Best of Daily Reflections: Avoiding the Sweetness of Evil
Don’t let me drift toward evil or take part in acts of wickedness. Don’t let me share in the delicacies of those who do wrong.
In Psalm 141, David wrestles with his own temptation to do what's wrong. As in many other psalms, there is a concern in Psalm 141 about the threats of the wicked to David's well-being. But here, the danger is not so much that the wicked might harm him through their violent deeds. Rather, they might tempt him to join them in their sin. Thus David prays, "Don’t let me drift toward evil or take part in acts of wickedness. Don’t let me share in the delicacies of those who do wrong" (141:4).
Notice that David acknowledges the apparent sweetness of evil. He refers to the actions of those who do wrong as "delicacies." The Hebrew word used here comes from a root that means "pleasantness, beauty, or sweetness." It is used in the Song of Solomon to depict the physical beauty of a lover (Song of Sol. 1:16). It can also describe the pleasant taste of food (Prov. 9:17) or the delightful sound of music (Ps. 81:2). Sin can appear to be a delicacy, something to be enjoyed and savored, something pleasurable and profitable.
Yet David knows that appearances can be deceiving. Beneath the sweetness of evil lies a bitter, rotten core. So he asks the Lord to help him avoid it: "Don't let me drift toward evil." The Hebrew original reads more literally, "May I not incline my heart toward evil." Sin usually begins, not with a rush to action, but with our inner being, with subtle temptation, with seemingly harmless intrigue. But if we lean our hearts in the direction of evil, if we allow its seeming sweetness to tantalize us, then we're well on our way to "taking part in acts of wickedness."
So, we avoid the sweetness of evil by tending our hearts, by acknowledging our temptations and turning from them. Yet we are not able to do this in our own strength. We need the Lord's help. And that help will be provided if we ask and incline our hearts, not toward sin, but toward God.
QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: What kinds of sin can seem sweet to you? When you're tempted, what do you do? To what are you inclining your heart?
PRAYER: Gracious God, like David, I can sometimes feel the lure of sin. It can indeed seem sweet, something that will give me delight. But I know the truth about sin and its corrupting influence.
So I pray as David prayed. Help me, Lord, to incline my heart, not toward evil, but toward you. Keep me from taking part in wicked acts. Help me to see that the apparent delicacies of evil are poisonous to my soul.
Lead me, not into temptation, but deliver me from evil. Lead me in your paths. Fill my heart with a desire for you and your holiness. Amen.