Why do we do what we know is wrong?
“9 At that time Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. 10 Just as Jesus was coming up out of the water, he saw heaven being torn open and the Spirit descending on him like a dove. 11 And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.”
12 At once the Spirit sent him out into the wilderness, 13 and he was in the wilderness forty days, being tempted by Satan. He was with the wild animals, and angels attended him.” – Mark 1:9-13
Why do we do things that we know are wrong?
In my role as a christian minister, I’m in the unusual position (perhaps not so unusual anymore with covid) in that I work from home.
I have a study where I go to pray, think, write, plan, and I’ve got all my books on hand for sermon research. Working from home works well….well most of the time.
Working from home, although really good, means that there are interruptions and distractions. The kids come into my office. I talk to them, and then I funnel them out the door. They then decide to come in again, and do things that come natural to children. Things like hanging off the arm you are using to type with. To my shame, I do something I know is wrong, I get angry.
I know that I shouldn’t get angry in that moment. It’s not that I have a knowledge problem. It’s not that I don’t know that my anger is wrong. Yet, I get angry anyway.
Why do we do things that we know are wrong? Why do we, in biblical language, do we sin in ways that we know are wrong? Why do we give in to temptation in all sorts of ways?
Well, the answer to that is as old as time. Adam was the first human being. You can read about him at the beginning of the Bible. He’s made by God, and he is created to rule in God’s temple garden in a place called Eden. He’s called God’s Son.
For Adam everything is just as it should be. He’s enjoying the blessing of being in God’s life giving presence. However, disaster strikes. Adam believes a lie told by the serpent, Satan. Adam disbelieves God. He’s tempted and he gives into temptation. Adam fails when tempted. He gives into temptation, and he sins and so falls humanity.
And this is our story ever since…. this is humanity’s story. It’s your story, my story.
Now let me tell you about another Son. This time it’s not one person, but it’s a whole nation called Israel.
God’s Son, Israel, is called to worship God and enjoy his life giving presence. Again, however, they face temptation and fail the test. The Son gives in time and again to temptation and sin. Giving in – that’s the human story…. it’s our story.
Human beings can do good things, no doubt about that. However, if think of the world, it’s not a matter of good people and bad people. The problem is in each of us. Think of how people treat each other, broken relationships, lies, violence and tears. The world isn’t as it should be, this is not how we were made to be.
Why do we do what we know is wrong?
The Bible diagnoses our problem and says that we’re sinners. We are bent out of shape, like a traffic light pole that’s been hit by a truck.
We’re sinners and we give into temptation, and this separates us from God, and world is a mess because of it.
There is good news though. In the Gospel of Mark, we are introduced to another Son. This Son isn’t like Adam, nor Israel. Yet, this Son is in the wilderness like Israel and this Son is tempted like Adam. However, unlike Adam, unlike Israel, and unlike us, this Son faces temptation and passes the test.
Why? Because, as Mark says, Jesus is the beloved Son of the Father, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus, the Son, withstands temptation. When tempted to do what he knew was wrong, he never gives in. He never did give in. He lived every single day of his life without sin. And this is good news for us. In Jesus, there is hope for forgiveness, and hope for change.