Temptation’s Cliff

Once there was a man who lived in a mountainous region. The road to his house ran along a steep cliff. When the man set about to hire a coachman, three candidates applied for the position.

The man called in the first candidate and asked him, “How near to the edge of the cliff can you drive a six-horse team?” The candidate answered, “I have a steady hand and a true eye; I can get within a foot of the edge and not go over.” The man said, “Thank you. Please step outside.”

The second candidate was called in and asked the same question. His answer was, “Since I am an expert in handling horses, I can drive right along the very edge of the cliff and not go over.” The man said, “Thank you. Please step outside.”  

When the third candidate was called in and asked the question, his answer was much different. He said, “If you want a man to drive on the edge of the cliff, you don’t want me. When I drive, I keep as far away from the edge as I can.” To that, the man said, “Thank you. You’re hired.”

You aren’t the kind of person who likes to drive along the edges of cliffs, are you? When it comes to the cliffs of temptation, you’d better stay as far from those edges as you can. Don’t be like little Johnny, whose mother called out, “Johnny, where are you?” He shouted back, “I’m in the kitchen, standing in front of the cookie jar, trying to resist temptation!”

Proverbs 4:14-15 says: “Do not enter the path of the wicked, and do not walk in the way of evil. Avoid it, do not travel on it. Turn away from it and pass on.” The idea is, it’s impossible for you to end up traveling the path of the wicked or the way of evil if you avoid it and don’t even enter it. You just can’t go down a path you totally shun.

But the irony of Proverbs 4:14-15 is that Solomon, the man who penned those verses, didn’t heed them. 1 Kings 11:1-13 tells us that he had seven hundred wives and three hundred concubines. These women came from foreign races such as the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites. These were idolatrous races who worshipped strange gods rather than the God of Israel. This was Solomon’s cliff. Could he drive along the edge of it by keeping his hundreds of women and yet remain pure in his worship of God?

The answer was, no. Rather than Solomon converting his women to the worship of the true and living God, they caused his heart to turn after other gods. Actually, he fell so deep into idolatry that he built worship sites for the pantheon of false gods his hundreds of women worshipped. We might say that Solomon plunged headlong over the cliff.

I don’t know what particular sin you are susceptible to, but I would advise you to completely shun that path. If you are easily tempted by lust, don’t buy certain magazines or watch certain movies. If you are easily tempted by drunkenness, don’t keep beer in the refrigerator. If you are easily tempted by course language, don’t hang around with foul-mouthed people. Solomon, like the rest of the Israelites, had a bent towards idolatry. He had no chance, then, when he willingly brought it into his life by bringing those foreign women into his life.

It’s been jokingly said that a good run will beat a bad stand. But there’s really more fact than joke in this saying. The apostle Paul told the Christians of Corinth to “flee” sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18) and idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14). He told the young preacher Timothy to “flee” youthful lusts (2 Timothy 2:22) and the love of money (1 Timothy 6:10-11). “Flee” is a very strong word. It means, “Get out of Dodge now!” It means, “Why are you still here?” It means, “Let them see your back rather than your front.” It’s what Joseph did when Potiphar’s wife tried to seduce him. The Bible says: “he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside” (Genesis 39:12). Joseph saturated that place with his absence!

That’s how you handle the temptation to sin. You don’t stand in front of the cookie jar. You don’t see how close you can get to the cliff’s edge. You don’t give the temptation an opportunity to take hold in your life. You do whatever is necessary to turn away from the path of the wicked and the way of evil. Any dallying and you just might find yourself where Solomon found himself: tragically plummeting toward the valley floor below. You don’t want that, and God doesn’t want it for you. But you must learn to become proactive with temptation. Don’t sit around and wait for it to come creeping in upon you. Know where it lives and stay out of those woods.

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