Look at Jesus’ first temptation: turning stone into bread. Who doesn’t want to solve hunger? But that’s what Satan is offering Jesus: To be able to be relevant to society, to help people. What is wrong with that? After all, Jesus is hungry, starved to death. It sounds reasonable. Why not accept the invitation? Well, as Jesus says, “Because man shall not live by bread alone.”
And what about the second temptation: what kind of religious leader or preacher doesn’t want some kind of press or celebrity for getting out the word? After all, won’t that help the cause? It could get more people to come to church. Who wouldn’t want that? Just show off by performing a stunt every week by parachuting off the church steeple, or by hosting someone famous. It can work. Why not? Well, as Jesus says, “You shall not put God to the test.”
Then again, what about the third temptation: Satan shows Jesus all the kingdoms and nations of the world saying, “The world could use a strong man like you about now. Look at all the problems. Someone like you could whip the countries into shape. Think about it, Jesus. You don’t even have to tell the truth. Just say what people want to hear,” Satan says.
But then comes the clincher when Satan tells Jesus, “All these things are yours, if you worship me…” And Jesus says, “You shall worship the Lord and serve the Lord alone.”
Again: temptation is not about a cartoon saying ‘no’ to Hot Fudge Chocolate! Rather, temptation concerns what is reasonable, what is helpful, and what is good; that is to say, fundamentally, temptation is not about the question, “Would you like to do something wrong?” It is about the tempter in the Garden asking Adam and Eve, “Would you like to be like God?”
Now what is wrong with that? Isn’t that what we are about? Isn’t that what we want? What temptation is about is saying ‘goodbye’ to such silliness and saying ‘hello’ to more fundamental questions like what kind of God am I worshipping? Who is this Jesus I am following? It is about asking yourself: what am I going to do with my life? We need to understand that the struggle of faith, the path of discipleship, is a struggle between spirit and ego, true self and false self; it is about asking: what are we going to do with the rest of our lives?
During this season of Lent, how would you answer these questions?
Pastor Andy Kinsey