It looked harmless enough. In fact, if truth be told, it was beautifying. Sitting ever so delicately on our Easter lunch place mats were little flowers from a Myrtle spurge.
Myrtle spurge doesn’t sound so bad. But try “creeping spurge” or “donkey tail”. When you find out the real names of these flowers, you probably wouldn’t invite them to your celebration of Jesus’ resurrection either. But that’s exactly what we did–and we soon learned a valuable lesson.
A few days after Easter, our daughter Julia toddled into the garden bed near our house and slathered her legs in the Myrtle spurge’s milky sap. It wasn’t long before we were headed to the doctor’s office to figure out what caused a rash outbreak all over her legs. The doctors assured us she would be fine and said it was probably some plant she was allergic to. But Julia’s legs weren’t nearly as dismissive.
My wife Janel played her hunch on which plant she thought wreaked all this havoc, taking a piece of it down to our local county extension office to find out the truth. And she was right: Myrtle spurge was the culprit. (She then elicited a few guffaws from the county extension agents when she revealed she used the plant for her Easter decorations.)
Upon deeper reflection, I wonder how much “Myrtle spurge” is surrounding my heart, just waiting for a moment to get inside and begin to undo me. These noxious weeds of the soul weave their way in through pretty lies–and I fall prey to their beauty. I want to believe what they’re peddling, even though I know it to be in contrast to God’s Word. And then before I know it, I’ve got an infection–a nasty rash that is breaking out and causing severe pain.
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers. – James 1:13-16 (NIV)
We must always remain on guard against such temptations veiled in beauty. Sin always looks luscious for a moment but it won’t be long before it’s rotting you from the inside out.
It’s called temptation for a reason–it’s tempting. I’m easily tempted by a plate of piping hot brownies; not so much by day-old refrigerated egg plant casserole. If we recognized sin for what it truly was–a nasty plate of rottenness–we could easily turn it down. That’s why Jesus was able to withstanding temptation from the enemy: He knew what was beneath the surface and what it would do to Him.
Let us walk in that knowledge today, refusing to see how things appear in the flesh and taking the time to ponder an important question: Is this temptation a creeping spurge of sin about to derail me from God’s best for my life? When we analyze things in such light, it’s easier to stay focused on the path God has laid out for us.