What is temptation?

Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, where for forty days he was tested by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over he was famished.

Luke 4:1-2 

Dear members and friends, 

The English word “temptation” is defined as the desire to do something, especially something wrong or unwise. Somehow, the English definition seems to focus only on the negative side of the word. Meanwhile, its Latin origin temprate means “to handle, test or try,” which is neutral. The Greek word used in Luke 4:2, which is translated as “tested,” is peirazó. Peirazo could be translated as “to try, make trial of, or test,” but also as “to try whether a thing can be done, or to attempt, to endeavor.” It is clear that peirazo has a meaning that is both neutral and positive compared to the word temptation. Peirazo seems to emphasize proving one’s worthiness or trying something to see if something can be done. What is intriguing is that the Hebrew word nasah, which is often translated as “to test”, means “to try or prove.” What the Bible teaches us about a test or temptation is that it is given not to stray us from the right path, but to ensure our worthiness in a union with God. 

According to Swedenborg, there are two temptations: worldly and spiritual. Worldly temptations are the ones that we often consider as temptations, because they are more common and often strongly experiential. But spiritual temptations are the ones that really matter and are given by God when we are ready for spiritual growth. In other words, Swedenborg believed that we go through spiritual temptations not because we are attracted to what is wrong, but rather toward what is right. The spiritual temptation happens, therefore, not because of our desire to do something wrong or unwise, but because of our desire to do something right or wise. The inner struggle and turmoil during the spiritual temptation is caused by our old self that resists the change we desire to make, because the change often means the demise of the old self. 

My brothers and sisters in God, let us acknowledge our worldliness and our materialistic desires, which cause the separation between our spirits and Creator. Then, let us pray to our Creator for the divine presence and endeavor guiding and inspiring us to take baby steps toward a union with our Creator.   

Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee