Once upon a time, little Jimmy went to the refrigerator and cut a slice of cake against the instructions of his mom. When his mom asked him why he disobeyed, he replied and said, “mom it wasn’t me. I can tell you what happened. I minded my business and my eyes kept going to the refrigerator. Then my leg moved there, my hand opened the refrigerator and cut the cake and gave my mouth”.
“Have you ever been tempted to do or say something bad?” That is the first question. The second question is, “have you ever done something bad following a temptation?” An honest introspection would show that we are liable to temptations and we could also fall into certain sins depending on the decision we make when we face temptations.
The First Sunday of Lent tells us about the reality of temptation with the narratives of the Fall of Adam and Eve and the three-fold temptations of our Lord Jesus Christ in the desert. These are not mere stories but profound transforming lessons in our daily confrontation with temptations.
The First Reading (2:7-9; 3:1-7) tells us about the entrance of the tempter (the devil) in the lovely and compelling story of Adam and Eve. The narrative shows us that the devil had already defected from being an angel in heaven and had become an opposition to God (Isaiah 14:12-15).
The First Reading tells us that the devil (taking the form of the serpent) was the most cunning of all the animals that God made. The serpent comes to the woman to ask a very tricky question, “did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” Notice here that the devil comes with a puzzling question that puts one in doubt about the right course to follow. Remember the times you have a lot of questions going through your mind.
When Eve answers and says that God’s instruction says that they could eat of any of the fruits but not the one in the middle of the garden which would bring about their death if they should eat of it. The answer the serpent gives would be a great lesson for us. It begins by contradicting God’s instruction, “You certainly will not die! No, God knows well that the moment you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods who know what is good and what is evil.” Here the devil was implying the God lied to them.
Notice here that the devil comes with a lie and believing the devil’s lie makes one his victim. From this interaction, we notice that temptation happens when the devil presents a false proposal with a promise. In the Gospel of John (8:44), our Lord Jesus Christ tells us that the devil is the father lies and a murderer from the beginning who cannot stand with the truth. Summarily, Adam and Eve sinned because they accepted the lies and false promises of the devil.
The Gospel tells us about the temptation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Notice here that the devil comes to our Lord Jesus Christ after forty days of fasting and prayers. One would think that such a long period of holy encounter would keep the devil away. The devil comes at the height of your spiritual progress to destroy your entire spiritual exercise.
The account of the experiences of our Lord Jesus shows that the devil would always negotiate with one’s ego, needs, presumption, and false promises during temptation. Pay attention to the three allurements
- If you are the Son of God (appeal to his ego) command that these stones become loaves of bread (appeal to his needs).
- If you are the Son of God (appeal to his ego) throw yourself down for it is written He will command his angels concerning you, and with their hands, they will support you lest you dash your foot against a stone (appeal to presumption)
- All these I shall give you if you will prostrate yourself and worship me (false promises).
Notice that the devil knows the power of the word of God and makes extensive use of the scriptures to tempt our Lord. One fact we should know is that the devil does not force us to sin but uses lies to engage our minds to give in to sin. The way we respond determines what we get.
Our Lord Jesus Christ responds to the devil by making vital references to the Word of God that disproves the various postulations of the devil. Observe also that the devil did not argue but at each time comes with a new temptation. The devil will always devise a new tactic. St. Paul tells us not to be ignorant of the devices of the devil (2 Cor. 2:11).
We have a depth of lessons to learn from the Fall of our first parents and the Triumph of our Lord Jesus Christ. The devil comes with contradictions to what God says, lies, and false promises. To withstand the temptations of the devil, we need to stand firm on what God says we should do. Furthermore, we need to stand on the truth in the Gospel of John (8:32) our Lord Jesus Christ tells us that when we come to know the truth, it will set us free.
As we march into the Lenten season, there would be the need for us to pay attention to the temptations that come our way in various forms and shapes. Temptations will leverage our ego, our needs, presumptions and the false promises of the devil. Let us also pay attention to the movements of our minds. We are as weak or strong as our thoughts. We could see LENT as an acronym which would mean: Leave Every Negative Thought!
Have a blessed season of Lent, and may God give you the grace to overcome all the temptations that may come your way. God bless you.