Guns Kill The People That People Kill (Thoughts On Temptation)

A few months ago, there was a interesting debate regarding marriage and Facebook. The news reported a pastor who advised married couples in his congregation to stop using Facebook. He stated:

What happens is someone from yesterday surfaces, it leads to conversations and there have been physical meet-ups. The temptation is just too great.

He also ordered all those on the church staff to delete their Facebook profiles. For some reason this became a national news focus and it was revealed that the pastor years ago had actually had an affair through Facebook. This set off a heated debate among pastors and Christians (not to mention the secular media) about whether Facebook was actually the cause of his affair and whether it was appropriate for the pastor to suggest that all married couples get rid of Facebook in light of his (at that time, secret) scandal.

There was one phrase that kept coming up from Christians:

If you’re going to have an affair, you’re going to have an affair. Guns don’t kill people. People kill people. The issue is the heart, not Facebook.

Everytime I hear that phrase, “the issue is the heart, not {insert noun here}” there is always something that doesn’t settle right in my heart.  I think it’s because that statement assumes that if you have the desire to do something, you eventually will. I don’t agree with that and I don’t find that statement supported Biblically. I think the phrase should be:

The issue is the heart and what we do with any temptations.

James states something important about temptation in his letter to the church:

Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God,” for God cannot be tempted with evil, and he himself tempts no one. But each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin, and sin when it is fully grown brings forth death. (James 1:13-15 ESV)

Did you read that? Temptation doesn’t come from God, it comes from evil desires. That means we decide what the outcome of these desires and temptations are. Just because we’re tempted doesn’t mean that we’re prone to eventually fall. In fact, in temptation, God gives us way to flee these sinful things.

Therefore let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall. No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry. (1 Corinthians 10:13-14 ESV)

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. (2 Timothy 2:22 ESV)

The problem with the phrase “the issue is the heart, not {insert noun here}” is that it seems to ignore any device of temptation. The Bible takes time not just to speak concerning our evil desires, but also concerning the temptations that would seduce us into sin. In truth, there is a “opportunity cost” in sin. The Bible knows that if we remain in the place of temptation without fleeing it, we will sucumb to our evil desires. The Bible pushes us to not only fight temptation, but to proactively flee from it. It commands us to flee “any appearance of evil”. Jesus states this regarding temptation:

And if your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life crippled or lame than with two hands or two feet to be thrown into the eternal fire. And if your eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. (Matthew 18:8-9 ESV)

In fighting our strongholds and habitual sins, we must deal with the temptations that give these evil desires easy access into our lives. Because of my past, I deal heavily with lust. My wife has partnered with me to make sure that every computer I have, whether my iPhone or our laptop or my work computer, is locked down from the internet when I am alone. This doesn’t mean that I don’t have to fight thoughts in my mind or the look of my eyes when I’m in public, but it does help me flee the temptation of sexual sin. Before I did this, there were nights were I would lay in bed awake hearing the seducing voice of temptation call me from my computer or tv, but now I am free from those voices at night cause there is no easy way for me to access those things. The “opportunity cost” for me to engage in sexual sin has changed since I’ve proactively fled the temptations that once entailed me.

This principal can be applied to many strongholds such as if you struggle with alcohol, it’s probably not wise for you to have any in the house, including wine/alcohol for cooking. I applaud the pastor for realizing that it wasn’t just his evil desire to have an affair that was problem, but also his toleration of the temptation, in this case Facebook. I will state that everyone’s temptations can be different and many times are, so it’s important not to put your convictions on others. At the same time, I think it’s wise to share with people what are temptations to certain issues. Many times, temptation can catch us unaware. Many people’s first encounter with the sin they are now in bondage to happened by accident or in innocence.

It’s time that we start proactively dealing with our temptations and struggles. While “people do kill people” and “the heart is the issue”, I know that guns (and other weapons) are the instruments of these violent acts and these things we allow to stay in our lives to tempt us are instruments of our bondage. It’s time to break free of them.