1st Sunday in Lent 10 March

13No one, when tempted, should say, ‘I am being tempted by God’; for God cannot be tempted by evil and he himself tempts no one.

14But one is tempted by one’s own desire, being lured and enticed by it; 15then, when that desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin, and that sin, when it is fully grown, gives birth to death. 16Do not be deceived, my beloved.

James announces that God “himself tempts no one.”

So, why in Matthew 6:13 did Jesus instruct his followers to pray,

Lead us not into temptation?

Various attempts have been made to find a way out of the puzzle of the Lord’s Prayer, but none has been particularly convincing. Jesus seems to have instructed his followers, as we have been doing for generations, to ask God not to lead them into temptation.

In the past, I have suggested that this is more a prayer I need to pray than a prayer God needs to hear. The truth is, there are times when I like to be tempted. My “own desires” do “lure” and “entice” me and I am not entirely averse to the allurements of my “own desires.”

But, I know there is a price to pay. I know that my willingness to play with temptation, sets me on a course that leads to death. When I give in to the temptation to eat in excess, my health suffers. When I entertain thoughts of bitterness, resentment and unforgiveness, my psychic health is undermined. When I allow myself to be lured by distractions and escapist entertainment, my soul shrivels.

James wants me to “not be deceived.” He wants me to understand that actions and choices do have consequences.

Jesus, understood that I need to renounce over and over the inclination to toy with temptation. He knew that I need to stay away from those places, thought patterns and habits that place me in harm’s way. So, although God “himself tempts no one,” I need to be clear with myself and with God that I do not actually want to be tempted. There are times when I am not so sure.

Lent is an opportunity to search my heart and ask what temptations there are with which I might still want to tantalize myself. Then I can sincerely pray, “Lord, lead me not into temptation.”