One thing that’s really been coming up in my life lately is the idea of traps. There are a lot of words for them; ensarements, ambushes, take your pick. I was teaching on the serpent in the garden of Eden last week and so much of what God was speaking to me about was being watchful and aware that the ambush and attack of the enemy IS coming. Jesus says in Luke 22:40 that we should pray that we don’t fall into temptation. Peter puts it this way.
1 Peter 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.
They both paint a picture of intentionally moving through the day on the lookout for the ensarements of the enemy. As our study of the book of Luke continues here today, we see Jesus run into some tricks and traps.
Luke 20:20-22 Watching for their opportunity, the leaders sent spies pretending to be honest men. They tried to get Jesus to say something that could be reported to the Roman governor so he would arrest Jesus. 21 “Teacher,” they said, “we know that you speak and teach what is right and are not influenced by what others think. You teach the way of God truthfully. 22 Now tell us—is it right for us to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”
Read verses 20 and 21 again, but imagine this time that you’re the teacher. Some seemingly good people show up and let you know not just how great you are, but also how incorruptible and Godly you are. And then they ask a question. You’d probably feel pretty happy in that moment, glad that your teaching was making a difference, that you were being appreciated, and of course, you’d want to answer any questions they had. You are, after all, a good and incorruptible teacher.
On a regular day, what gets said in verse 21 and 22 is a compliment, an encouragement, and a question. But, on a day when you’ve woken up, put on the armor of God, and put on a mindset of intentional awareness that keeps watch for temptations and traps, you may find that these words may not be so kind and full of goodness. Jesus walked in the spirit and Jesus most definitely practiced what he preached. He was on guard for the temptations and tricks that were going to come his way, so when they arrived he wasn’t caught off guard, he was ready.
Luke 20:23-26 He saw through their trickery and said, 24 “Show me a Roman coin. Whose picture and title are stamped on it?” “Caesar’s,” they replied. 25 “Well then,” he said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” 26 So they failed to trap him by what he said in front of the people. Instead, they were amazed by his answer, and they became silent.
A lot of times when you see a trap the best thing to do is avoid it, but I like the lesson we learn from Jesus here. Wisdom also defeats the traps and tricks of the enemy.
Proverbs 4:6 Don’t turn your back on wisdom, for she will protect you. Love her, and she will guard you.
I love this verse and how we see it come alive in this moment from Jesus’ life. Part of being on guard for temptations and traps is embracing wisdom. If we don’t have wisdom, then we can be watchful all day long but might not recognize the traps even when we see them. Thankfully, wisdom is one of the easiest commodities to gain as a child of God. IF your focus is on the right things.
James 1:5-8 If you need wisdom, ask our generous God, and he will give it to you. He will not rebuke you for asking. 6 But when you ask him, be sure that your faith is in God alone. Do not waver, for a person with divided loyalty is as unsettled as a wave of the sea that is blown and tossed by the wind. 7 Such people should not expect to receive anything from the Lord. 8 Their loyalty is divided between God and the world, and they are unstable in everything they do.
The catch for receiving free wisdom FROM God is that you have to be focused ON God. It’s a free gift for those who are in the right place to receive it. I’ve always found this section of James to be incredibly instructive. I think we can claim to be solely focused on God all day long and maybe even believe it, but this is one of those things that become crystal clear when you lie awake in bed at night. When your spirit’s uneasy, your mind is troubled, and deep down you know that you’ve got one foot in the kingdom and one foot in the world. You feel it in the instability of your mood and your joy and your peace, in the way your emotions can take over and supremely rule at any moment. There’s some good news about this. If you realize that about yourself, then guess what, that’s the start of wisdom. It’s what you do next, though, that matters. Because what reveals the character behind that wisdom is what you do when you realize that you haven’t been living a life firmly entrenched in the sole focus of following Jesus. Do you just keep on doing what you’ve always done that causes you to lay there and feel uneasy and unfulfilled? Or do you start to make changes and get your life aligned with God?
Traps and temptations have been around since the early days of planet earth and as long as we live they’ll continue to be a part of daily life. Stay on your guard and make wisdom your friend. The faith needs you healthy and whole, and that’s never going to happen if you’re constantly falling into traps.
I love all of you! I hope the week is treating you well. It’s been constantly rainy here in North Texas, which has done a beautiful work of subduing the awful summer heat for a while. This makes me deeply happy.
If you need prayer or need someone to talk to, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.