It Will Be Tempting for Sure: Part 2
God never permits us to be tempted beyond our strength, and the devil’s power is infinitesimal compared to the slightest grace from God that goes responded to.
We may recall how God permitted Satan to tempt Job, but only to a certain point – and that is as far as the devil went (cf. Job 1:12; 2:6).
Furthermore, we may be familiar with certain passages in the Old Testament where God is said to have tempted someone. But in saying this, it is not to be understood that God is the source or agent of evil, or that God did not know the state of their soul. Rather, He visits someone with a calamity in order to manifest the good that is there and honor them, and set them up as an example of virtue. Abraham would become a singular example of obedience and patience to all succeeding generations by almost carrying out God’s seemingly cruel command to sacrifice his son Isaac (Gen. 22:1).
Temptation in the true sense, then, is defined as any enticement to evil, any suggestion to deflect us from the path of good.
This definition is important, because it indicates that temptation has to do with the suggestion, not the possibility of whether or not it is heeded, and so temptation in itself is not a sin. It can be compared with buying a house, in that one can throw a lot of offers out there that will not be accepted; it still is an offer and may shed some light on where the seller actually stands, assuming they are listening. This is why we can say that the temptations of Christ are truly temptations – He was met with suggestions from the devil to act contrary to good (Mt. 4:1-11).
But unlike the temptations we regularly encounter, the temptations our Lord experienced from Satan were purely external, they were from the outside looking in.
Since there is nothing disordered within our Lord, no interior conflict or frailty for the devil to arouse, that was the only direction he could work, and our Lord would actually be visited by these things throughout His life from various agents, culminating with the final temptation to get down from the Cross if He wanted everyone to believe (Mk. 15:32).
For us, though, temptations are both external and internal, so much so that, as Job says: The life of man upon earth is a warfare, a sentiment that is echoed frequently by St. Paul (Job 7:1).
The devil and the world assault us from the outside, our concupiscence rises up from within, sometimes with the devil’s help, other times not. Ven. Fulton Sheen observes, however, that modern man lives in a state of denial about such warfare, manifested by the prolific denial of guilt and sin. If that is the case, the necessary consequence is that the reality of temptation must also be denied. The inclination to evil, the quality of our fallen condition, is considered to be merely natural, and so deserves free reign and expression; it is the frustration of the inclination that is considered the evil.
Obviously, this view tends to give the devil the day off, as indulgence leads to a greater and greater moral blindness and a profound lack of any valuable spiritual discernment, save a tremendous grace from God.
Jesus Christ reminds us that The spirit is indeed willing but the flesh is weak (Mt. 26:41). So the war goes on, the spirit against the flesh, reason against the passions, faith against the senses, ourselves against ourselves, and so there is plenty of fodder for the devil to work with. But remember that the devil has no direct power unless we give it to him; he only has power of suggestion.
While some temptations can be of our own making through willful association with dangerous persons, sinful friendships, places, or objects – and if we choose to persist in those – there is little God can do for us. He is then forced to sit by and take the blame for why one’s life is so miserable. Examples need not be given here. But aside from that, there are temptations that seem almost impossible to escape: there may be persons we cannot avoid (one’s spouse should not be included here!), unavoidable objects to see or hear. We may meet with bad examples or perverse moral standards looking for us to validate them; at one moment we encounter mockery, at another flattery, or at another persecution to entice us to sin.
As long as we seek the straight and narrow, the intensity of these things will vary at times, but will never completely cease.
We should be concerned if they do.
To be continued…
February 24, 2021