As Our Savior Christ has taught us, we are bold to pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.“
Recent liturgical reviews in the Roman Catholic Church have resulted in doubts over the accuracy of the translation of this line from The Lord’s Prayer from the original Greek into Latin.
Found in James 1:13, ”Let no one say when he is tempted, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.’”
Pope Francis has renewed this debate, questioning whether it is God who tempts us to sin, “It is me who falls. It is not Him who pushes me into temptation. A father doesn’t do that. A father helps you to get up right away. The one who leads into temptation is Satan. That is Satan’s job!”
There are now efforts across many countries to identify a more correct translation including, “do not abandon us in temptation”, “save us from the time of trial“, and “don’t let me (or us) fall into temptation”.
So, what is temptation, how does it relate to sin, and how are how are we delivered from the consequences of evil?
Temptation is not a sin in itself; sin occurs when we mishandle it.
Temptation is a test of a person’s ability to choose good (virtue) instead of evil (vice or sin). To be able to choose wisely, we first need to be able to identify what sins we are being tempted into and then react with a relevant practice that leads us away from the sin and into virtuous behavior.
Temptation and the potential for sinning is with us at all times, and so is the free will to counteract them with corresponding virtues.
The seven deadly sins, as defined in the 6th Century by Pope Gregory the Great, are:
- Pride – Excessive belief in one’s own abilities,
- Avarice – Desire for ever more material wealth or gain,
- Lust – Powerful craving for sex, power or money,
- Envy – Resentful longing for someone else’s possessions or status,
- Gluttony – Excessive eating and drinking,
- Anger – Loss of rational self-control,
- Sloth – Laziness and the avoidance of work.
We are all constantly tempted into sin which results in us breaking our covenantal relationship and God’s commandments, sometimes with disastrous spiritual and material consequences.
Of these sins, pride is the key; once you believe that you’re more important than you actually are and do not need God’s guidance, it leads to excuse-making and commitment of other sins.
When we are prideful we may be tempted into thinking “we have got this”, and we do not need to discern through prayer.
We may be deceived into thinking a decision or action is so small and simple we can handle it through force of will.
Maybe it is being tempted to drive home after having over-indulged in alcohol. Being prideful in thinking, “I have got this, I can drive home safely!” Accepting this particular temptation may lead to catastrophic consequences as our vehicle could injure or kill someone.
To counter these vices, we need to develop the opposing virtues. These virtues are:
- Humilityin recognizing we need God and his guidance at all times,
- Generosityin sharing our possessions, especially with those less fortunate,
- Temperancethrough periodic fasting and avoidance of excess,
- Chastityto moderate excessive desire,
- Satisfactionwith what we have, recognizing all are gifts from God,
- Patienceto endure all situations without destructive feelings,
- Diligencein our habits of prayer and earnestness in whatever work we undertake.
These inner virtues are character traits that are learned through teaching and practice, and show up as outward signs in our actions and good works.
Perhaps we could treat the season of Lent as a time to commit to a spiritual exercise program. As we mindfully train in exercises that shape our day to day lives – abstaining from vice and pursuing virtue – all the while praying to Our Lord, “Lead me away from temptation, and deliver me from evil.”
This article was written by Chris Craig-Jones, Assistant for Pastoral Care.