This week’s portion of the Lord’s Prayer asks “Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
For a long time, my mental picture of “Lead us not into temptation” was someone about to enter a dark, seedy, Bar-of-Iniquity. (That would be a heck of a bar name, huh?) Then, at the last minute, God leads them away from the door. The big question was, why would God lead them into temptation anyway? Oh yes, the God-test. To see if they were worthy. Right.
The phrase “Deliver us from Evil” made me think of being rescued from the clutches of a serial killer or some similarly evil wrong-doer. The evil being external, of course. Not something within me.
My current thinking on this phrase is markedly different, and it is shaped by my reflections on the American cultural slogan: “more is more.”
Yesterday was July 4, and I spent part of the day at a local pool with my family and some friends. There were games, including a “money dive” where kids hunted for coins on the bottom of the pool. If you found one with a special mark on it, you got to enter the watermelon eating contest.
As you can imagine, there was quite a bit of excitement about the money dive. They separate the kids by age, so my three-year-old got first crack at the loot. He stood with my husband on the steps on the pool, and carefully picked up about six coins and put them carefully in his paper cup. Then he said, “That’s enough.”
My husband, looking down at all the money just sitting there on the steps, urged him to get one more. My son reached down, picked up a quarter and handed Daddy the cup. “I’m done,” he announced.
About this time, I walked up, also saw all the money still ripe for the taking (there were more quarters! at his feet! right there!) and asked, “Don’t you want to pick up more money?”
No. No he did not, thank you very much. The kid knows his own mind. He was indeed done.
He asked for the cup, handed it to me and directed me to go to the Snack Shack to buy treats with his winnings. I did so, spending a whopping ten cents on two Red Vines, which he ate with great relish.
That, friends, is how a three-year-old boy taught his greedy, acquisitive parents a little something about “enough.” (This story would have been even better if he had asked to donate his money to the food bank and sworn off candy for the rest of the summer. But I try not to embellish.)
Clearly, I have not been doing a good job of indoctrinating my little guy into good old-fashioned American consumerism. He has not yet fully grasped the concept of “more is more.” He knows something about “enough” that I have forgotten.
In light of the avarice that has destroyed our financial markets, the rampant greed of both institutions and individuals that has caused many Americans to lose their homes, and the wanton disregard for the environment that has caused irreversible damage to our earth, I feel safe in saying that most Americans have suffered a similar amnesia.
The idea that America is mired in a pit of rapaciousness is not new. Lots of people, religious and secular, have been talking about this problem for some time. Brian McLaren poignantly describes our economy as a “suicide machine.” Pam Wilhelms talks with business leaders around the world about “the soul of the new economy.”
What is new (at least for me) is considering this boundless gluttony as a form of the “temptation” and “evil” referred to in the Lord’s Prayer.
What if each time we prayed this prayer, we were mindful of inviting God to lead us onto the paths of contentment, sufficiency, “enough,” and away from the evils of greed, acquisitiveness, and over-consumption?
What would it take for us to feel we have enough of anything? I’m not just talking about money. When do we have enough time, energy, fun, security, sex, success, respect, love? When will our country have secured enough oil or spent enough on its military? When will companies have earned enough to overpay CEOs and satisfy stockholders? When are we thin enough, fit enough, smart enough? When have we worked hard enough to relax? What does it take for us to stop striving for the endlessly enticing MORE?
Does a deep knowledge of our belovedness change anything? Would meditation on God’s love for all of creation alter our attitudes or actions?
I am reminded again of Jesus’ call to seek God’s way first, and then to trust God for all the rest of our needs. How do we begin, in community, to redirect our focus away from the temptation and evils of More and toward the things God loves? What spiritual practices have you found that help you in this pursuit of contentment? How is the Spirit guiding you to an awareness of sufficiency? What might it take for you to walk away from the money lying on the steps of the pool because you know you have enough?
Let’s agree to support each other in this journey. Maybe God will use our relationships, whether online or in person, to “lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.”
May it be so.