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Today’s Lectio Divina: God, investigate my life; get all the facts firsthand. I’m an open book to You; even from a distance, You know what I’m thinking. You know when I leave and when I get back; I’m never out of Your sight. You know everything I’m going to say before I start the first sentence. I look behind me and You’re there, then up ahead and You’re there, too— Your reassuring presence, coming and going. This is too much, too wonderful— I can’t take it all in! … Investigate my life, O God, find out everything about me; cross-examine and test me, get a clear picture of what I’m about; see for Yourself whether I’ve done anything wrong—then guide me on the road to eternal life. Psalm 139: 1-6, 23-24 (MsgB)
We now come to the most controversial phrase of The Lord’s Prayer…
Lead us not into temptation.
Five words, recorded in both Matthew (11: 13a) and Luke (11: 4b); words that have made both biblical scholars and common parishioners scratch their heads for nearly two thousand years.
Why in the world would Jesus of Nazareth, who consistently presents God as our Loving Father, ever suggest that God would be so cruel and uncaring that He would intentionally lead any one of His precious children into opportunities to sin?
Wasn’t it Jesus, Himself, who said,
Which of you fathers, if your son asks for a fish, will give him a snake instead? Or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him? Luke 11: 11-13 (NIV)
Well, as we discussed earlier in this series, the real bug-a-boo here is not with what Jesus actually said, but with the sticky differences in translating New Testament Greek into modern-day English. You see, in its original languages, the New Testament uses the Greek word peirasmos, which, when translated into English, can have several different meanings…
When the earliest Bible translators wrote out their English translations, they chose to use our English word, temptation, which actually presents more theological problems than they might have realized. Yet, when translators replace the word temptation in Jesus’ prayer, inserting alternatives like test, trial or experiment, we now actually have a situation that more accurately reflects Old Testament equivalents where God “tests” Abraham, allows Job’s “trials,” or when King David invites God to “investigate his life” (see today’s Scripture reading from Psalm 139).
You see, James, in his letter to the New Testament church, states it very clearly,
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He tempt anyone; but each person is tempted when they are dragged away by their own evil desire and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death. James 1: 12-15 (NIV)
As I see it, it’s really unfortunate that the earliest biblical scholars used the word temptation here when translating Jesus’ prayer into English, because in doing so, it sets in place the very unscriptural idea that a loving God intentionally chooses to “lead us” to a place where sin is crouching on our doorstep. In truth, that place of potential sin is not one God wants for us, but is a location we often find ourselves because of our own doing!
In a speech given on Italian television in 2017, Pope Francis, addressed this ancient translation problem, proposing The Prayer be revised to read, “do not let us fall into temptation,” explaining that “I am the one who falls, it’s not (God) pushing me into temptation to then see how I have fallen.”
Oh, and let’s not forget the other big component in all this discussion. We do have an enemy named Satan who relishes the idea of placing God’s children in an opportune moment where the temptation to sin and selfishness abound.
More on that next time.
My Prayer: Father God, I truly believe that You would never intentionally “lead me into temptation,” but I can say with certainty that “temptation” will befall me in this lifetime and that You desire me to grow up in the process, learning to discern right from wrong, good from evil. Jesus, You were led by God into the desert, where temptations from Satan were waiting there for You, and You chose rightly in each of those temptations, trusting God instead of leaning upon Your own human strength. Holy Spirit, teach me to lean into Your power and protection as I go through the trials, tests, and temptations found in this life. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My Questions To Ponder: So, am I blaming God for trials and temptations in my life? Am I shifting blame over to Jesus when bad things happen? If so, how can I change my way of thinking, becoming more like King David who trusted so completely in the love of God, that he openly invited Him to investigate his life, looking for flaws and short-comings, so that together with God, he could learn to walk the path of righteousness, leading to life everlasting?
So, what is God speaking to you as you ponder on The Lord’s Prayer?
Over a period of four weeks (3 sessions per week), we will take you on a journey (12-sessions) we call Contemplating The Prayer: Pondering Anew The Prayer of Jesus. We suggest you bookmark our blog series homepage to keep all the writings in one place for your future reference. Take note that each blog session begins with a short scripture reading. My suggestion is that you don’t hurry through, or skip the text, but treat it as a Lectio Divina reading where you slow down and sit a bit with God’s Word, allowing it to penetrate and influence you as you read. Each session also ends with a few thoughts to ponder on. I look forward to hearing some of your insight as we journey together!
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