Temptation

Oscar Wilde said “The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it… I can resist everything but temptation” 

Serpent and Apple --- Image by © 68/GK Hart/Vikki Hart/Ocean/Corbis

Billy Sunday (who turned from baseball to being a preacher ) said “Temptation is the devil looking through the keyhole. Yielding is opening the door and inviting him in”.

Temptation is all around us and in many forms.

The more righteous we are the bigger the fall when we give into temptation. If you preach morality to others, and indulge yourself, you are setting yourself up…for a momentous crash.

This is the case with my story “Opium” in which a preacher “Preacher Moon” arrives in a town called Jacksonville with the intention of ridding it of its sin and profanity. He arrives armed only with strong pious words, thinking this will see him through. He has not eaten in a very long while, which means he is even more susceptible to the temptation of “food”. He searches for the man who he believes is at the center of all this profanity, a gangster called Gecko. Unfortunately for the preacher Gecko proves more than a match for the preacher and is a great communicator as well as being witty.
Things come to a head when Gecko offers the preacher some food…in the form of a delicious looking cake. The preacher can’t resist.

“Will you not have something to eat with us, Preacher? I’m about to cut this cake,” Gecko said in a relaxed, convivial way, reaching for a gilded knife.
The preacher’s face soured. It was clear to him that Gecko’s offer
was a gesture of hospitality rather than threat, and he was extremely
hungry from the long ride. In truth, he’d lost count of the time since he
had last eaten, and then, it had been mostly grasshoppers he’d come
across on his travels. Still, how could he accept food from such a
loathsome sinner? “Food from the devil’s hand no doubt,” he growled
in a bitter tone, shaking his head in the negative and averting his eyes
from the cake and the exotic fruits the young girl had placed on the
table.
“No,” contradicted Gecko, “A cake baked by my daughter, here.”
Gecko beamed proudly.
“Never,” replied the preacher, lifting his eyes and hands towards
the heavens as if holding up a massive rock and waiting for God to
cast it onto the tempter before him.
Gecko shook his head. “Isn’t it equally sinful to spurn gifts
provided by God. Surely this magnificent cake is such a gift. Wouldn’t
it be wrong not to take advantage of an offer of food in order to keep
yourself strong in his service? Even Jesus, if I’m not mistaken,
indulged in local weddings and feasts.” Gecko cut a large slice of cake
and as he brought it to his mouth, a look of anticipatory pleasure and
contentment swept across his face.
The preacher watched hungrily, searching his estranged mind and
soul for guidance.
“Come. Try a bite, Preacher. It would please my daughter who is,
as you can see, as sweet as the first apple blossom of spring. Surely
you do not want to offend one so young and…innocent?”
Gecko placed the first slice on a plate and cut a second, sizable
one, placing it on another. All eyes moved to the preacher, who
appeared stuck in an almighty quandary.
The young girl took the first plate and offered it shyly it to the
preacher.
Reluctantly, he accepted the plate and took a small bite, sighed,
then devoured the remainder, his face broadcasting both unimaginable
delight and profound guilt. The cake was delightful, though it left a
strangely bitter, almost metallic aftertaste.
“That’s better,” said Gecko, smiling broadly as if he had won the
first round of brinkmanship. The noise from the adjoining room
suddenly increased. Men were whooping and whistling at a
particularly ribald dancer showing her…the preacher bristled at the
thought of what she might be showing. “You offer these poor souls
alcohol, drugs and fornication, profaning God’s name,” he said
spreading his arms to encompass the men in both rooms. “For this,
Jehovah will smite this town and reduce you and your men to ashes
with fire from the sky!” Preacher Moon tried to regain control, while
his stomach grumbled for more of the cake.”

Food is certainly one temptation we all at some point yield to. I live in a country in which “food” is a major preoccupation…(France).
Another temptation we all are prone to is money. In my story “Maggot” a circus owner is forced to sell his daughter, to pay off his circus debts. In one part of my story he is more fascinated by gold coins, that his pleading daughter.

“The girl’s fate decided, the four strong men shouldered the
palanquin while Apollonia searched her father’s eyes a final time,
beseeching him to change his mind. It was a useless gesture, as
Maggot was busy counting and ogling the gold coins. To her dismay,
he never gave her a second glance, and she was carried, wailing
inconsolably, through the massive banquet hall doors and down a short
hallway.”

Yes money can be an incredible source of temptation.

Then of course there is beauty. In one of my stories, called “Gomford” an ugly businessman arrives in a remote village with a beautiful young woman. As he is often away soon the entire male population fall under her spell, each in turn seduces her.

“The village women, most with plain prosaic faces and not blessed
with even a modicum of Clarissa Honeychild’s beauty, were disturbed
by the new arrival, suddenly feeling wholly inadequate and threatened.
The men, on the other hand, welcomed the pretty newcomer.
Their slumbering libidos jolted into life, they took to whispering lewd
comments to one another as she passed them in the street. The three
village paternal icons, Chadwick, Knoll, and Smerton, all married to
loyal, but plain, dumpy, rotund women, could not contain themselves,
being swept up in thrall of the beguiling newcomer. Gomford would be
soon be away, his job regularly taking him to far off places. The young
bride, of course, would remain behind, and speculation was high as to
what she would do to fill in the long periods of boredom while he was away.
A country village would prove a lonely place for one so young.”

We are surrounded by temptation, almost every day of our lives. Religions would have us resist. Religions would have us being virtuous and rise above the temptations that dance before our eyes. “Food” “sex” “money” “beauty” surround us. Some might have us believe temptation has been around since Adam and Eve.

Follow Francis H Powell on Twitter.

https://twitter.com/Dreamheadz

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