Funny man and humorist Jack Handley once wrote about being the target of bullies at school and how they would ambush him on the playground and nab his lunch money. As a countermeasure, he enrolled in an after school program that specialized in teaching the art of self-defense. But after a few lessons he realized that it was financially cheaper just to hand over his lunch money to the bullies than to pay for the lessons that were several times the cost of his lunch.
The point of my using this story is not to encourage cowardice or compromise in the face of bullying, but rather to remind us that when it comes to temptation and the cost involved in giving in, it is not always best to stand and fight. Sometimes, the better part of valor is to simply run. Sometimes, it is wiser to flee than to fight. In fact, I was struck just recently at how often the Bible encourages us to flee rather than fight a threatening temptation or an encroaching evil. Paul says to the Corinthians, “flee sexual immorality” (1 Cor. 6:18). In the same letter, Paul urges the Corinthians to “flee from idolatry” (1 Cor. 10:14). Speaking about material greed Paul says to Timothy, “Flee these things, and pursue righteousness” (1 Tim. 6:11). In his second letter to Timothy, Paul says, “Flee also youthful lust, but pursue righteousness” (2 Tim. 2:22). Biblical counsel says that it is not weakness to flee the presence of temptation or the approach of the devil, but rather wisdom. The fact is we cannot escape life in a fallen world and the attendant pressure to compromise our walk with God, but when it comes to targeted temptation directed at an area of great vulnerability, escape we must. To stay and fight is to knowingly and foolishly step into the line of fire. It’s like painting a target on your back and putting yourself in easy range of the enemy.
The classic example of this principle of fleeing rather than fighting is the Patriarch Joseph and his battle with Potiphar’s wife and her seductive attempts to get this handsome, red-blooded, young man to go to bed with her (Gen. 39:6-12). After several days of refusing her words and resisting her advances, Joseph ran (Gen. 39:10-12). The text tells us that on one particular day she tried to force herself on him and so he fled, leaving his coat but keeping his character (Gen. 39:12). Joseph saturated that place with his absence. It is interesting to note that initially Joseph tried to argue with her by giving solid reasons as to why her proposal was both wrong and wicked (Gen. 39:10-11). But as the text goes on to show sin is not to be reasoned with, but run from. Joseph did the opposite of Samson who lingered in the presence of Delilah and lost everything. No, Joseph took to his heels fleeing the presence of Potiphar’s wife (Judges 16:1-22). For Joseph, there was no pussyfooting with sexual temptation.
I once heard Adrian Rogers say this, “With every temptation, God makes a way of escape, and sometimes the way of escape is with a pair of sneakers and a hard run.” We cannot leave this world, but we do not have to linger by the door of temptation.
Sin is a heart issue, but our feet can help in the struggle!