The world, the flesh and the devil.
These three entities have been said to be the three sources of sin and temptation for Christians.Â That is to say that when we get it wrong, we can point to the influential lure of culture (the world), the weakness of natural desire (the flesh), and the overarching conspiracy of evil (the devil).
I say ‘and’ instead of ‘or’ because I don’t see these three as mutually exclusive.Â When a person does something wrong – let’s say: gossip at work – they can point to a) the culture of gossip at their work or in the ‘world’ generally, b) their own tendencies to want to stay ‘in the know’ about what’s going around the workplace, and c) a trans-historic, trans-cultural, quasi-personal gravity gently and subtly pulling people away from healthy and honest communication.
If we neatly point to just one of these three, we open the door to a) victim-hood (“Poor me, it’s so hard to be good in this world/workplace…”), b) shame (“Why am I such a horrible gossip?”) or c)Â blame (“It was an outright spiritual attack…”).
Acknowledging all three can help us to appreciate afresh the need to stand apart from culture (Romans 12:1-2), the need to acknowledge our culpability for our actions (1 John 1:9), and to be on guard against the old serpent up to its typical schemes (2 Corinthians 2:11).