I find the portrayal of temptation in today’s poem very relatable. The temptations of the flesh, the world, and the devil portrayed here are not terrible, awful, obviously evil things. Beauty. An easy life. Knowledge. None of these are such bad things in themselves. But they become temptations when they prevent us from focusing wholeheartedly (as the voice in the poem does) on Christ.
The verse that particularly jumped out at me was the one about knowledge. Perhaps unsurprisingly, for a student in the middle of reading week, in the midst of essays and the beginnings of a dissertation proposal.
“Thou shalt have Knowledge.”“Helpless dust!In Thee, O Lord, I put my trust:Answer Thou for me, Wise and Just.”
Knowledge, in the academic and formational context in which I currently find myself, is generally seen as a good thing, rather than a temptation! But I am very aware of the temptation to which this verse alludes. The temptation to acquire knowledge in order to impress, or manipulate, or control.
Knowledge is power, and it is a power which needs to be wielded with wisdom and humility. Those of us privileged enough to be well-educated and well-read need to make sure we are using our knowledge to build others up, and not to put them down. We need to make sure we are acquiring our knowledge for the right purposes – to serve God and our neighbours – and not for our own glory.
So it is with many temptations. What may in itself be harmless, or even beneficial, becomes harmful when it is approached in the wrong way or used for the wrong purposes. The best way to guard against that kind of temptation is to turn and keep turning, as the poem does, back towards God. By continually refocusing ourselves on God, re-orienting ourselves towards Christ, returning to the way of the Holy Spirit, we and all that we do and desire are continually transformed. This is what repentance is.