– Father, what does it mean when they say that God tempts us through humility and charity, when we are humble and charitable?
– It is not God who does that; but the enemy, the enemy is the one who tempts us. If we are charitable, well, after we have done anything virtuous, the enemy’s voice will follow, whispering into our hears: “Good…! you’ve done good!” That is what the psalm says: “Let them be ashamed and confounded… Let them be turned back for a reward of their shame that say, Aha, aha.”*.
St. Silouan says that it is very hard for man to learn how to keep the Grace, because as soon as one receives it, the tempter says: “Oh, wow…! you have received the Grace…! But why have you received it?… I think it’s because you are charitable and because you have fasted…!” – and so on and so forth. That is what goes on in one’s soul in such situations. Therefore, it is not God that does that. God allows the enemy to tempt us; therefore, after every little good deed that we have done, we’d better be sure that we will be tempted.
Let’s say that you’ve just been charitable and have given alms. The enemy will whisper into your ear right away how good you are and how much joy you have given to X or Y as a result of your good deed and what a good person you have been.
Let us forget about our good deeds as soon as we have done them. The way I see this goes something like: “God, I will forget all my good deeds, but please, forget all my bad deeds.” And I think that by doing that we will not divert from our path — by not remembering any of our good deeds, by saying: “I have done nothing good in my life.”
Yes… So that is what all this means. Even when we are humble – St. John Cassian and St. John of the Ladder tell us that “pride is the only passion that stems from virtues”. The more virtues we acquire, the more “reasons” and opportunities pop up for the enemy to tempt us: “Ohh… you are also charitable!… You also pray!… And you fast!… And you are also humble!…” See what I mean? So pride is the only passion that springs from our virtues. Now that’s a scary thought! What are we to do, no longer work upon being virtuous? No, we must work upon them! But we must never lend our ear to the voice that tells us: “You have done well, you have done well.”
Fr. Savatie Bastovoi
*(Psalm 70, KJV)