“Let no temptation take hold on you, but such as is human: and God is faithful, Who will not suffer you to be tempted above that which you are able, but will make also with temptation issue, that you may be able to bear it.” I COR. x. 13.
“Lead us not into Temptation”
by Bishop Ehrler, 1891
In this Epistle St. Paul is telling the faithful of Corinth how needful it is for all to be on their guard against temptation. He says that he finds it necessary to chastise his own body, thus bringing it into subjection, lest he himself should yield to the tempter and become a castaway. As a proof of the peril in which we all stand, he cites the history of the Jews who went out from Egypt, great multitudes of whom, on account of their sins, perished in the desert and never saw the promised land. Hence the great danger of temptation and the need of vigilance. The Apostle warns the Corinthians, therefore, to eschew every temptation they can, and as for those which spring unavoidably from the conditions of our present existence, he tells them to trust in God’s help, knowing that God will never permit them to be tempted above their strength, but will always give grace sufficient to conquer all their enemies. St. Paul’s advice to the Corinthians was for all Christians and for all time.
I. Meaning of temptation. I. To tempt means: (a) to test, to try one, in order to ascertain his dispositions, his character, etc.; (b) to subject one to trials and difficulties in order to give him the opportunity of practicing virtue, of showing good example, and thus of giving glory to God; (c) to provoke one to moral evil with the intention of leading him to commit sin. God does not tempt in the first way, since He is in need of no proofs of our dispositions and character. Neither does He tempt us in the third way, since He cannot be the author or cause of sin (James i. 14). In the second manner God can and does tempt man, as He did in the cases of Abraham, Job, and Tobias. 2. Temptation which is an incitement to sin arises from three sources: (a) the concupiscence of the flesh; (b) the world; (c) the devil. 3. Concupiscence of the flesh means the moral corruption of our nature which results from original sin and ever inclines us to evil. This is our greatest and most dangerous tempter, both because it is internal and because it remains with us throughout life. 4. The world here means the corrupt maxims and bad example of the wicked, and the numerous incitements to follow them which surround us in life. 5. By the devil we mean the assaults of evil spirits, who are the enemies of mankind, and who strive constantly to ensnare us. 6. Temptation is not the same as sin. It is not a sin to be tempted, unless we are the responsible cause of the temptation; but it is a sin to yield to temptation, either by doing evil, or consciously desiring it, or dwelling on the thought of it with pleasure.
II. Meaning of the words, “lead us not into temptation.” 1. In this Petition of the Lord’s Prayer we do not ask that God will deliver us from all temptations, since this would be impossible in the present state of our corrupt nature, and would deprive us of a rich harvest of merits. 2. We do ask in this Petition that God will either remove dangerous temptations from us, or grant us the grace to overcome them; in other words we pray that God will never permit us to be overcome by temptation of any kind.
Conclusion: 1. The dispositions that should accompany this prayer are distrust of self and confidence in God. 2. The means of conquering temptation are chiefly two: (a) vigilance, which consists in custody of the senses, avoidance of idleness and dangerous occasions, and prompt resistance to temptation; (b) prayer, which includes imploring God for help in time of temptation, frequently raising our minds and hearts to Him, hearing and, meditating on His word, and frequenting the Sacraments.