We are tempted every day to do things that we know we shouldn’t. We want to be healthy, but, hey, an extra brownie won’t hurt, right? Some temptations are a little less frivolous. We want to be faithful, but if we stray and don’t get caught, it’s okay, right?
The problem with temptation is that it is usually a slippery slope. If one extra brownie is okay, what’s so bad with two? If one affair is okay, why wouldn’t two? When Jesus catches the woman caught in adultery, Jesus puts a halt to that slippery slope. She isn’t just forgiven; she is told to “go and sin no more.” I doubt that she did, haven been given that instruction straight from Jesus, but unfortunately the seductiveness of sin is so strong that recidivism is common. We just can’t stay away from those brownies.
Why didn’t we learn this lesson from the beginning, when Lucifer tempts Eve with the fruit in the garden? After all, there was a pretty severe punishment. But the fruit eating incident is a microcosm for the escalating nature of sin. God had specifically forbidden them from eating of it, and Eve reminds Lucifer of this. And Lucifer, crafty serpent that he is, opens up for Eve an even greater sin. If you eat the fruit, he implies, you will be like God. This is the temptation that Eve, and later Adam, cannot resist, and it leads to their downfall. This is the sin that rests atop the hierarchy of sins: defiance of God by attempting to be God. For those who try, it never turns out well.
Yet we continue to try. Throughout history emperors, kings and prelates have tried to elevate themselves not simply over humans, but into the heavens, wreaking havoc on the lives of those they ruled. In the 19th and 20th century, this opportunity to be on par with God has been granted to everyday people through the efforts of philosophers like Nietzsche and Foucault. These men taught that the self is created through the human will, and that reality is created through a collection of human wills. This is commonly referred to as “a social construct,” and is applied to some of the basics of being human, like gender and race. In other words, God’s creation is superseded by humanity’s. Or more precisely, there never was a God, so somebody has to create reality. From this we arrive at the bizarre phrase, “you have your truth, and I have mine.” We may have different perceptions and interpretations arising from our limitations, but there is only one Truth.
Of course, being like God is very tempting because it makes you the creator and holder of Truth. It’s a temptation that keeps on tempting as Lucifer has not given up and wants you to seek him. But seeking the truth is the path to God. From Eve and Adam on down, those who have sought to defy God by manipulating truth, or creating their own, have caused immeasurable harm. Embracing the truth of God and God’s creation can put you at odds with those who wish to create their own truth, but who would you rather be in harmony with: those who create their own truth, or the One who actually created Truth?