Recently, a toddler challenge circled through social media. In this challenge, mom or dad sits their toddler down at the kitchen table and places a treat in front of them.
Parents explain that they will leave the room for a couple of minutes, and the toddler is not to eat or touch the dessert until they return. All the while, the poor kid is secretly being filmed.
I would not have stood a chance.
The footage is priceless. Some kids succeeded while others failed miserably. Some toddlers sat on their hands to aid self-discipline. One repeated the phrase, “Be so very patient.” Some toddlers inched their faces close to the treat to smell it. Others dug in before their parent had even left the room.
In one particular video, a boy sat in front of a doughnut. While waiting for his dad to return, he started touching it, poking it and picking off sprinkles. Seconds later, it was game over.
Watching these toddlers, I’m reminded of a few passages of Scripture.
In the book of Leviticus, God teaches the Israelites how to live a holy life, to be set apart from the world and to live for Him. God gave them clear guidelines for how to worship Him and honor Him in the day-to-day. He covered everything from the way they handled their relationships to the foods they were allowed to eat.
There was no room for confusion, especially when it came to foods that were considered clean and unclean. After listing the animals considered unclean, Leviticus 11:8 goes on to say, “‘You may not eat the meat of these animals or even touch their carcasses. They are ceremonially unclean for you.’”
I find it fascinating that God forbade not only eating unclean animals but also touching them. He knows that keeping our distance keeps us from temptation.
In Genesis, God similarly instructed Adam and Eve about the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. He said, “‘... you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.’” (Genesis 2:17).
In both of these instances, God instructed His people not to partake of things considered unholy. God wanted them to stay as far away from sin as possible because sin separates people from Himself.
God knows our weaknesses, and that once the forbidden, unclean or unholy thing is in our hands, sin is inevitable.
Often, we flirt with temptation. Once we know the boundary line, we try to get as close as possible. We do this because we believe the lie that whatever is on the other side is going to bring us more joy, peace, comfort or satisfaction than where we are now—the place God has called us to be.
It’s easy to hug the line of gossip, greed, envy, pride or lust. Perhaps, we have not crossed the line, but our heart’s desire is to camp out on it.
In the Gospels, Jesus tells us that even if we have not acted on this sin, by desiring it, we have sinned in our hearts.
Instead of toeing the line of temptation, God calls us to pursue holiness.
First Peter 1:13-16 says, “So prepare your minds for action and exercise self-control. Put all your hope in the gracious salvation that will come to you when Jesus Christ is revealed to the world. So you must live as God’s obedient children. Don’t slip back into your old ways of living to satisfy your own desires. You didn’t know any better then. But now you must be holy in everything you do, just as God who chose you is holy. For the Scriptures say, ‘You must be holy because I am holy.’”
As followers of Christ, we must be holy simply because He is holy. That is enough.
Rather than a rule giver, our God is a protector. He gives us instructions and commands obedience because He is a loving Father.
In both of these passages, God acted as a wise and loving father does to his children. He restrained them from eating and doing what He knew would bring consequences. Even if the Israelites didn’t understand the reason for these laws, their obedience kept them both healthy and right with God. Even if Adam and Eve did not understand why they could not have the forbidden fruit in the garden, God knew their disobedience would bring sin into the world and separate humanity from Him.
We may not always understand and it may not be easy, but when we seek holiness, we will draw near to Him.
So, let me ask you what I have been asking myself. What in your life is considered unholy or unclean? What is God asking you to not touch? What is it that you are inches away from, sniffing, holding or fully indulging in that is not honoring to Him? How can you instead seek Him or bring Him glory?
We have been given a choice. Though we may mess up every day, He loves and forgives, and wants to teach us a different way. Why? Because His way is holy. And He is a loving Father who longs to walk with us so we can experience His love and peace.
Let’s walk in this different way.
Madalyn Latter is a Women’s Ministry associate at Southeast’s Blankenbaker Campus.