ELDER GOH CHONG ANN
In the Garden of Eden, Eve was tempted by the serpent to disobey God and eat the forbidden fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Eve saw that the fruit was “good for food,” “pleasing to the eye,” and “desirable for gaining wisdom” (Gen 3:6). She coveted the fruit in three ways. First, it was appealing to her appetite. This is the “lust of the flesh,” the desire for that which satisfies any of the physical needs. The fruit was also pleasing or delightful to the eye, that which we see and desire to own or possess. Here is the “lust of the eyes”. Finally, Eve somehow perceived that the fruit would make her wise, giving her a wisdom beyond her own. Part of Satan’s lie was that eating the fruit would make her “like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen 3:5).
Here is the essence of the pride of life—anything that exalts us above our station and offers the illusion of God-like qualities, wherein we boast in arrogance and worldly wisdom. Eve wanted to be like God in her knowledge, not content to live in a perfect world under His perfect grace and care for her.
Satan tried these same three temptations on Christ during His 40 days in the wilderness (Matt 4:1-11). He tempted Jesus with the lust of the flesh, bread for His hunger (vv. 2-3), the lust of the eyes, “all the kingdoms of the world with their splendour” (vv. 8-9), and the pride of life, daring Him to cast Himself from the roof of the Temple in order to prove that He was the Messiah by an ostentatious display of power that was not in the will of God or His plan for the redemption of mankind (vv. 5-6). But Jesus, though He was “tempted in every way, just as we are” (Heb 4:15), resisted the devil and used the Word of God to ensure victory over him.
It is not a sin to enjoy physical pleasure in things in which God allows us to feel pleasure. For example, God created sex. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying intimacy with our spouses, but adultery or fornication is sin. There is nothing wrong with looking at beautiful things. There are many beautiful things in life, and even creation itself is breath-taking. But when we lustfully look upon things God has commanded us to avoid, such as pornography, or other people’s possessions, it becomes sin. There is nothing wrong with having ambition or desiring to work hard. However, it is when we fail to give glory to God, when we desire to be praised for other’s efforts, or when we desire power or knowledge for the sake of puffing ourselves up, that we become caught up in the pride of life.
Christians will always be lured by the same three temptations Eve and Jesus experienced. Satan doesn’t change his methods; he doesn’t have to because they continue to be successful.
Satan’s most evil temptation is the pride of life, the very sin that resulted in Satan’s expulsion from heaven. He desired to be God, not to be a servant of God (Isa 14:12-15). The arrogant boasting which constitutes the pride of life motivates the other two lusts as it seeks to elevate itself above all others and fulfil all personal desires. It is the root cause of strife in families, churches, and nations. It exalts the self in direct contradiction to Jesus’ statement that those who would follow Him must take up their cross and deny themselves. The pride of life stands in our way if we truly seek to be servants of God. It is the arrogance that separates us from others and limits our effectiveness in the kingdom.
However, the Bible tells us that “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.” (1 Cor 10:13).
How should we respond to these temptations? The same way Jesus responded to Satan. Jesus took the Word of God and rebuked him. We should all have God’s word in our minds and hearts, so that we can rebuke sin and evil, and resist it. Put on the whole armour of God to resist the devil.