 8-9) was the empty promise.
- It came with cultural and family “blessing” — that was the way “everyone” in the pagan culture lived, so why not?
- It came when he was immersed in the task God had given him in the home (v. 8). He had done nothing to encourage or invite the temptation.
- It came repeatedly. Potiphar’s wife did not give up after the initial failure to compromise him, but was relentless in her pursuit of him (v. 10).
It is also equally important to understand (and follow) Joseph’s response to that temptation.
- He believed that to indulge in the temptation was to steal from one who had trusted him (v. 8).
- He believed that to indulge in the temptation was indulge in evil (v. 9b). He was not afraid to call the sin what it was: “sin.”
- He believed that to indulge in the temptation was even more importantly a sin against God (cf. also 1 Cor. 6:18), and he was unquestionably loyal to God.
- He took a firm stand in the beginning and maintained it. He was habitually prepared to face the temptation (v. 10b).
- When the temptation became desperate in its attack, he ran (there are times to run: cf. 1 Cor. 10:14; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:22). And then he didn’t wait around the corner for it to catch up with him!
It was no single action that protected Joseph from failure, but it was a singular commitment to God that thwarted the advances of temptation. Because Joseph loved God more than anything else — including the passing pleasures of sin — and was firm in that love, the temptation did not overwhelm him.