How many times do we pray the “Our Father” and really take to heart the temptations that bombard us in our daily lives?
Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread; and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.Matthew 6:9-13 (RSV-2CE)
I’d personally lulled myself into a false sense of security and tended to think about temptation as the “big stuff”. I hadn’t murdered anyone, I didn’t have sex outside of my marriage, and I wasn’t a drug addict, so I was good, right?
Well, I recently had a wake-up call that knocked me right back to the reality that we’re barraged with temptations daily. Evil forces beckon us, disguised as sweet indulgences or innocent transgressions.
Upon further consideration of temptations that affect many of us, a long list of possibilities came to mind. So if we step back to the 10 Commandments, we find our roadmap for leading a life pleasing to God. It’s there that we can consider the potential temptations that can hinder us from pleasing Him. So, what temptations may be we overlooking?
And God spoke all these words:Exodus 20: 2-6 NIV
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
3 “You shall have no other gods before[a] me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below.5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.
This one seems like a no-brainer to a Christian, right? There is one God, the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. No Christian would dispute that (I hope).
But, in my Catholic denomination, we are known for our saints and love of the blessed Mother, Mary. I’d always poo-pooed that praying the Hail Mary was considering Mary a god. I knew she wasn’t, neither are any of the saints. Wouldn’t Jesus be happy that we honored his blessed mother? I thought of these people as my heavenly family, mother and brothers and sisters – not as gods. And even though I still don’t think of them as gods, I can see that time spent in prayerful dialogue with any of them is time I’m not spending with Jesus himself.
I sometimes thought that things I’d ask for on a daily basis were too trivial to “bother” Jesus with. He was busy handling the big stuff and all I needed was someone to watch over us while we travelled, for example. But after more consideration, I can understand why God would be upset that we’re not coming to Him with all our needs. He can handle it all.
The same can be said of my deceased friends and relatives. Why would I ask my deceased father to comfort my mother when that’s what Jesus does? Why not pray that the souls of my loved ones are accepted into heaven and then let them rest peacefully there? Jesus can handle all the rest of my needs.
Let all your heavenly focus be devoted to God and give Him all the glory that He’s due.
7 “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not hold anyone guiltless who misuses his name.Exodus 20:7 NIV
Certainly when my temper flares and the name of Jesus pops out in a puff of frustration or anger, that’s not a big deal, right? Jesus knows I love Him and don’t mean it as disrespectful. I ask for forgiveness. Won’t He forgive my little outbursts?
Yes, but no.
I don’t know why taking the Lord’s name in vain is a common way to blow off anger or aggression, but if we’re serious about our relationship with God, we need another way. Substituting other phrases might be a start, but how about diffusing your temper to begin with? How about working on not flying off the handle? What are your triggers and how can you catch yourself before you get to that point? Figuring that out and making the adjustment to your daily actions will not only please God because you aren’t misusing His name, but you’ll be more likely to honor Him in many more ways once you ditch all that anger and frustration.
8 “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy. 9 Six days you shall labor and do all your work, 10 but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, neither you, nor your son or daughter, nor your male or female servant, nor your animals, nor any foreigner residing in your towns. 11 For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but he rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.Exodus 20:8-11
Wow, our society has derailed on this one… Do we take any dedicated ‘holy time’ seriously? I go to church (usually), doesn’t that count? It’s one good step, assuming I’m participating with my whole heart and mind and taking the message to heart. But God is asking us to keep a Sabbath day holy, without working. How do you do that? I know I personally look forward to the weekends to get a lot of work done. But that’s not what God’s asking of me. He asked me to keep one day holy and not work.
Keeping a day holy requires an entirely new mindset for many of us. It can involve quality time with family and loved ones or prayerful consideration of our blessings and how we’re being called to serve. Maybe we volunteer for causes that help the unfortunate or get involved in religious outreach programs. Find ways that bring you closer to God and show Him the honor He deserves. Find ways to not work, as we’ve been instructed. Make it a concerted day to honor God.
12 “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.Exodus 20:12
What does honor mean? In essence: respect. As adults, it doesn’t seem as significant about honoring our parents as it did when we were children. Most of us probably do honor them, for the most part, but how does temptation lead us astray? If we don’t make a concerted effort to stay in touch, it’s easy to fall into a pattern of silence. How long has it been since we’ve been in contact with our parents? Yeah, they’re busy and we’re busy, but is that really a good excuse? Do we respect them in terms of them being the elders and granting them the courtesy of being the first one to reach out or helping during their struggles?
What about when our parents have abused us, were absent, or otherwise terrible parents? Honoring them would certainly mean not dragging their names through the dirt and publicizing horrors on social media. Honoring them could mean praying for them. Honoring them would be forgiving them (not to be confused with tolerating continued abuse). Even without a relationship with our parents, we can still find it possible to honor them.
13 “You shall not murder.Exodus 20:13
I hope this one goes without saying that we shall not kill people, but temptation can lead us to abuse children and animals. We need to beware of this slippery slope, too.
For most of us, the most frequent association for this command is in regards to abortion. As Christians, our stand is pro-life, but as long as abortion is legally available, it’s a choice women are able to make. How do you take a stand against it? Temptation tells us to take the easy route and to look the other way because it doesn’t impact you. Temptation tells us not to vote against it because it’s too controversial. Temptation tells you to avoid talking to your pre-teen girls and boys about pre-marital sex, to avoid teaching your boys to respect girls and teaching your girls to respect themselves and learn to say “no.” Don’t let temptation make you complacent.
14 “You shall not commit adultery.Exodus 20:14
I don’t have sex outside my marriage so I always assumed I was good with this one. But the daily temptations of sexuality can sneak up and bite us when we’re not expecting it. Fantasizing about anyone other than your spouse can be considered adultery. Flirting outside of your marriage. Viewing pornography or even sexualizing the woman walking down the street or the hot guy at the bar are grounds for adultery. Keep sexuality in its place, or the temptations can quickly become out of control.
15 “You shall not steal.Exodus 20:15
Yeah, you don’t go into a store and steal things. Most of us have that covered. But what about the smaller temptations? What about being completely honest about your charitable donations and total income on your income taxes? What about taking the office supplies from your job home? What about adding a few extra minutes to your timecard? What about padding your disability claim? There are many acts that constitute stealing in our daily life. How are you avoiding the traps?
16 “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.Exodus 20:16
Ah, lying. Not telling lies about your neighbor is a relatively easy one for most of us. Most of us aren’t fabricating and publicizing false stories about people. But what about gossiping? Especially since we can never know all the facts of someone else’s story. What about telling “little white lies” to get attention or to get yourself out of a sticky situation? There are plenty of daily temptations that might make us lie. When we don’t want to tell our husband about our latest shoe purchases or we don’t want to tell our wife we stopped off at the bar after work. Little white lies are lies. Lying is one temptation that is prone to spin out of control.
17 “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his male or female servant, his ox or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”Exodus 20:17
You can’t wish for things that aren’t yours… This one is brimming with temptation! How many times do we fantasize about winning the lottery and how we’d spend the money? How many times to we envy the celebrity lifestyle or even our neighbors who have a larger home or “perfect” children? What about when we can’t have children and our friend gets pregnant or when we’re laid off from our job but our co-worker wasn’t? There are almost endless temptations here.
The key to pleasing God is keeping
Life is full of temptation. Keep your focus on strengthening your relationship with God until nothing else matters except the bond between you and God. There is nothing earthly that can surpass the value of that spiritual bond.