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Lent and Temptation

Lent begins on 6 March 2019

by Vicky Scott (revised, originally published in 2011)

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.

Preparation and materials

Assembly

  1. Ask the students the following questions, pausing to allow time for thought after each one.

    - Does anyone know what Lent is all about, or when it starts?
    - Has anyone ever given anything up for Lent? If so, what?
    - Was it difficult to give something up?
    - What did you learn as a result?

  2. Lent comes from an old English word that is related to ‘long’. 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 the devil in the wilderness (Matthew 4.1–11), before he began his preaching ministry. Lent encourages Christians to think about how to improve their relationship with God, a sort of ‘spiritual spring cleaning’.

    Lent begins on Ash Wednesday, which is on 6 March this year. It is the day after Shrove Tuesday, also known as Pancake Day, when lots of people will eat pancakes. The reason for this tradition is that making pancake batter was an opportunity to use up luxury food items such as eggs and butter, which would be 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 they normally 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, but some people maintain the practice on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

  4. Fasting is a test of self-discipline and self-control. During Ramadan, people of the Islamic faith fast during daylight hours. The three traditional practices to be encouraged during Lent are prayer (justice towards God), fasting (justice towards self) and giving to charity (justice towards neighbours). 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.

  5. In recent years, there has been a move towards people doing something special during Lent rather than giving something up. For example, people may aim to perform a special act of kindness every day during Lent or spend time praying each day.

  6. 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 while he was fasting.
    2. To put God to the test by throwing himself off a tall building so that the angels would rescue him.
    3. To be offered all the world if he would worship the devil rather than God.

  7. The Bible teaches that temptation in itself is not wrong, but giving into temptation is dangerous because it leads to breaking God’s rules of the best way to live. We learn from the story of Jesus 40 days in the wilderness that physical satisfaction, no matter what the cost; the longing to be popular; and the desire to be powerful are all big temptations that face us today. Christians believe that Jesus experienced the same trials and temptations that are common to us all.

  8. Advertisements often have a theme of temptation. They promise success in different areas of life if we do a certain thing or buy a certain product. Temptation is used in this way to make the product more attractive.

  9. Ask the following questions.

    - How do adverts try to tempt you?
    - Have you ever seen an advert for something such as food, music or clothes, and then gone out and bought it?

Time for reflection

Ask the following questions, pausing to allow time for thought after each one.

- What are you most tempted by?
- Food?
- Boys? Girls?
- Fashion? Technology?
- Lying to make yourself look better?
- Cheating in exams?
- Spreading gossip when someone has told you something privately and they trust you?

Pause to allow time for thought.

When you give in to temptation, how do you feel?

Pause to allow time for thought.

At first, we may feel pleasure. However, eventually, we will often feel regret, guilt and pain. Giving into temptation is often the easy option. We may each be tempted by different things and it may be difficult to resist. Temptation is most effective when a person has a strong desire for that particular thing. Someone who is trying to give up smoking may be tempted to have a cigarette if others are smoking nearby. If a relationship is going through a rough patch, the idea of having an attractive new partner may be an offer that is hard to resist.

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 finishes at Easter. On Good Friday, Christians remember that Jesus died on a cross. They believe that through his death and resurrection, Jesus brings us back to a good relationship with God, and this is celebrated at Easter.

Show the images that represent temptation and play some reflective music.

Let’s take a moment to think about the temptations that we have struggled with or are struggling with now.

How can we learn to resist those temptations?

Pause to allow time for thought.

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

Pause to allow time for thought.

Prayer
Dear God,
Please help us to deal with areas in our lives where we have become prisoners to certain temptations.
Thank you for the festival of Lent, which reminds us that there is always hope.
Help us to resist the temptation to gossip, to leave people out and to be unkind.
Help us to treat people well, to share what we have, to love people and never to give up on them.
May we live lives that reflect peace and joy.
Amen.

Publication date: March 2019   (Vol.21 No.3)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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