The World, the Flesh, and the Devil

February 6, 2013

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This post is a continuation of the series on sin.

Temptation wears many masks of enticement, all hinting that evil is good for the one being drawn from the narrow path.  Siren songs emitted from the deadened lips of the deceiving image promise what can never be, driving souls ultimately to permanent and irrevocable loss unless they resist again and again or repeatedly repent.

Of itself, temptation is neither good nor evil.  It is always an opportunity to use our free will to say yes or no to God. He allows us to be tempted to humble us; to show us that we are helpless on our own because we, of our own power cannot defeat temptation.  Only by God’s grace, which He bestows upon us abundantly, can we be victorious (2 Cor. 12:9).

Temptation is not sin, but to deliberately place oneself into temptation is a sin.  It is purposely flirting with evil, just as the alcoholic who steps into the bar places himself in grave danger of committing the mortal sin of drunkenness.  It is the moral equivalent of deliberately placing ourselves into grave physical danger for no good purpose such as walking through a bad area of town where drive by shootings happen frequently.

Hanging out with bad companions who read pornographic magazines or watch pornographic videos, do drugs, gossip, lie, cheat, steal, and commit violence against others is a sin because when we associate with these people we are knowingly placing ourselves into temptation. Moreover, we are tempting God and will most likely fall into sin ourselves.  “Oh, I can handle it,” or “They’re the ones doing it and I’m just going along for the ride,” has brought more than one soul to the brink of hell. Amusing ourselves with bad companions is like jumping into a cesspool. We can’t expect to come out smelling anything but revoltingly stinky.

Sometimes we unwittingly place ourselves into temptation or stumble into it because we haven’t been taught proper vigilance or knowledge of where the danger originates. This is a failure on the part of those who are supposed to teach us morals and the powerful defense mechanisms necessary for victory in spiritual warfare.

Sometimes we are forced into occasions of sin where we do not will to be, or presented with opportunities to sin we did not invite and do not welcome.  We cannot control the placement of lascivious billboards we must pass on the way to work, nor the gatherings of spiteful gossips in the break room, but we can choose not to look and not to participate.

Three great figures of the spiritual combat, the world, the flesh, and the devil, challenge us unremittingly as Soldiers of Jesus Christ. They are the sources of temptation that sweetly beckon us to choose everything that is Not God.  They are most effective when we discard our ascetic practices of fasting, penance, self-denial, and our weapons of prayer – the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Bible reading and prayer (Lectio Divina), the Rosary, and other practices of communicating with God appropriate to our state in life. They represent the swamp all souls must navigate to arrive on the other side of the narrow gate.

We cannot escape exposure to the world, the flesh, and the devil.  One we live in, one we live with inseparably, and one lurks in our vicinity seeking to capitalize on our inherent weaknesses.  Sometimes all three combine to suck us into a vortex of sin.

What exactly do we mean by the world, the flesh, and the devil?  These terms are centuries old in moral theology and spiritual development.  All the saints now in heaven and on earth fought victorious battles resisting their enticements. Each one deserves exploring in a blog post so that we have sufficient information to make the choice for God.  To try to cover all three here and now would make this post too long.  So stay tuned as we take a hard look at each one in turn and study ways to win against them with the help of God.

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V. Praised be Jesus Christ!

R. Now and forever!

(Click on the link above to read why I end my posts this way.)

This post is linked to Sabbath Moments at Thoughts on Grace.

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Wednesday, February 6th, 2013 spirituality

8 Comments to The World, the Flesh, and the Devil

  1. An excellent post, Barb, and I’m looking forward to reading more of your articles. Reading this, I can’t help but think how many people are not taught about avoiding the near occasion of sin these days. The other thing that comes to mind is that we are surrounded by temptations more so than at any other time in history because of TV, computers,stores, magazines, books (60 years ago writers wouldn’t have been able to get away with the stuff that’s in books now) and the list goes on and on. I feel great compassion for the youth today – they are exposed to so much at such a young age.
    Mary recently posted..One Plus God

  2. Mary on February 6th, 2013
  3. Mary, I feel exactly the same way. Nobody is teaching the concepts of custody of the eyes, ears and tongue any more, which would be a huge help for just the reasons you cited. I wonder how many priests know what custody of the various senses mean.

  4. barb on February 6th, 2013
    melanie jean juneau recently posted..The Vacuum Cleaner Syndrome

  6. melanie jean juneau on February 6th, 2013
  7. Great article. Thank you so much. Reminds me that I need to always guard my heart.
    Thank for linking up!
    Colleen recently posted..Sabbath Moments – Silence and More SIlence

  8. Colleen on February 9th, 2013
  9. Great post. I wish we’d hear more like it during Mass.

  10. Rich Maffeo on February 9th, 2013
  11. Me, too, Rich.

  12. barb on February 9th, 2013
  13. Daunting subject; you tackled it well with brevity, wisdom and a cliff hanger.
    Joann recently posted..A Thousand Little Moments

  14. Joann on February 10th, 2013
  15. Thanks, Joann. Now I have to tackle each of the three seriously and get those posts written!

  16. barb on February 10th, 2013


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