Day Twenty: Distortions

Thursday of the Third Week of Lent

As we continue to prayerfully ponder the second temptation of Jesus in the desert, let’s look at one of the devil’s common tactics. Recall that in this second temptation, the devil took Jesus to the top of the Temple and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you’ and ‘with their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone’”

For those who are striving to live their faith well and to remain faithful to the will of God, the devil’s tactics are often different from his temptations of those struggling with serious sin. The devil will often tempt people caught in a cycle of serious sin more directly, trying to convince them that the grave sin he proposes is exactly what they need. However, for those striving to live the will of God, the devil is more subtle. He knows that temptations of grave sins for these holy souls will often fail. Therefore, he often starts with some truth and then distorts it in a slight way, causing confusion.

In this second temptation, the devil refers to Psalm 91:11–12 which reads, “For he commands his angels with regard to you, to guard you wherever you go. With their hands they shall support you, lest you strike your foot against a stone.” The subtle lie comes in the form of a misapplication of this psalm. As Saint Jerome points out, this passage is about those who walk in faith, not directly about Christ Himself. God gave us angels to care for our eternal souls. Their duty is to protect us from sin and from the evil one. The devil, however, tries to use this in a devious way, suggesting that the angels will keep Jesus from literally striking His foot against a stone if He were to jump off the top of the Temple. The distortion is that the psalm uses symbolic language, but the devil is trying to turn it into something literal, ignoring the spiritual meaning.

In our lives, the devil will often attempt the same by suggesting to us some passage of Scripture but with a misapplication or distortion of that Scriptural truth. If we believe his distortion, the result will not be the deep peace and joy that comes from doing the will of God. Instead, it will lead us to self-justification, confusion, anger, false compassion, etc. For example, say someone is planning to get an abortion and we choose not to “judge” them based on this passage, “Stop judging, that you may not be judged” (Matthew 7:1). Instead, out of a false sense of compassion, we say to them, “I do not judge you and will support whatever decision you make.” Obviously, this is a misapplication of that Scripture. We must always judge immoral actions, which is different from judging a person’s heart. The correct response would be to do all we can to help the person see that the choice of having an abortion is wrong in every situation.

Ponder today the important truth that the devil and his fallen angels constantly seek to confuse you. If they cannot tempt you with grave sin, they will try to distort the truth and mislead you one step at a time, trying to get you off the path of salvation slowly and surely. When this begins to happen, confusion and a lack of peace set in. Pray that you will be given the wisdom from on high to sort through and reject every lie you are tempted with every day.

Lord of all Truth, Your Word is freeing, transforming, and fulfilling. Please help me to understand Your holy Word, and never allow the evil one to distort it and lead me into confusion. May I cling to every Word that comes forth from Your mouth and follow that Word with all my heart. Jesus, I trust in You.

See also: Day Twenty: 40 Days at the Foot of the Cross

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