Lenten Devotional: February 26th
Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
John Calvin thought that temptations came from the right and the left. He was not talking about politics, but simply different directions from which we are tempted.
On the right, he said there were those positive things in life: riches, power, honor, which by their "glare and semblance of good" draw us away from God. These arise in our life, he writes, because of our ardent, sensual longing for such things. When "caught by their snares or intoxicated by their sweetness."
I think Calvin is onto something here. The better things are going for us, the less we think we need God. I have noticed over the course of my ministry that the better the economy gets, the worse church attendance gets. I recall my alcoholic friend who says that she is not tempted to drink when things are going badly, she is tempted to drink when things are going well because that is when she forgets to rely on her higher power.
Think about those good things in your life which draw you away from God, from worship, from prayer, from reading scripture, from being in community, from acts of charity and justice. Those are some of your temptations from the right.
The temptations from the left Calvin identifies with the negative things in life: hardship, bitterness, disgrace, affliction, shame and contempt. When given into, these have the power to cause us to abandon God as our source of hope, and drive us to despair, which says Calvin, is especially useful to the Evil One. Who more would like us to abandon God as our source of hope?
Temptations come from the right and from the left. When we pray lead us not into temptation, we are praying as Calvin urges us to pray. Calvin urges us to pray first, not to be inflated by prosperity, and pray second, not to be cast down by adversity; for these are the two conditions in which we are most vulnerable to temptation's power.
O God, I am tempted by both adversity and prosperity. When things are good, keep me humble, keep me dependent on You, keep me in touch with those who are struggling. When things are hard, keep me from despair and depression, from cynicism and hopelessness. Thank you that you do not leave us alone in our temptations but walk through them with us. Thank you for your son Jesus Christ, who though was tempted, lived like us; lived without sin. In his name I pray, Amen.
Rev. Brent Barry, Pastor, NorthPark Presbyterian Church