“There hath no temptation taken you, but such as is common to man; But God is faithful, who will not suffer (allow) you to be tempted above that ye are able, but will, with the temptation, make a way of escape that ye may be able to bear it.” I Corinthians 10:13 KJV
Somewhere, a while ago, I ran across something Albert Einstein said about himself: “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
It was that “passionate curiosity” which enabled him to unlock some of the secrets of the Universe. After scientists had concluded that the atom was the smallest entity in the universe, his theory exploded that long-held belief and opened the door to the nuclear age. Just by being curious. Listening, thinking and investigating. George Washington Carver exhibited some of the same kind of patient curiosity and disciplined intelligence when he found many ways to use the common “tater” . . . beside being boiled, baked mashed, or fried! Such little things. Such small details which captured their attention. But with what results once their discoveries were applied!
That’s usually the way discoveries are made. “Seek and you shall find.”* “You will find me when you search for me with all your heart.” Those are just a couple of places where emphasis is placed on the importance of careful, continued study of the Scripture.
So now, at the risk of being redundant, (Redundancy is highly under-rated! Redundancy sometimes highlights what’s important! If we miss it the first time around, hopefully we’ll catch it on the second time around. or the third!). Sometimes we’re digging. Thinking. Searching. Listening. Meditating. What significance does that highlighted phrase hold? What did Paul mean when he made such a sweeping statement? The question I raised set my mind to thinking for several days and I share my thoughts hoping they may be helpful. And I welcome your own thoughts on the meaning of that little phrase.
What did Paul really mean when he said that temptation is “common to man?”
For certain, it means temptation is something with which everyone alive must deal. In an elementary course in logic, Socrates’ syllogism is an introductory “no brainer.” “All men are mortal. I am a man. Therefore, I am mortal.” He could just as well have said: “All men are sinners. I am a man. Therefore, I am a sinner.” (Therefore, I sin.) The logic is not only compelling. It is solid-as-a-rock-fact. Every human (man or woman, this isn’t a gender thing. Every member of the species homo sapiens) who ever spent time on this planet is included.
The dress, and time, and language, and location may change. But the fact remains that temptation is common to mankind. It is so widespread that it is not rare. If that fact is established, it isn’t likely that we could honestly ever say: “No one ever got tempted and roughed up like I have been.” The fact is everyone, everywhere, at some time has been or will have to play the hand which has been dealt to you. You are not the first, last, best, worst, or only person to have to face crucial tests like you’ve had to handle. You are not the first or only wife who got bored with her household chores and her husband and was tempted to take a walk on the wild side. You aren’t the first, last, worst, or only man who was ever tempted to cheat, or lie, or steal, or hate, or compromise your standards. Or run away and hide when the pressure got to you. You aren’t the only guy who ever got hooked on alcohol or drugs and then got dragged around with a ring in your snout.
Everyone. Repeat, Everyone who has ever been here is faced with the same trials and temptations: How to live and house and feed your self and your family. How to make sense of tragedy, how to deal with loss.
Somehow, the acceptance of that fact doesn’t give me an instant desire to break out singing the “Hallelujah chorus.” Even if “misery loves company,” it doesn’t get me all pumped up or help me cope just to know a lot of people are in the same boat. Or will be.
What it does, though, is provide me with a sense of perspective. Others have similar trials and temptations! Just like mine! Surprise. Surprise! Some of their experiences are recorded in the Bible. I have the opportunity to study their lives and learn how they coped. I can study the lives of others who faced similar temptations and had their faith collapse. I can learn from their mistakes.
I’m not in this battle alone. No one is “picking on me.” I am not the only one who’s been challenged or mistreated. There’s no reason for me to feel “singled out,” or become self-piteous. (Somehow just knowing that others climbed out of the slimy (what-ever-it-was) pit is encouraging and gives me hope, too. It doesn’t please me that they’ve “been there” – but it does give me hope that maybe I can make it, too.)
Now, we’re making some progress. Instead of feeling I’m alone and a target, I can realistically face and accept this fact: “Temptation is common to man.” All men, Everywhere. This is a fact of life.
A couple of other thoughts occurred to me as I drew to a conclusion of this study. One is a great thought which had been submerged in my mind and just surfaced: ’Beloved, we don’t have a ‘High Priest’ who cannot be touched with the feelings of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted as we are. . . yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace that we may obtain mercy in time of need.”**
He knows what you are facing and what you are feeling, and how hard you are trying. He understands and stands wth you, and it does not change even if the “common” temptation you encounter seems “uncommonly” difficult.
The other is a great thought which has been submerged in my mind and surfaced. I don’t know who wrote it, but am glad someone did:
“In every pain that rends the heart, the Man of Sorrows has a part.”
~God’s servant, your friend, brother and fellow student, ~donkimrey