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Sermon on the Mount: The Lord’s Prayer - Temptation and Evil
“And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’]”
Matthew 6:13 NASB1995
The final phrase in the Lord’s Prayer asks God to not lead us into temptation and to deliver us from evil. These daily pleas, just like those for our physical and relational needs, are concerned with our spiritual protection. Does God really lead us into temptation? God has promised that He will not tempt or test us with more than we can handle, if we trust and hope in Him (1 Corinthians 10:13).
I think we are all capable of moving beyond temptation to actual sin on a regular basis, but here we are asking God to help us even avoid acting on those temptations in front of us. Remember, Jesus was tempted three times by Satan after His baptism, but His response each time was grounded in scripture and the temptations fell aside (Matthew 4:1-11). For fallen humans, it is so easy to eat one more brownie or doughnut or order of fries or to have one more glass of wine because it is nice outside on the patio you are enjoying. It’s not a big deal to put another $100 into a slot machine because you think that this time you can win and, besides, you’re bored. People are tempted to watch that latest popular adult-rated series on HBO or to play violent video games for hours or just be couch potatoes. We are tempted to spend more money than we have on material items and clothing that we rarely look at or wear because others have those things. We are tempted to skip church because we stayed up too late the night before or we just don’t feel like going. We respond to a bad driver or rude person or a stranger on the internet with curse words or the middle finger or mockery and a sense of rage. These are the daily temptations that haunt every person.
But there is also true evil that lurks before us. We have an enemy that seeks to undo us through our temptations because that enemy despises our love of Jesus and our hope to please Him. Small temptations lead to small sins that lead to big sins. I have always liked the seven deadly sins as an excellent way to explain the worst sin patterns we can easily fall into. These sins are not listed in this way in the Bible, but are based on scriptural sins that God hates:
Gluttony - Obesity, food addictions, alcoholism, other addictions.
Lust - Upgrading from HBO to real pornography, adultery, enjoying “hook-up” culture and multiple partners, obsession with sex, other sexual immoralities.
Wrath - Raging and constant anger against others for our own deficiencies and nursing a burning desire for revenge.
Sloth - Laziness and avoidance of duties and tasks like attending church or doing work that you have been asked to do; lack of physical movement and exercise.
Envy - Sadness or depression that someone else has what you don’t have and being jealous of their success, because you don’t think they deserve it but you do
Greed- Coveting material possessions and what others have and resorting to wasteful buying habits to “keep up” or make yourself the “envy” of others.
Pride - A sense of self-worth completely out of proportion to reality. Pride leads to all of the other sin patterns and can even lead to rejection of belief in God, because you set yourself up as the center of the Universe. Pride led to the fall of Lucifer and his followers and to the fall of Adam & Eve.
So if you pray to not be led into temptation and then continue to pursue those temptations, you are truly dishonoring God. This is a lesson that I have to be aware of every day because I am usually slothful, gluttonous, greedy, and lack humility, plus I have probably experienced many of the rest of these sins at one time or another in my life. Jesus wants these words to really mean something, not just be rote memorization.
Footnote: In later versions of the Sermon on the Mount, the doxology following this spiritual petition was added. I kept it in the text above and was taught to recite it in my Lutheran church. Other churches do not use the doxology, but it is a splendid way to end this simple prayer for disciples of God.
My next Sermon on the Mount devotional will examine Matthew 6:14-15, where Jesus talks again about forgiveness.