A lack of specificity, with one another and to ourselves, often fuels temptation. If we simply say, “Don’t be greedy,” the slumlord will simply define greedy as whatever Wall Street tycoons do. If we say, “Be chaste,” the young adult will believe he’s sexually pure because he’s only had oral sex. If we simply say, “Be content,” the family will assume they’re content even as they claw ahead to pile up all the advertised stuff in their rented, climate-controlled storage units. Specificity exposes how the designs of Satan mask themselves.
You might rattle on about “the family” while neglecting your children. You might fight for “social justice” by “raising consciousness” about “the poor,” while judging your friends by how trendy their clothes are. You might pontificate about “the church” while not knowing the names of the people in the seats around you in your local congregation. Abstraction distances.
“The family” never shows up unexpectedly for Thanksgiving or criticizes your spouse or spills chocolate milk all over your carpet; only real families can do that. “The poor” don’t show up drunk for the job interview you’ve scheduled or spend the money you’ve given them on lottery tickets or tell you they hate you; only real people can do that. “The church” never votes down your position in a congregational business meeting or puts on an embarrassingly bad Easter musical or asks you to clean toilets before children’s camp next week; only real churches can do that. As longs as “the family” or “the poor” or “the church” are abstract concepts, they can be whoever I want them to be. The same is true with temptation and sin.
The spirit warns us about this. King David knew adultery was wrong; but he didn’t want anyone meddling with his situation with Bathsheba. Jesus lit into the Pharisees for “fighting for” the Law of God while ignoring their financial obligations to their parents, all under the guise of religious advocacy (Mark 7:10-13). Specificity identifies where, particularly, temptation (and post-temptation sin) is afoot.
– taken from Russell D. Moore’s “Tempted and Tried” p. 179, 180
Jonathan Edwards’ vivid description of what happened when we fell from God into sin:
The ruin that the fall brought upon the soul of man consists very much in his losing the nobler and more benevolent principles of his nature, and falling wholly under the power and government of self-love. Before, and as God created him, he was exalted, and noble, and generous; but now he is debased, and ignoble, and selfish.
Immediately upon the fall, the mind of man shrank from its primitive greateness and expandedness, to an exceeding smallness and contractedness; and as in other respects, so especially in this. Before, his soul was under the government of that noble principle of divine love, whereby it was enlarged to the comprehension of all his fellow creatures and their welfare. And not only so, but it was not confined within such narrow limits as the bounds of the creation, but went forth in the exercise of holy love to the Creator, and abroad upon the infinite ocean of good, and was, as it were, swallowed up by it, and became one with it. But so soon as he had transgressed against God, these noble principles were immediately lost, and all this excellent enlargedness of man’s soul was gone; and thenceforward he himself shrank, as it were, into a little space, circumscribed and closely shut up within itself to the exclusion of all things else.
Sin, like some powerful astringent, contracted his soul to the very small dimensions of selfishness; and God was forsaken, and fellow creatures forsaken, and man retired within himself, and became totally governed by narrow and selfish principles and feelings. Self-love became absolute master of his soul, and the more noble and spiritual principles of his being took wings and flew away.
Excerpted from “The Spirit of Love the Opposite of a Selfish Spirit”.
(found via Desiring God)