My wife and I were on an evening walk through a nearby neighborhood recently when we noticed something different about the front entryways of a few of the homes: Hanging birds.
An owl here, a crow there.
Not real birds, mind you. Fake birds. But at first glance, they looked real, not to mention somewhat gruesome, hanging above the front porches. Their purpose? To scare away other birds.
These are modern homes with brick exteriors and nicely landscaped lawns, but some of them have narrow but tall entry porches. Birds apparently like to nest on the light fixtures, so some homeowners hang the fake birds as a deterrent.
That wouldn’t be my solution of choice, but I appreciate that effort. They know that if they don’t take action, the problem won’t likely fly away on its own.
The same is true with sin and temptation. It can start as a nuisance, but if we don’t proactively deal with it, temptation and sin can move in and take up residency in our lives. Before long, we turn a blind eye to it, acting as if it’s not even there. But unlike the birds in the porches, sin and temptation will take over our entire house.
So how do we prevent it? Well, we could try hanging fake birds or cloves of garlic, but those types of options only invite more trouble.
Scripture, of course, is filled with great solutions. I’m drawn to a simple formula found in James 4:1-10 that I can sum up with one word: Humility.
A lack of humility (aka pride) leads to all sorts of trouble and strife, James points out, while God “shows favor to the humble.” Pride draws us toward temptations and into sin. Humility takes us toward the protective wing of God.
To develop humility, we can follow the pattern in James 4:7 – “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.”
This is tough advice, at least for me.
First, submit to God. The world tells us to follow our hearts, but God says are hearts are deceitful. If we submit to our hearts or to anything other than God, birds of selfishness begin building their nests. Humility requires a selflessness that’s experienced only when we’re fully surrendered to something outside of ourselves. That something is God. Anything else is an idol.
Second, resist the devil. Even when we’re fully surrendered, the devil will tempt us and we have to actively resist. Paul tells us in Ephesians 6:10-18 to put on the “full armor of God,” and he then advocates truth, righteousness, peace, faith, salvation, the Holy Spirit, the Bible, prayer.
Take a few moments each day to identify the temptations and sins in your life, then take proactive measures to shoo them off your porch. No hanging birds. Just God. “Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.” (James 4:10)