“No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide way out so that you can endure it” (1 Cor. 10:13). In this passage, Paul is warning the Corinthians against being overconfident in their faith, or turning it into an idol, instead of a way of being.
Paul gives them examples from the past in the Hebrew scriptures. He tells how the People of God had God with them, that they were “baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink…Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness” (verses 2-30). Why? Because they turned to idols, or they had turned their own religious practices into occasions for revelry, or they had made a god out of the law, or out of an all too narrow understanding of the law, instead of actually struggling to live the law given to them by their faithful God, out of a deep and real love for him.
Are we not tempted to do this ourselves at times? There are sins called “sins against the Holy Spirit.” These are particularly dangerous to our eternal souls. They are sins of presumption. One of these presumptions is when one counts oneself as saved and then believes that no matter what sins one commits, venial or mortal, God will just forgive them. It is essentially saying that because I am “saved” I can do no wrong. This is death to the soul by way of a half truth. Yes, God can and will forgive all sins, venial and mortal, IF the sinner recognizes his or her sin, experiences true sorrow for it, turns to God filled with a deep desire to repent and to do penance, and, with God’s grace, to work diligently toward never committing that sin again. Another of those sins against the Holy Spirit takes the opposite form. Here, one believes oneself to be so bad that even God could never forgive one’s sins. This, too, is a sin of presumption. It denies the infinite power of God. It denies God’s greatness and one’s own smallness. Most importantly it denies God’s infinite love shown to us in the cross, the death, and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.
It is only in holy humility that we can truly understand Paul’s admonition here. God is faithful, even though we often are not. We all have temptations, things that tend to pull at us with immense force, that try to take us away from God. As Paul says, “No temptation has overcome you except what is common to mankind.” But God, in his faithfulness, does not leave us alone. He knows us more intimately than we know ourselves. He loves us in our weaknesses and in our strengths. He knows our weaknesses and he will not test us beyond our strength. Indeed, when we are tempted, if we have formed a humble and trusting relationship with God, we will more readily turn to him, and we will be more open to his aid, his comfort, and his graces to help us bear up in our struggles against those temptations. He will, in fact, “provide a way out so that [we] can endure” those times of struggle against our temptations. If we have a loving relationship with God in prayer, in our sabbath worship with our communities, and if we immerse ourselves in his word in the scriptures, he will walk with us and strengthen us in all of our battles with temptation.
Dear Lord, We are weak and sorely tempted by our weaknesses. But with you we have a champion, a guide, a protector. Increase our trust and our faith in your faithfulness. You have made us free, help us in all things to choose more consistently what is right and good and true, and to avoid what is wrong. We pray in your name Jesus. Amen!