Heath Bar Blizzards.

Cheese coneys with no onions.

Ah, the stuff of temptation.

I’m not sure why, but the stuff of temptation seems to get stuffed into my face. Tempting, yes, and harmful really to no one but myself. These are the temptations we laugh about. We chuckle, like Flip Wilson, saying, “The devil made me do it.”

However, serious temptations affect other people and relationships, and these are not always easy to spot. Friends who are alcoholics have told me that their addiction began like Nike, “Just do it.” What’s the harm? You can handle it. Just do it.

We read about Jesus being tempted in the wilderness. Jesus hears the voice, the questioning, the “what ifs.” If you are the Son of God, why not turn these stones to bread? Why not give a demonstration? For a modest fee, you could have all these kingdoms at your feet. Why not? It’s easy. The voice is present to say, “Go ahead; do it.”

In these cases, the temptation is to do something that we shouldn’t, and we often think of temptation this way. However, temptation can be just as compelling not to do something that we should.

The same voice that pesters us with why not can also hammer us with why. When we’re about to step into something new or when we’re trying to make an improvement, the voice will be there. Why are you doing that? What are you thinking? Who do you think you are? They’ll never accept you. You’re not good enough. What if you fail?

Sometimes the voice comes from others, and sometimes it’s planted in our own mind.

Temptation will always be with us. That alluring voice will often be there to denounce and distract. The key to dealing with it is to have a clear sense of identity, purpose and motivation. Jesus knew who he was and what he was about, and that equipped him to address temptation.

Perhaps that’s the hardest part. Knowing who we are and what we’re about helps us deal with temptation, but it requires a discipline of reflection, awareness and understanding. We have to ask: What’s motivating me? That can be a difficult question to explore honestly. However, the security of the answer is a requirement in order to say to the voice of temptation, “Get behind me.”