The deadliest temptation in a secular age, for the Christian and non-Christian alike, is the sidelining of God. The more we push God to the periphery, the more we take center stage. It’s our activity that matters. Our goals and aspirations. Our strategies. Our techniques. Our purposes. Our plans. We lose eternal perspective because the Eternal One plays only a supporting role.
Often when we talk about temptation, our minds run to certain attitudes and actions that exert a magnetic pull on our hearts. We know the experience well: what it’s like to lash out in anger, to indulge a lustful fantasy, to take pleasure in words that cut down someone else, or to dwell on a wrong done to us, nurturing and nourishing a root of bitter self-pity.
When we think of temptation, we think of sin. We think of selfish impulses. And we hope to fight sin and temptation with the truth of God’s Word in the power of the Spirit.
But I wonder if, in all our good and godly resistance to particular sins, we sometimes overlook a far greater and all-encompassing temptation, a deeper source of selfishness, a disposition that matters for the direction of life. This temptation lies at the heart of other transgressions, with consequences far more profound than those of individual sins or petty attitudes.
It’s the temptation of godlessness.
I’m not referring to the atheist’s refusal to acknowledge God’s existence. Nor am I referring to spiritual or religious people who deny certain biblical teachings about God. I’m talking about the temptation to elbow God out of daily life, to push him out of the center, to live without reference to our Creator. We may still nod to him, of course, but he’s secondary. We shrink the Author of life to a footnote in a story we write ourselves.
It’s fitting to name this temptation “godlessness” because, even if we don’t deny God, we can live as if he doesn’t exist. He simply isn’t relevant for most of what constitutes daily life.
Absence of God
In our secularizing society, it isn’t the presence of sin that defines our culture but the absence of God.