Living with TEMPTATION

The season and rituals of Lent have been practiced globally for almost two thousand years. Based upon the Bible story of a man called Jesus who retreated to the wilderness to be alone and without material possessions or supplies for forty days and nights in order to prepare himself through stillness and prayer for the new public role he was about to begin.

Every year hundreds of thousands of Christians follow the pattern of Jesus by choosing to live more simply and sparingly, giving up selected excesses in order to cleanse body mind and soul, rather like a spiritual detox. The story is surprisingly contemporary as we read that Jesus was tempted in three ways that are still at the very heart of the human condition even in today’s 21st century western culture.

Micah Purnell, who is exhibiting a series of art works at Ziferblat in our art trail, has taken the subject of these three temptations and challenges us to consider how we respond to the very same patterns of thinking within an everyday week. The first speaks of our inescapable desire for material gain, our love of consumerism and our obsession with excess. To choose to live simply for forty days, to live on what you already have rather than giving in to the temptation to keep buying can reveal to us how reliant and dependent we have become on forming our identity and happiness on the things we own and consume. It can teach us to value what is truly important to us, that relationships, acts of kindness, beauty in the everyday are what really bring contentment and peace to our lives.

The second temptation in the story was the invitation to gain significant recognition and status. Relating to our ideas around identity and how we choose to see and be seen and judged by ourselves and others, this fascination takes on ever new forms for us in today’s digital age. We are all consumed by the allure to create exaggerated and often false, stylised public personas through the postings we make on social media, C.V’s and profile pages and the way we present and dress ourselves within the public realm. The challenge here as Purnell’s art so graphically exposes is to live more authentically, to cease for at least the Lenten season from projecting this false sense of self that we can feel pressurised to live under and instead to be still and honest with the reality of who you really are. For it is only from this place of honest vulnerability and authenticity that we can ever truly find and make our peace with God and others.

Thirdly is the temptation of power and control that seduces each of us in different ways throughout our week. Although very few of us get the opportunity to rule a nation or even a business, we all have daily choices to make about how we live amongst our fellow man, be that family, work colleague or a stranger we encounter on the street. Do we choose to gain power and control over those around us or do we seek instead to walk the less popular path of humility and collective submission? To take the narrow path of non-violence, of sharing wealth and power collectively for the greater good of community rather than the establishment of empire goes against all the ingrained ideologies of our capitalist society. Modeled not only by Jesus after his time in the wilderness, but also by figures like Gandhi, Martin Luther King and many others who have contributed greatly to changing the world by their humility and selfless service.

Take some time to ‘be still’ and carefully consider the questions these graphic images pose to each of us. Which of the temptations challenges you most at this time? Consider using the season of Lent to address one or more of these ideas in a practical way, perhaps by fasting from buying any unnecessary purchases over the 40 days, or by giving away some of your income to a charity supporting those less fortunate than yourself. Or perhaps it is a more personal challenge about how you treat others, and you might make a deliberate effort to live differently and more compassionately. Alternatively consider fasting from social media for the next forty days as you take stock of how you present yourself to others, question your need for a public persona and ask how and if it is a true representation of your real self.