The traps are there silent smooth slippery sand lurking in my stomping grounds waiting for that moment when (tired, stressed, stumbling) I forget to watch so I slide down that slope into disaster I let life take over busy pushing hard to meet my goals eyes distracted by the rocks obstacles I could climb over holding Your hand but I lose my focus stop listening to the Voice step over the line slip slam my enemy just laughs
Have you ever seen antlions? They were one of the fascinating discoveries that bonded me as a child to Côte d’Ivoire. We kids called them “doodlebugs” back then. Whenever I would find one of their inverted cones in the sand I would crouch to watch, especially if there were ants in the vicinity. If one of them even let one leg slip on the edge of the cone they would slide down to the jaws waiting for them, a tiny sandstorm raised along the track by their fall. Here is some scientific data:
antlion, (family Myrmeleontidae), any of a group of insects (order Neuroptera) that are named for the predatory nature of the larva, which trap ants and other small insects in pits dug into the ground. Antlions are found throughout the world, primarily in dry, sandy regions. The antlion larva digs a funnel-shaped pit (from 2.5 to 5 cm [1 to 2 inches] deep and 2.5 to 7.5 cm [1 to 3 inches] wide at the edge) by using its oval, sandy-gray abdomen as a plow and heaping the loosened particles on its large square head and throwing them clear of the pit. When the pit is completed, the larva buries itself so that only its jaws project. Any small insect that ventures over the edge of the sandy pit slips to the bottom and is seized by the sickle-like jaws of the antlion.
I can’t help but compare the antlion’s sandy trap to the basic temptation that Jesus was referring to when he filled in the real Kingdom-of-Heaven meaning of the seventh commandment: “You shall not commit adultery” (Exo. 20:14; Deut. 5:18). The literal sense seemed clear to the religious leaders of Israel: This was the prohibition of the act of intercourse with a married woman. To them, this meant that other forms of fooling around with a woman did not break the command.
Jesus once again went right to the heart of the matter, reminding the people that “breaking the seventh begins with breaking the tenth” commandment, desiring what is not rightfully yours:
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.” (Exod. 20:17 NIV).
He made coveting specific to this instance:
But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Matt. 5:27 NIV)
Coveting sexual acts outside of marriage is lustful ideation—not permitted! God sees not just what is done but also what is imagined and fondled. He counts that as just as wrong as the physical act. No person who secretly hides such mental pictures or videos in the private lockers of his heart can claim to have an undivided heart. Jesus had already taught, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God” (Mat. 5:8). Those people will be welcomed into his presence! And a pure heart does not have dirty closets. But a heart that saves up such fantasized acts is like that ant investigating the inverted sandy cone, letting its leg slip over. “When the heart is ready, the action will occur as occasion offers.”
I was talking with a friend not long ago who was asserting that, since it is impossible to not experience sexual desires outside of marriage, this has to be accepted as normal human behavior. They were certain that Jesus, a single man, would have had to have such yearnings, and even act on them. He was human!
I found it difficult to explain the difference between a temptation rising in your thoughts and succumbing to the temptation—falling into the trap of dwelling on that desire. It is this mental pursuit of the sexual thrill that Jesus said breaks the commandments. When the Enemy tempted him in the wilderness, he heard the words and understood the alluring prospects set before him. But he did not cave in. He resisted, and did not commit any sin.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are– yet he did not sin. (Heb. 4:15 NIV)
He was tempted, so he understands what that is like, but he didn’t give in. We are not as righteous and as strong morally as Jesus was, that’s for sure. Can anyone say that they have never let those kinds of desires find a resting place in their minds? God’s loving willingness to forgive us is a grace that we all depend on. We also need to remember the warning that we are not to use that grace as an excuse to continue to slide down that slippery slope!
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? (Rom. 6:1-2 NIV)
For certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord. (Jude 1:4 NIV)
Instead of letting the Enemy trap us, we need to make every effort to resist:
So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this [new heaven and earth where there is no wrong], make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. (2 Pet. 3:14 NIV)
This requires decision making. It means turning away from whatever it is that keeps on enticing us. Jesus used the radical imagery of gouging out your eye if it is making you stumble, or cutting off your hand if that is what is trapping you—better that than choosing the wrong path that takes you down the slippery slope into the jaws of the Enemy! Of course this mandate is not to be taken literally, or his disciples would have had to submit to this torture. Instead, it means we are to turn away and leave the online site, the movie, the book, the beach—wherever we find the slippery slope.
And the Spirit lives in the hearts of us believers. If we learn to listen to him and follow his counsel, we can resist these traps!
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. (Gal. 5:16 NIV)
All around the world there has been another big problem that Jesus wanted to address: a view of men’s rights that obliterates women’s rights. When Moses’ law required a man to write a woman a certificate of divorce if he was going to divorce her, this actually protected her from having essentially no legal standing when the man simply said, as was the custom before, “we are through!” But Jesus knew that this certificate was now being used to excuse a man’s getting rid of a wife for any reason at all, a disagreement or disappointment or desire for a different woman. He was okay if he just wrote that certificate. Jesus pointed out that such a divorce left a woman at the mercy of adultery (Mat. 5:32), since a divorced woman in that society often found that prostitution was her only way of earning a living, being without property or appropriate support.
This may sound far-fetched, but it was one of the things that I learned was similarly convenient for men in Nyarafolo culture to do. They could simply “chase” a wife, sending her back to where she came from if they wanted to. For any reason at all. This made her undesirable as a wife to anyone else. And the cultural definition of adultery, there, is intercourse done within a certain distance of a married woman’s hearth stones (her cooking “stove” in the courtyard). So men were free to make it happen further away. And rape was a huge danger to a woman walking by herself in “bush” areas.
Western culture has an increasingly open stance to all forms of sex if both parties are “consenting.” This does not line up with Kingdom values. The intimacy of sex was created to make “one flesh” out of two, and dismissing the force of this union is what results in broken hearts, broken dreams, trauma.
We need to let the Spirit show us how to live in such a way that we don’t get trapped by the Enemy’s enticing devices. Let’s walk with the Spirit, keeping on the watch for dangerous sand slides!
 Dallas Willard, The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life in God. (HarperSanFrancisco, 1997), 161.