Ministering in Inner City

I have a friend who thinks that ministering in the inner city is safer from lust and sexual temptation than working with yuppies in the suburbs (sort of like ministering to the least of these as an anecdote to lust). Do you think he is right?

Answered by Randy Alcorn

If your friend is correct that God is more pleased by or does greater work through those who devote themselves to working in the inner city than those who serve in the suburbs...then that means that Satan has more reason to try to derail inner-city workers. Since Satan and demons are finite beings, and can only expend limited time and energy in tempting people, then it stands to reason that their higher priority would be to take down the guy in the inner city who is doing a work close to God’s heart. (Of course, I know that ministry to those in the burbs is also part of God’s plan, but I’m building this on your friend’s logic.)

Now, pride, power, money and sex are Satan’s major temptation tools, and pride and power are both part of his temptation to money and sex. The inner-city dude will still be tempted by money, but even if he is more free from that than the guy ministering in the suburbs (and that’s not necessarily so), consider the sex issue. The man is still a man, the city is as full of sex as the suburbs—arguably, MORE full of sex (at least the open blatant on-the-streets and in-your-face stuff) AND....since Satan especially hates what the inner-city Christian is doing, shouldn’t we expect him to bombard the guy with MORE sexual temptation to take him down and destroy God’s work?

Since our enemy the devil prowls around looking for someone to devour, and the landscape is littered with people he can go after, obviously he can do more damage to God’s kingdom by taking on Christians (drug addicts, etc., don’t need much attention from him), more damage still by taking on Christians of influence and notoriety, and most damage of all by taking down the Christians who are doing the work that is most strategic, and closest to God’s heart. So that is what Satan and demons will do (I developed some of that in Lord Foulgrin’s Letters and The Ishbane Conspiracy). And they will use all weapons at their disposal...including and often ESPECIALLY sexual temptation.

Consider the fuller context of 1 Peter, which in a number of respects pertains to your friend (and to us, of course):

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 6Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. 7Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you. Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. 9Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.

Pride is a problem for all of us, but there is an obvious pride in a man believing his sexual vulnerability is less because he is doing God’s work. (On the contrary, as I’ve argued, it will probably be MORE—but certainly it is at very least the same, not less.) If we think we are not vulnerable (or we are less vulnerable) to being robbed, pretty soon we will be leaving the car unlocked, and laying cash on the passenger’s seat...greatly increasing our chances of being robbed precisely because we thought we wouldn’t be. This is part of God opposing the proud...”So, if you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall!” (1 Corinthians 10:12).

For him to think he has a better chance of standing because he’s in the inner city is a pride issue that makes him more sexually vulnerable. He needs, as we all do, to humble himself, not lift himself up. If he lifts himself up, God will take him down. (Same for us.) But if he humbles himself God will lift him up. Part of humbling himself is realizing his wrong thinking in this area: “Because I’m this spiritual guy doing God’s work in the inner-city, I’m less vulnerable to the sexual temptations that derail my less spiritual brethren out in the suburbs with the Fat Cats.” If he doesn’t humble himself, he turns the job over to God...who will humble him by allowing him to fall.

Peter says “Be self-controlled and alert.” A critical part of alertness is recognizing the full extent of the danger that confronts us. It sounds like your friend doesn’t. A fall is preceded by a lack of alertness to danger and a failure to take the necessary steps to escape or resist the danger.

Finally, Peter reminds us that our “brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” In context, those sufferings are the attempts of Satan, the roaring lion, to devour them. So the sufferings are primarily all that Satan is behind, which includes both persecution and temptation. A good reminder: EVERYBODY is experiencing this temptation.

A man in a prison in China about to be martyred for his faith can experience sexual temptation. A woman could be brought in, or a woman could be in a jail cell with him and he could fall into adultery. He could struggle with his thought life. He may be the most godly man, in circumstances of adversity and ministry and service that make your and my and your friend’s ministry pale in comparison. But precisely because His service for Christ is so strong and strategic, Satan will use everything at his disposal to bring the man down. In prison, there may not be much money or material things to take him down. But if he is still a man, sex will still be one of the most readily available temptations to bring to him.

That’s true of all of us, including “brothers throughout the world.” It doesn’t matter where you are and what you’re doing. We still have to be humbly alert in this area, or Satan the roaring lion will take us down, and God will humble us.

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries