Wednesday, October 7, 2009

What We Learn from Jesus' Temptation

I have often quoted 1 Corinthians 10:13 when faced with trials and even strong desires that would move me out of God's approved path. You may remember it: "No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." I have found it comforting at times but more often confusing as I struggled with issues that seemed to take over my life, sometimes for years. During the New Testament Challenge I was reading Matthew 4:1-11 where Matthew recounts the temptations of Jesus and I found there some consolation. It seems to me the temptations of Jesus are a template for all the temptations we are likely to face with the added benefit of "a way out so that [I] can stand up under it."
The first is the temptation to multiply what is in our hand for personal ease and comfort. What is at hand is the ability to make bread from rocks - or - money from using others; two helpings just for me from the loaded Thanksgiving platter; my own - for me only...whatever. Jesus shows us that we can only overcome this selfishness by reminding ourselves that our lives are not about us but about others.
The second is the temptation take God's promises and require them of God - to make God protect us from our impetuousness - recklessness - powerlessness. If Jesus was not willing to put God to the test to protect Him from harm should he through himself off a building, we must be doubly dubious about putting ourselves in personal, financial, spiritual danger because we believe God will never let us be harmed if we are doing "His Will." Here Jesus makes it clear that we do not want to be in the ranks of those challenging God unless He has invited that challenge.
Finally, the temptation to believe we can do it without God if we have a big enough bank roll, support base or preparation. James offers a bit of advice to believers who would never dream of denouncing God for any other power source but are willing to "go it alone" in earthly decisions when he warns in James 4:15-16, "Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil."
The antidote for all three forms of temptation is to pre-load holiness which Jesus offers in these words of response to the last temptation. “Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” Matthew 4:10.

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