I love the Indiana Jones movies, mostly because I refuse to acknowledge the existence of The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. Other than the most recent misstep, though, all of Indy’s adventures have been great. Raiders of the Lost Ark kicked off the series and introduced us to a fearless hero who also happened to be very human.
Indy’s humanity is perhaps most easily seen in Raiders of the Lost Ark when he fights the swordsman. The swordsman appears in Cairo and attempts to intimidate Indy with his impressive blade skills. Instead of engaging in close combat, though, Indy chooses the simple route and just shoots the swordsman.
The script for Raiders of the Lost Ark called for a large choreographed fight between Indy and the swordsman, however Harrison Ford and most of the crew were sick. Just shooting the swordsman made for an easier scene and provided one of the most iconic moments in the franchise.
That scene also provides us the secret to overcoming temptation.
We like to think that temptation is like that long, drawn out, choreographed fight that was supposed to happen between Indy and the swordsman. When we see temptation coming we want to plan, we want to strategize and then face the temptation head on. If we engage with the temptation we know that we might lose, but at least we’re not going down without a fight.
1 Corinthians 10:13 says:
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 a way out so that you can endure it.
We’re like a prizefighter who thinks he can’t be beat. The Bible tells us that God will provide a way out of our temptation and we want to act like Master Chief. Temptation may come at us from every angle like the Flood and Covenant, but we think that we’re strong enough to rise victorious. Regardless of the odds stacked against us, we’re ready for the fight and we’re going to take the way out as we stand over the bloodied corpses of our temptation.
Unfortunately it never goes that way.
When temptation is coming at us from every side we’re not strong enough to stand up to it. When it comes to facing temptation, we’re more like a Grunt than Master Chief; we don’t have a chance. And when we give into temptation time and time again, when we keep losing the battle, we wonder where God was with his way out.
God’s way out is a lot like Indy’s fight with the swordsman. Instead of engaging, instead of drawing nearer to the swordsman, Indy just took the easiest route out; he shot the swordsman and moved on. We need to treat temptation the same way. We’re not supposed to engage with our temptations, we’re not supposed to get as close to them as we can; we’re just supposed to turn around and go the other way. God’s way out often looks a lot like simply removing ourselves from the tempting situations.
More biblical than Indiana Jones is the example of Joseph with Potiphar’s wife. Potiphar’s wife wanted to get it on with Joseph. Her advances weren’t subtle flirtations, but overt sexual invitations. The Bible tells us that Joseph didn’t hang out to see what would happen or keep stealing glances at Potiphar’s wife. Instead Joseph fled; he ran away. He wasn’t about to get mixed up with that level of temptation so he just left it behind. God provided a simple way out and Joseph took it.
Temptation doesn’t often chain us in a dungeon and force us to sin. Temptation is simply an opportunity and the way out is to not take that opportunity. God always gives us the option to turn to him instead of temptation, but too often we don’t really want a way out. We want to fight temptation because, in the end, we know we’ll lose. We can pat ourselves on the back and say that we gave it our best effort, but giving into temptation after a fight isn’t praiseworthy.
God calls us to flee from temptation because he knows we’re not strong enough to fight it on our own. And we can best experience God’s strength with temptation, not in fighting temptation, but in running away before the fight even begins.