Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death.
— James 1:13–15
“and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
— John 8:32
In college, I was hiking with two friends on the Appalachian Trail. If you have ever hiked there, you may know that occasionally they will block parts of the trail with electric fencing because of high bear activity. This means that those sections of the trail are only available to hike through, but you cannot stop there to camp or whatever else. The signs are posted everywhere: Electric fences. Do not touch.
When my friends and I saw one such fence, we shimmied under it and continued on the trail, where we got into a debate about whether the fence was actually electrified. I said, “Of course, it was,” but one friend said, “It’s not. We saw your rucksack hit when you went under, and nothing happened.” I said, “My rucksack is nonconductive. Flesh isn’t.”
This led to us going back to the fence so my friend could touch it to prove his point. He was electrocuted, immediately falling to the ground and twitching for about five minutes. It should have been over then, but it wasn’t. My other friend said, “He’s just being dramatic. It can’t hurt that bad.” I said, “Dude, it’s designed to stop bears.” He replied, “Whatever. There’s no way it hurts that bad.” Then he touched the fence and fell to the ground, where he twitched for several minutes.
It amazes me how easily we can convince ourselves of things that are not true. Lying to yourself is the easiest thing in the world. Even when everything else points to the contrary, we can convince ourselves of anything, especially if it means we get to do whatever we want in the end.
We tell ourselves things like I don’t need to change because there is nothing wrong with me. It doesn’t matter If I do this or not because no one is ever going to know anyway. My choice only affects me. Or my personal favorite: I can start tomorrow.
James 1:13–15 reminds us that this line of thinking will ultimately lead to our death. The crazy part is, we already know our bad behavior will lead to bad consequences. That’s why we have to lie to ourselves in the first place.
There is hope, though. The next time you are struggling with temptation, you could just believe the truth. In John 8:32, Jesus tells one simple thing to people who are using every argument in the book to keep from knowing the truth. He says, “and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
The next time you have this little debate, say this phrase: The reason I am coming up with these excuses is that I know it is the wrong thing to do. And then believe it. You could save yourself so much trouble.