In this passage, we see both warning and encouragement concerning temptation.
First Paul writes,
So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall! (12)
I think this was especially pertinent for those who thought they were “strong” in their faith. As I mentioned before, there were many who were “weak” in faith in that they had tender consciences. In particular, they could not eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols without feeling guilty.
Others today may not have that particular problem, but they feel guilty about drinking a glass of wine or beer. Others may feel guilty about playing cards.
And it would be easy for the “strong” to look down on the “weak” and say, “Look how much more mature as a Christian I am. Look how much stronger my faith is. I can do things that these others can’t.”
But Paul tells them, “Be careful. You may think you’re strong, but if you stand in your pride, you could easily fall yourself and prove yourself weak.”
A glass of beer, for example, could turn into two or three or four leading you to get drunk. And if that happens too often, that could turn into alcoholism. In either case, you have just stepped over the line into sin.
But even if you never do, you can fall into the sin of pride, such that you look down on others and abuse your freedom causing them to fall. Or you could fall into other sins entirely. You start to fail to trust God in your decisions at work and start compromising God’s values for the sake of the business or for your own position. Or you lose your temper with those around you. Or someone hurts you and you cling to unforgiveness and bitterness in your heart.
There are numerous ways in which we can fall. But if we walk around in pride, we can become blinded to our own faults just as the Pharisees did in Jesus’ day.
So Paul warns us, “Watch yourself. You may not be as strong as you think you are, and you can fall just as easily as anyone else.”
But then he gives a word of encouragement.
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. 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 stand up under it. (13)
The word “temptation” has two senses. One, of course, is temptation to sin. But it can also mean trials. And Paul says that whatever temptation or trial you may go through, God knows your limits. And he will not let you go through more than you can handle, but he will always provide a way for you to stand despite what pressures come against you.
There’s also comfort in knowing that we are not alone. Some people think, “I’m the only Christian who struggles with this. Why am I so bad?” And Satan would have you believe that.
But Paul makes clear that whatever temptation you go through, others have gone through it too. One of the benefits of confessing your sins to others is that you soon find out that many of them struggle with the same things you do. And while you may be weak individually, together, in the Lord, you can find strength.
How about you? Are you feeling strong? Be careful lest you fall.
Are you feeling weak? Be encouraged. You are not alone. Others have gone through the same things you are going through now. And God will always be with you to help you stand.