How to deal with temptation

Marlon De La Torre

North Texas Catholic

3/11/2015

When we talk about temptation, it often carries a negative connotation because it is assumed to be something we should not be subject to. But there’s a certain beauty in temptation in that a person is faced with a decision to either act out the temptation or not. Whether the decision takes a split-second or is drawn out, the person experiences a battle between an attraction that is contrary to right reason and judgment and against God’s commandments. 

St. Paul sheds light on this interior conflict when he shares his own struggles with doing the very things he should avoid:

Did that which is good then bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure. We know that the law is spiritual; but I am carnal, sold under sin. I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate... (Romans 7:13-15)

When faced with temptation to do something we know we shouldn’t, we often do it anyway. Our immediate rationalization is the satisfaction of our human appetite regardless of how we feel afterwards. 

The nature of temptation
The nature of temptation rests in man's desire to seek an alternative to God’s love. This proposition can only appear to last so long; eventually the alternatives to God’s love do not adequately fulfill the appetite of temptation.

 The first order of temptation  
Satan tells Adam and Eve “You will be like God” (Genesis 3:5).

 The Catechism reminds us: 

Tempting God consists in putting his goodness and almighty power to the test by word and deed.  [See: Luke 4:9; Deuteronomy 6:16] The challenge contained in such temptations toward God wounds the respect and trust we owe our Creator and Lord. It always harbors doubt about his love, his providence, and his power (CCC 2119). 

We have become a self-centered society. Our understanding of the world often shuns the truth, beauty, and, goodness of who God is and of the created order of things. In other words, I am no longer a child of God but a child of myself. When we convince ourselves that our own self-fulfillment is more important than our relationship with Jesus Christ our appetite for self-fulfillment will never end and never be satisfied. Only in Christ can man fill the void in himself. 

Enduring the trial of temptation
Sacred Scripture tells us that Jesus was tempted three times (Luke 4:1-13) while in the desert for 40 days and nights. 
· Turn stone into bread.
· Authority over all the kingdoms will be given for complete worship of the Devil i.e. renounces God the Father. 
· Throw himself from the highest point of the temple, questioning the faith and the power of God.

An important point to remember as Jesus began his journey into the desert was that He was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. This reflects Jesus’ awareness of the evil forces around Him aimed to thwart his mission. We would do well to follow Christ’s example of preparedness through faithful prayer, adherence to the law (Ten Commandments), and faithfully living a sacramental life. A good starting point is immersing ourselves in God’s mercy by making an examination of conscience, shunning those elements of our lifestyle that lead us into temptation and making a concerted effort to receive the Sacrament of Penance. There is no reason why we should allow ourselves to succumb to the lure of temptation. St. James provides sound advice on “enduring trials”: 

 Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him. Let no one say when he is tempted. ‘I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and he himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. (James 1:12-14)

 ‘ ... and lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil’
The second to last petition of the Our Father reflects our desire to not concede to temptation due to our trespasses. What this means is we must foster genuine desire to combat evil and not fall prey to the emptiness of false gods. There is a two-fold approach to this petition. One: not to yield to temptation; Two: not to be allowed to enter into temptation (See: Matthew 26:41). We must remember, God does not tempt anyone (CCC 2846).

As a final point, St. Paul provides comforting words on the issue of temptation and how we can understand the power of God’s love regardless of the trials we face:

When we talk about temptation, it often carries a negative connotation because it is assumed to be something we should not be subject to. But there’s a certain beauty in temptation in that a person is faced with a decision to either act out the temptation or not.

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