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