The Anatomy of Temptation

The season of Lent is an opportune time for renewal of relationships with God and with one another. It is an acceptable time to be converted. It is by way of the three-wheeler discipline of prayer, fasting and almsgiving that we bring ourselves to self-transformation. Lent is that time that we commit ourselves to becoming a new creation once again.

But come to think of it, every time you promise to yourself that you will become a better person this time around, the devil, along with his assets of temptations, would actually swarm around you like bees. The devil would come in legions to distract you from becoming good. He would get himself more attractive to entice you that you are actually doing good and thusly would not be in need of conversion at all. He will sweetly whisper to you that everyone else can also be doing the same; and enjoying their company brings in more friendships and influence to your fold. Moreover, the devil, and his throng of temptations at that, do come into the real fore when you truthfully desire to return to the fold of his enemy – God.

Sun Tzu, in his book “The Art of War”, says “Know thy enemy …” When you know the enemy it can be that half of the battle has already been won. In our Christian life, we are to struggle against the enemy – the tempter. Not only that we have to struggle against him, if we really have to be serious with our becoming holy, we just have to conquer the enemy. Decisively, that is. Hence, let us detect our common enemy.

The tempter naturally (necessarily) can not see any goodness in another, in the “enemy”. He will always paint the enemy in a negative way. “Did God really tell you not to eat from any of the trees in the garden?” (Gen. 2:7-9) It goes without saying that the devil besmirches God as ungenerous. He claims that God can be so tight and cruel as to forbid anything. He misleads by charting only what is half-truth. “We may eat of the fruit of the trees in the garden; it is only about the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden…” The devil indicates “any of the trees” but the truth is “only the tree in the middle.” Detect – when somebody tells a story that besmirches and misleads, know that one can be an enemy.

Likewise, the tempter is wont to be shallow in looking at things. Skin-deep perhaps. “But the serpent said to the woman: ‘You certainly will not die!” When the woman ate the forbidden fruit she did not pass away at all. On the other hand, the woman expired just the same. She transgressed God’s commands. Hence, she suffered a rather deadlier kind of death – spiritual death. One is cut off from the source of life itself due to transgression. Again, detect – when somebody tells a story that is lacking or without depth, one can be a tempter in that making.

Further, it can be that the devil operates in view of a conspiracy. “… And she also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it. Then the eyes of both of them were opened,…” The silence of the husband is undeniably suspect. His presence put the seal in the commission of the wrongdoing. What is more and worse, his act of doing the same mistake at that same time tied him to culpability. Moreover, the husband did not lift a finger to protect his wife from real danger. He neither uttered a word to shield her from the condemnation. Isn’t it that protection is the primary duty of a man to his woman? In this sense, the husband here had fared miserably. He became an accomplice by his being indifferent. He could even be held in more liable than his she-partner.

Meanwhile, Sun Tzu would also say, “… know yourself.” Perhaps, this can be the other half of the battle to be won. Above and beyond, the philosopher adds: “… If you know neither the enemy nor yourself, you will succumb in every battle.” Yet, in a battle against the tempter knowing one’s self will and will always be knowing that the self is weak. Every self, for that matter, must be deemed frail before the throngs of temptations. It perfectly alright to consider one’s self as weakened before a tempter.

In as much as the self is weak, the predictable strategy is to flee from the clear and present danger. It is upon the weak self to refrain from the enticements of the devil. The case of “oh tukso, layuan mo ako” is case of trick and trap. The tempter never flee from the tempter. He will go against his nature doing so. It will always be the self’s wise move shun the devil outright. Ang tao ang dapat ang lumayo sa tukso.

Weakness necessitates power. The weak self urgently grabs the strength of the one whom he confidently believes can rescue him from damnation. Emphasis is on the urgency. Right away, the self must draw cover from the sure-protector. Unfortunately, instead of proceeding toward the sure-protector, the weak self deemed to prioritize first inadequate rescuers like human and behavioral sciences, sophisticated researches, feeble personalities, among others.

To immediately pound on God’s Word is epic. Jesus is model. Before the faces of temptations, he instantaneously alluded to Scriptures – “It is written… ” He clung at once to the power of the Word. And He did so with a forceful rebuke, “Get away, Satan!” … The Word of God is force enough to defeat the enemy. Pope Francis has this to say: “… engage in the spiritual battle against evil with the power of the Word of God.” He suggests further that Christians treat the Bible “as we treat our cell phone, carrying it around in their pocket and pulling it out from time to time to read it.”

Indeed, when we truly know the enemy and know ourselves, “you need not fear the result of a hundred battles.” The rest could be history. Finally, a gentle reminder: the tempter is always charming. Know your tempter well… Know your self as well.

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