Every temptation must be a thing offered: a pleasure, an escape, a revenge: such as thing as were born in Babylon:
11 And the merchants of the earth weep and mourn for her, since no one buys their cargo anymore,12 cargo of gold, silver, jewels, pearls, fine linen, purple cloth, silk, scarlet cloth, all kinds of scented wood, all kinds of articles of ivory, all kinds of articles of costly wood, bronze, iron and marble,13 cinnamon, spice, incense, myrrh, frankincense, wine, oil, fine flour, wheat, cattle and sheep, horses and chariots, and slaves, that is, human souls
How can we turn down such things? Temptations are always pretty, always perfect, always fit to the occasion. But, as Brooks explains, such things are always vain. They are transitory:
2 Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity. 3 What does man gain by all the toil at which he toils under the sun?
Ecclesiastes 1:2-3. What if I should gain everything, would I keep it?
18 I hated all my toil in which I toil under the sun, seeing that I must leave it to the man who will come after me,19 and who knows whether he will be wise or a fool? Yet he will be master of all for which I toiled and used my wisdom under the sun. This also is vanity.20 So I turned about and gave my heart up to despair over all the toil of my labors under the sun,21 because sometimes a person who has toiled with wisdom and knowledge and skill must leave everything to be enjoyed by someone who did not toil for it. This also is vanity and a great evil.
Ecclesiastes 2:18-21. Who could contend with this thought? Even the most certain atheist must look to his work and know that he will leave it behind. I walked Getty’s museum, bought with his money — and yet built after he died. I did not toil for his wealth, and yet I enjoyed it in a manner he never could.
But for the Christian, the matter is worse. I know better. I know that such things are illusory in their offer. But the false certainty of sense overcomes truth at times. I must know what things are in truth, not bare immediate appearance:
Such men will sell Christ, heaven, and their souls for a trifle, that call these things vanity, but do not cordially believe them to be vanity, but set their hearts upon them as if they were their crown, the top of all their royalty and glory. Oh let your souls dwell upon the vanity of all things here below, till your hearts be so throughly convinced and persuaded of the vanity of them, as to trample upon them, and make them a footstool for Christ to get up, and ride in a holy triumph in your hearts.
How do I remember this? First, consider the matter plainly: Scripture and experience both prove that my own life is transitory, how then could I believer otherwise about the things of this life. Think of how foolishly I cared for the opinion of a man or woman whom I have not seen in 40 years.
Second, consider the particular matter at issue: How permanent is this particular thing?
Third, meditate upon Scripture plainly says about such things. Roll the truth about in your heart, your mind, your mouth until you do not doubt it. Memorize that which is applicable and appropriate from Scripture. For example:
34 And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.35 For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it.36 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?37 For what can a man give in return for his soul?38 For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of Man also be ashamed when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels.”
Fourth, pray to be settled in the truth of the matter. Pray to see things for what they are.
Fifth, stay away from vanities. To give one’s attention fully to vanities and yet to think that I shall stay away when temptation comes is foolishness. Guard the heart. For that which goes in will come out.