I hate liver. I can still smell the pungent odor that was created when my mother cooked liver and onions. I can still remember trying to stifle the gag reflex it caused when my parents told me to “eat your dinner.” I can still feel its awful texture in my mouth and taste the nasty, livery flavor.
In short, you could never tempt me to eat liver. I’d have to be starving before I’d let it pass by my lips.
On the other hand, a plate of chocolate chip cookies has particular appeal to me;, and I’ve never seen a chocolate chip cookie I didn’t like. I could swear off cookies as a new year’s resolution but still be tempted on January 2 to relent and have one of the tasty morsels. Soft, gooey, chocolaty. Pass the cookies please.
The Biblical writer, John, said that all temptation boils down to what is attractive to the eyes, to the senses, and to the ego. Chocolate chip cookies play four-part harmonies on my taste buds. When those senses awaken, it is hard to say no.
The serpent offered the first humans the trifecta of temptations, visual, sensual, and self-aggrandizing with a side dish of God-doubt. When all those appetites awakened, Adam and Eve had no defense. The only way they might have attempted to withstand the temptation banquet was by sheer personal will. And we know how well we humans do with that.
Humans were not created to go it alone. By ourselves we are vulnerable to inner voices. “I wonder how that tastes.” “Did God really mean what he said?” “What would it be like to have that kind of power?” I’d like to call these the “stupid questions” because they open Pandora’s box of evil and vulnerability. Like Adam and Eve did.
Liver and cookies help me understand temptation. Liver appeals to none of my primal appetites. When I look at it, no appealing experience, accomplishment, or sensation comes to mind. Nothing gains a foothold in my mind. Offer me a plate of liver, and I can walk away with no distraction or regret.
Cookies, on the other hand, awaken my appetites in delicious ways. I can imagine the taste. I love the sight of a chocolate chip cookie cooked to perfection. It even appeals to my psychological desire for comfort. A warm cookie on a cold winter night – who could say no to that?
Jesus faced the same trifecta. Vulnerable in the wilderness, Satan came to him and offered him appealing things: bread to assuage his hunger, kingdoms to excite his imagination, and angels to inflate his ego. Any one of these would have provided a shot of adrenaline, but none of them would have given him the strength and truth that is enduring. And each leads down a dead-end street falsely promising satisfaction.
After the first humans yielded to Satan’s offer, they opened the door through which all temptation now howls. So temptation is now more than a choice; it also holds the key to power over us which only God can counteract. And with that power it lurks around looking for ways to enslave me.
Now, where are those cookies?