“If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you.‘” Luke 4:3, 7, 9-10
Ah, temptations. They assault us every day. There’s the temptation to call in sick when we aren’t, the temptation to fudge on our income taxes, the temptation to drive much faster than the speed limit, the temptation to lose our temper when a deep breath and common sense might be better, the temptation to start smoking again or having another drink or eating food that’s unhealthy. I totally relate to the food temptations. Sometimes I do so well and stick with an eating plan without deviating from the foods that I know have no nutritional value, and then there are the times when I let go and totally indulge in “forbidden foods” that I know will cause weight gain, indigestion, and push me closer to pre-diabetes. It’s maddening! Why do I give in?
Jesus was led into the wilderness and tempted three times. All three had to do with self-serving behaviors: power, prestige, and personal gain. Turning the stones to bread appealed to his state of hunger, but it was far more than that – it was also serving himself by reducing his abilities to magic tricks and not focusing on his time in the wilderness for spiritual growth and understanding. Giving up his position as God’s Son by worshiping the devil is self-serving in that he would rule all the kingdoms of the earth, but that is temporary and rejects his mission in life. Jesus’ kingdom, as he said to Pontius Pilate, is “not of this world” so there is a much larger mission that is self-giving rather than self-serving. And throwing himself off the pinnacle of the temple would be sort of thumbing his nose at God or testing to be sure God would follow through with the promises of safety and protection.
Jesus didn’t fall for the temptations. But I’m not even close to being in a position like Jesus was, so I WILL fall and sin and give in. And it’s more than about temporal things – we try to separate the material/physical from the spiritual, but in reality they are intertwined. Our sinfulness affect our relationship with God, and our spirituality affects our growing in God’s grace. We strive to live faithfully in a faithless world. We seek forgiveness and learn to forgive. We move from self-centereness and self-serving to other-ness and other-serving so that we can be God’s messengers on this earth, offering Christ to the world, offering hope and witness about God’s love and forgiveness and our experience of that amazing grace of God. Jesus teaches us about focusing and faithful living. We can learn from him and try to follow in his example throughout our lives. Through us, the kingdom of God can grow and spread in the world as we serve our risen Savior. Thanks be to God!