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Lead us not into temptation

To consider the message behind the Christian period of Lent, by looking at temptation and how to overcome it (SEAL theme 4, ‘Understanding and managing feelings’).

by Vicky Scott

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)

Aims

To consider the message behind the Christian period of Lent, by looking at temptation and how to overcome it (SEAL theme 4, ‘Understanding and managing feelings’).

Preparation and materials

  • Google Images has some excellent pictures of temptation to download for Time for reflection.
  • Some meditative music for the reflection.

Assembly

  1. Ask the students if anyone knows what Lent is all about, or when it starts? Has anyone ever given anything up for Lent? If so what? Was it difficult? What did you learn as a result?
  2. Lent is an old English word meaning ‘lengthen’. Lent is observed in spring, when the days begin to get longer. The festival of Lent in the Christian calendar remembers the 40 days when Jesus was tempted by Satan, the devil, in the desert or wilderness (Matthew 4.1–11), before he began his preaching ministry, and encourages Christians to think about how to improve their relationship with God, a sort of ‘spiritual spring cleaning’. Lent begins on Ash Wednesday (17 February 2010), which is the day after Shrove Tuesday (also known as Pancake Day). This year lots of people in the UK will eat pancakes on 16 February. The reason for this tradition is that making a pancake mixture was an opportunity to use up luxury food items such as eggs and butter which were denied to them during the 40-day ‘fast’ of Lent.
  3. Many Christians use these 40 days, which lead up to Easter Day, as an opportunity to deny themselves something that normally they enjoy, to help them gain a better understanding of Jesus’ life of service. Giving up or abstaining from foods, or other things, for spiritual reasons is called ‘fasting’; only a small number of people today actually fast for the whole of Lent, although some maintain the practice on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

    Fasting is a test of self-discipline and self-control. (People of the Islamic faith fast during daylight hours during the time called Ramadan.) The three traditional practices to be encouraged during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self), and giving to charity (justice towards neighbour). Today, people might aim to give up a bad habit that they are aware of, and take up something that will bring them closer to God; they may give the time or money spent doing that to charitable purposes or to other organizations.
  4. Christians believe that Jesus was tempted in three areas by the devil: (1) to use his powers to relieve his hunger, and turn stones into bread, when he was fasting; (2) to put God to the test, by throwing himself off a tall building in order to be rescued by angels; and (3) to be offered all the world if he would worship the devil rather than God. The Bible teaches that temptation in itself is not wrong, but it is giving in to temptation that is dangerous because it leads to sin, or breaking God’s rules of the best way to live. We learn from the story that physical satisfaction, no matter what the cost, the longing to be popular and the desire to be powerful, are all big temptations that may face us today. Christians believe that Jesus experienced the same trials and temptations that are common to us all.
  5. Companies in their advertising often use the theme of ‘temptation’, such as the current Lynx promotions. They promise young men and boys that if they wear their deodorant they’ll soon find that they’re a magnet for any beautiful woman in the vicinity! Temptation is used in this way to make their product more attractive and desirous. Likewise, Walker’s crisps are portrayed as such a huge temptation to former England footballer and sports presenter Gary Lineker that he will go to any lengths to get hold of them and prevent anyone else from enjoying them. The strong appeal these crisps have for Gary is meant to be the same for us. We are tempted to buy a product that one man will go to any lengths to get his hands on.
  6. How do adverts try to tempt you? Have you ever seen an advert for something – a chocolate bar, or a CD – and then gone out and bought it?

    What are you most tempted by? Food? Boys? Girls? Lying to make yourself look better? Cheating in exams? Spreading gossip when someone has told you something that’s very personal to them and they trust you?
  7. When you give in to temptation, how do you feel? At first we may feel pleasure. But the Christian faith teaches that eventually we will feel regret, guilt and pain. Giving in to temptation is often the easy option. We may each be tempted by different things and it may be difficult to resist. Temptation is effective the more a person has the desire for that particular thing. Someone trying to give up smoking may be tempted to have a cigarette if others are smoking nearby. Or if a relationship is going through a tough patch, the idea of having an attractive new partner may be an offer that is hard to resist.
  8. However, when faced with temptation, as we all are, the message of Lent is that there is a way out for us – we are not helpless and forced to indulge ourselves; we can resist. The season of Lent comes to an end at Easter. On Good Friday Christians remember that Jesus died on a cross in Roman-occupied Jerusalem. They believe that through his death and resurrection Jesus brings us back to a good relationship with God, and this is celebrated at Easter.

Time for reflection

Show the ‘temptations’ images, and play some music.

Take a moment to think about the temptations that you have struggled with or are struggling with now.

How can you learn to resist those temptations?

What steps do you need to take to achieve that goal?

Prayer

Dear God,

Please help us to deal with areas in our lives where we have become prisoners to certain temptations,

whether it is to overindulge or to make ourselves look good at the expense of others.

Help us to see the way out when we are tempted,

that we may live lives that reflect increased peace and joy.

Amen.

Publication date: February 2010   (Vol.12 No.2)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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