Question: "What does it mean to flee from temptation?"
Answer: Fleeing from temptation means we recognize it as an enemy and we go the other way, with no hesitation and no compromise. First Corinthians 6:18 says, “Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body.” While the temptation is not sin, sexual immorality begins with the temptation to engage in sexual activity outside of God’s boundaries. When we don’t flee from that temptation, action soon follows.
The best and most literal biblical example of someone fleeing temptation is found in Genesis 39 when young Joseph, Jacob’s son, was targeted by his master’s wife for an adulterous affair. She tempted him day after day, but Joseph held firm to his convictions and rebuffed her advances. Not only did he refuse to go to bed with her, but he wisely refused to “even be with her” (Genesis 39:10). But one day when no one else was in the house, she caught Joseph and pulled him to her, trying to seduce him: “She caught him by his cloak and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’ But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house” (verse 12). That is an excellent example of fleeing from temptation. Joseph did not stand around to argue or give himself time to reconsider. He fled.
We naturally flee from danger. When the building we are in catches fire, we flee to a safer place. When a hurricane is about to make landfall, we flee the coast. Unfortunately, when many people see temptation coming, they do not flee. Rather than flee temptation, they dabble in it, deflect it, postpone it, or analyze it; some embrace it. Could this be because most people do not recognize the danger inherent in temptation? We seem to be more concerned with physical dangers that threaten the body than we are with spiritual dangers that threaten the soul.
Romans 13:14 says, “Put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.” Making provision for the flesh is the opposite of fleeing temptation. We make provision for our flesh when we accommodate the things that lead to sin and actually make preparations for sinning. Those who make provision for the flesh are like an over-indulgent parent who winks at his child’s misbehavior and gratifies his every whim. When we allow ourselves to remain in tempting situations instead of fleeing them, we are foolishly placing confidence in the flesh. We believe the lie that our sinful flesh will somehow find the strength to resist at the last moment. Then we are shocked and ashamed when, instead of resisting, we give in.
God provides strength and courage to any of His children who will live surrendered to His will (2 Thessalonians 2:16–17; Hebrews 12:10–12). “The name of the LORD is a fortified tower; the righteous run to it and are safe” (Proverbs 18:10). We are commanded throughout Scripture to stand firm and resist the devil’s schemes (Ephesians 6:10–18; James 4:7; 1 Peter 5:9). Satan’s traps are many and varied and usually begin with a tempting thought or situation. One way we resist the devil is to flee at the first hint of temptation.
As we flee from temptation, we naturally flee toward something else, and Paul tells us what that should be: “Flee the evil desires of youth and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, along with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22). Wisdom recognizes the danger in temptation and bids us flee from it. “The prudent see danger and take refuge, but the simple keep going and pay the penalty” (Proverbs 22:3).