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 along 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.”
When it comes to the cliffs of temptation, we would all do well to stay as far away from those edges as we can. We shouldn’t be like the little boy whose mother asked him, “Where are you?” He answered, “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 teaching 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. After all, you just can’t go down a path you totally shun.
Of course, 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 700 wives and 300 concubines. Those women came from foreign races such as the Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians, and Hittites, idolatrous races who worshiped false gods rather than the God of Israel. You see, this was Solomon’s cliff, one from which he tragically plunged over the edge. Rather than converting those women to the worship of his god, he allowed them to turn his heart to their gods. Almost unbelievably, he even fell so deep into idolatry that he built worship sites for the pantheon of false gods those women worshiped. That’s what you call going off a spiritual cliff.
Perhaps you have a sin to which you are particularly susceptible. If so, you would do well to completely shun that path. For example, if you are easily tempted by lust, you shouldn’t visit certain web sites, watch certain movies, or buy certain magazines. If you are easily tempted by drunkenness, you shouldn’t keep beer in the refrigerator. If you are easily tempted by course language, you shouldn’t hang out with foul-mouthed people. Learn from Solomon’s bad example, Like the rest of the people of Israel, he had a natural bent towards idolatry. Consequently, he placed himself in a very precarious spot when he willingly brought idolatry into his life by taking up with all those foreign women.
It’s been jokingly said that a good run will beat a bad stand anytime. Actually, though, that saying is more truth than joke. The apostle Paul told the Christians of Corinth to flee sexual immorality (1 Corinthians 6:18) and idolatry (1 Corinthians 10:14), and 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 that he left his garment in her hand, and fled and ran outside (Genesis 39:12).
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 edge of the cliff. You don’t give the temptation an opportunity to take hold in your life. To the contrary, you do whatever is necessary to turn away from the path of the wicked and the way of evil. Any dallying on your part and you just might find yourself where Solomon found himself: plummeting toward the valley floor below. That’s why you must become proactive with your temptation. Don’t sit around and wait for it to come creeping up on you. Know the woods in which it lives and stay out of those woods.