The WORD in Other Words by Fr Ronnie Crisostomo SVD (Philippines)
An interesting research on temptation by Barna Research Group (www.barna.org), published in 2013, focuses on the “the changing shape of temptation” among Americans.
The study shows that “Americans are still facing the same age—old deadly sins that humanity ‘s always wrestled with:” worrying, procrastination, eating too much, spending too much time on media, being lazy, spending more money than one has or can afford, gossiping or saying mean things about others, being jealous/envious of others, viewing pornography/sexually inappropriate content, Iying/cheating, abusing alcohol or drugs, expressing anger or “going off” on someone by text or email, doing something sexually inappropriate with someone.
On why people give in to temptations, half of the respondents say that “they are not sure why they do so.” The other reasons are: to escape from “real life” for a while; to feel less loneliness; to satisfy people‘s expectations; to take a shortcut to success; for personal pleasure; a result of human or sinful nature.
The study observes an undergoing shift in morality in America; temptation has gone “virtual.” “Only 1% of Americans of any age are able to articulate that giving in to temptation might be caused by sin. Most Americans think of temptation more as a steady stream of highs and lows that must be navigated. This reveals a gap in biblical thought on the subject of temptation among the nation‘s population.”
As it has been rightly pointed out by the researchers, people face the same deadly sin whether these are occasioned by the “old” or the “new”‘ temptations. The nature of temptation is still the same as the classic temptations of Christ that tried to deflect Jesus from his mission especially his commitment to the furtherance of the Kingdom of God. Just as the tempter tried to shift the focus from Jesus‘ mission to his self-interest and advantage, that is to say, by trying to confuse Him, we too see this being shown in the confusion of the respondents -i.e., not knowing why they give in to temptation and considering temptation and sin very lightly. Like, when asked what they do when they face a temptation, 59% say they “don‘t do anything specific to avoid the tempting situation.”
There is one positive note though: “Practicing Protestants and practicing Catholics stand in contrast to this trend: a majority of both groups indicate they attempt to stand up to temptation.” Also, the study shows that “the most common way Americans say they avoid temptation is to pray and ask God for strength” which, in a way, reflects the biblical and traditional way of facing temptation.
Thus, Christians would do well in resisting temptation by confessing that Jesus is Lord and believing that God raised Him from the dead, for in Him we are justified and saved, for “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved” (Rom 10:8—13).