Thursday, February 19, 2009

Do not be SLEWed by Temptations

“Keep us safe from ourselves and the devil.” (Matthew 6:13, MSG)
This is a refreshing translation of the last verse of the Lord’s Prayer. The KJV translates it as “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” The word ‘temptation’ has a double implication, one of enticement and the other of testing. The Greek word ‘peirasmos’ represents more of a trial rather than an enticement, though it can be argued that an enticement can be a form of trial. It is the same word used by James when he talks about counting it all joy when one encounter trials (James 1:2). While Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase may not capture the literal meaning of 'peirasmos,' it reminds us that the chief way for the evil one to disturb our spiritual focus on God is via tempting the self. The preacher at my church last week talks about three ways temptations are used against us, namely, i) the temptation to be suspicious of God; ii) temptation to think negatively of life; and iii) the temptation to be self-controlling of our destiny.

As I reflect upon the nature of temptations, I can think of a fourth danger, which is the temptation to become weary that we become tired of fighting the spiritual warfare. If we recognize we are in the midst of spiritual warfare, we will be constantly wearing our armor of God. The reason why we are not actively wearing the armor of God more, is because we have become too relaxed, too comfortable with our material plenty, that we think that there is no war. If that is true, the army for God will be deprived of one more warrior for Christ.

Summarizing, there are four ways in which we can be tempted toward sinning against God. I coin the acronym as S.L.E.W as a way to remember. We can be tempted to do the following:

S – Sowing seeds of suspicion about God;
L – Leading us to live negative lives;
E – Enthroning ourselves rather than God;
W – Weary or tired of fighting the spiritual warfare.

When we have become SLEWed by temptations, we are of no threat to the evil one. Suspicious living is the beginning of a spiritual downfall, just like Adam and Eve became suspicious of God's command not to eat the forbidden fruit. Living negative lives accelerates this demise, where we allow our heads to be clouded with negative thoughts until we fail to see the hope of God. Enthroning ourselves give us a false sense of security. Weary of fighting makes us choose the 'safer, non-confrontative' stance in a world that is urgently in need of Christian warriors for Christ. When we have fallen victim to SLEW, we die spiritually without even knowing it.

The Last Verse Sums Up the Prayer
Another significant point is that the Lord’s prayer ends with this verse. The part about “Thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory for ever and ever” is not in Matthew. Luke’s rendition is the same (Luke 11:4b). I will venture to suggest that this last warning about temptation is important. All it takes is one yield to temptation and all our good works from the earlier part of the Lord ’s Prayer can be rendered meaningless. No wonder Jesus tries to cover all the bases in order for us to pray effectively.

This last part of the Lord's prayer is a summary statement of our need to let God protect us from all temptations that lead us away from all the honor we desire to give God. This last statement is important because all the good deeds and works we have done, can easily be unraveled through one clumsy yielding to temptations. Thankfully, the verse "Lead us not into temptation" is not the last verse. "Deliver us from evil," reminds us once again that what begins with God, ends with God who is able to help us overcome. Surely, in God, we shall overcome.


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