We are surrounded by temptations… thousands of them… constantly. They bombard us from all sides especially through media and advertising. Through the products and trappings of modern life, we can be made healthy, wealthy, and wise. It can be overwhelming if we focus on the cacophony.

Because of this, I used to struggle to understand how the Bible could say that Jesus was finished with every temptation in the desert (Luke 4:13). I counted three. Surely there are more temptations than three, right?

Our ancient Jewish ancestors taught that we are tempted in just three ways: the lust of the flesh, the lust of eyes, and the pride of life. These are referenced in the New Testament in 1 John 2:16.

We can see the results of the temptation of our first parents in the Garden of Eden in the prose used to describe it. When Eve gave in, the Bible says, The woman saw that the tree was good for food (lust of the flesh) and pleasing to the eyes (lust of the eyes), and the tree was desirable for gaining wisdom (pride of life) (Gen 3:6). To a Jewish reader it says she was tempted in all ways… and failed.

Where our first parents failed, our Lord brought restoration. When absolutely famished from 40 days of fasting, He was tempted to turn rocks into bread (lust of the flesh). Rather than face the cross, He was offered the kingdoms of the world (lust of the eyes). In contrast to living a life of humble service and obscurity, He was tempted to throw Himself from the Temple so angels would swoop to His rescue (the pride of life). Ref: Luke 4:3-9.

Our Lord went on to give us the tools to deal with our temptations in Matt 6:1-18. When [we] fast… we deny the lust of the flesh. When [we] give alms… we deny the lust of the eyes. When [we] pray… we humble ourselves before God. Fasting, almsgiving, and prayer are antidotes to temptation. We aren’t focused on our own desires when we deny our flesh in fasting. We aren’t focused on all we want when we are giving to others in charity. We aren’t focused on our own greatness when we acknowledge the providence and sovereignty of God.

Another interesting observation is that the lust of the flesh tempts us to sin against our own bodies through lust, gluttony, and sloth. The lust of the eyes tempts us to sin against others through greed, envy, and anger. The pride of life tempts us to sin against God in thinking we can be gods and greater than other people.

In fasting, we deal with our own flesh. In almsgiving, we show charity to others. In prayer, we are humble before God. In a way, it could be said that we are tempted to sin against ourselves, against others, and against God.

I consider these thoughts in The Personal Rosary in the following reflections:

When I am tempted to unnaturally fulfill the desires of my flesh, may I envision Your pain and deny temptation through conscious acts of self-denial.

When I am tempted to take what is not meant for me, may I envision Your stripes and deny temptation through acts of charity.

When I am tempted to pridefully make of myself more than God has made me to be, may I envision Your sorrow and humble myself in prayer.


Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her… (Ephesians 5:25)

How are we to love? We love in imitation of Christ. He died for His Bride.

What is love if not self-denial for someone else? What is self-denial without sacrifice? Christ was crucified, died, and was buried for us while we were yet sinners.

If we are going to live in imitation of Christ, we sacrifice ourselves daily for those we love. We deny ourselves in large and small ways to lift up others.

The cross we take up daily in imitation of Christ is a cross of self-denial so we may give love. Fear makes us count the cost and is selfish in stinginess—it’s a shrinking of our world to the care of one person… me. Love is self-giving and grows as it is given. We expand toward the infinite the more we give love unselfishly.

How are we to love? We love in a death of a thousand cuts in self-denial for others and grow toward infinity in imitation of Christ.


Temptation rarely seems dangerous. Rather, it comes to us in the form of something appealing.
Let’s face it, though, do we really need to be told to act in our own best interest? Usually, the
wrong thing to do has the better advertising. It distracts us from our purpose… to be the best
version of ourselves. The complexities of life can seem overwhelming. Our modern temptations
come with excellent marketing but they really aren’t much different from those our earliest
parents faced.
We all know the Creation Story in the Bible and our beginning with Adam and Eve. They were
placed in the Garden of Eden by God with the instruction to cultivate and care for it. They have
full freedom except for one thing… they are not to mess with the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge
of Good and Evil. This was the only law and outside of the law, there is no sin (Rom 4:14-15).
They were naked and felt no shame (Gen 2:25). The only law was obedience to this one
command and outside of that was absolute liberty.
Why this law? What’s so bad about knowledge that God would keep them from the tree that
would make them wise? Parents can agree that there is some knowledge that is best left for
maturity. Do we want our children to probe the complexities of adult relationships at an early
age or do we provide fairy tales and happy thoughts while they are young? There is nothing
wrong with human interactions… but there is a time and place for appropriate interactions. This
could be the case with our first parents. It’s not that God wanted them ignorant but that He
wanted them to trust Him as children (Matt 18:3). Once they knew of good and evil, they could
make choices for both (Deut 11:26)… and that’s an edge that’s easy to fall over. It was for their
own protection.
The Devil enters into this nursery with harmful intent. He knows what God has commanded
them and he wants them to disobey as he did. Does he outright tell them what to do? No. He
introduces doubt where there was trust, “Did God really say, ‘You shall not eat from any of the
trees in the garden’?” From that simple question, he laid a trap of logic… why should one tree
be any different from any other? If you can eat from all trees but one, what is different about
that one? Why is God such a meany? Eve answers that it is only the one tree and they would
die if they eat from it or even touch it. He’s ready to spring his trap, “You certainly will not die!
God knows well that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened and you will be like gods, who
know good and evil.” The one who desired to be God himself and was thrown out of Heaven for
his sinful pride has now introduced doubt into God’s creation with the promise of godhood for
themselves. This is temptation, indeed! Do they obey God or become like Him?
Eve was tempted in all ways. She had a lust of the flesh in noting that the fruit was good for
food. She had a lust of the eyes in seeing how it was pleasing in appearance. She had the pride
of life in desiring to gain wisdom. Where God had commanded, the Devil had introduced doubt.
Could they trust what they were told or was God simply denying them something good for
them? How many times do we rationalize our own decisions the same way? We feel that

hunger in our bellies. We want what is beautiful to behold. If we don’t experience this pleasure,
we might miss out on the experience! We fail in the same ways our first parents did… for the
same reasons… and with the same results.
Immediately after taking the fruit, their eyes were opened (Adam was with her) and they
realized they were naked. It’s that the same feeling we feel after some illicit pleasure. Did
anyone see us? Can anyone know? We feel naked and exposed in our sinfulness. And God calls
out to us in our conscience as He called out for Adam in the Garden, “Where are you?” Does He
not know? Of course, He knows… He calls us to stand before Him in our nakedness and admit
our guilt. Adam was naked in the flesh before but now his nakedness is of the soul. God hasn’t
moved away from Adam. Adam has distanced himself from God in disobedience. We don’t
handle this now any better than our first parents as Adam doubles down on his problems. In
Adam’s denial, he is also confessing… “I was afraid because I was naked.” Was he really afraid
of God or was it that he feared what he himself had done? He was naked in his sin. He feared
what came next. He feared the punishment he knew he deserved.
God confronts Adam with his guilt, “Have you eaten from the tree of which I had forbidden you
to eat?” When we face our crime directly, we have a choice to make… be honest or seek a
deflection. Adam chose the latter and put it right back on God, “The woman whom YOU PUT
HERE WITH ME…”. Oh… ok. It’s God’s fault. If He hadn’t given me a loving companion, this
never would have happened. God’s blessings are never the cause of our sin (James 1:13). Our
sin comes from our fear… if I don’t do this now, I may never get the chance!
The narrative of the story is common to us today. When we face temptation, it begins with
doubt… eating my coworker’s donut won’t hurt, will it? We rationalize that donuts taste good,
they’re pretty, and I may not have the opportunity later so I should seize it now! Does it matter
to the story whether we’re talking about fruit, donuts, violence, or infidelity? All are forbidden
fruits in some way and all sin progresses similarly. When our conscience calls us to account, we
lie to ourselves, “it was just one time”… “it isn’t a big deal”… “everyone does it”… until we are
called out for it. “Did you take my donut?” Do we apologize or deflect? We tend to deflect, “Oh,
that was yours? Oops. You should have labeled it better.” It’s your fault.
God doesn’t make things complicated. We do. In the beginning, He gave our first parents a
simple instruction. They had full freedom except for one clearly defined prohibition. Today, we
also have clear instructions. The whole of the Law is encapsulated in two things: Love God with
our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength and love our neighbor as we love ourselves. When we
allow doubt and fear to control our lives, we find ourselves restrained and unable to love. Love
is the antidote to fear. In love, we have the freedom to be the best version of ourselves.
The Devil was a liar and a murderer from the beginning (John 8:44). Adam and Eve did die and
from the moment they disobeyed God. In their acquiescence to temptation, they doubted God
and His command. In disobedience, they sinned. In sin, it brought death by severing God’s
covenant relationship with them (James 1:14-15). It lead to physical death in the mercy of God.

God, as the author of life, knows us better than we know ourselves. What He tells us is true and
beyond doubt. We should focus our attention on His Will and Word in prayer, deny our lustful
flesh in fasting, and be attentive to the needs of others in almsgiving of our time, talents, and
treasures. In doing so, we will become the masters of temptation and live love, not fear.

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