Each of us face temptations in our lives each and every day. Many times, the temptations are small and seemingly harmless. Other times they are great and have far-reaching consequences. We may at times give into these temptations, especially the ones that seem harmless.
Advertising doesn’t help us. Have you ever noticed how often food is advertised on television each night? Most of the time, I don’t even notice the advertisements. But on those evenings when I am fasting, perhaps to get blood work drawn the next morning, those advertisements seem to be continuous. McDonalds, Burger King, Carrabas, Red Lobster, Outback, they just never seem to end. Each one makes their food look so delicious, especially if one is a little hungry, and even more if they know they can’t have any.
But we resist, knowing if we eat, the results of our blood work will be affected, and to be honest, the temptation is not all that great.
Scripture tells us the devil tempted Jesus with food. Jesus had been baptized. Gods voice came from the clouds saying “You are my Son, the Beloved; with you I am well pleased.” Jesus went into the wilderness for 40 days and was fasting for those forty days. The devil showed him stones and said to him “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” And even though Jesus had not eaten for forty days and was famished, he didn’t give into the temptation.
There is one point that is worth mentioning here. The New Revised Standard Version of the Bible translates what the devil said to Jesus as “if you are the Son of God”. Many other translations use the same words. The Common English Version translates this to “Since you are the Son of God”. The Greek word can in fact be translated both ways and the meaning of the devil’s statement changes with each translation. When “if “ is used, it may imply the devil doesn’t know who Jesus is and wants proof. But if the word “since” is used, it implies the devil does know who Jesus is and is trying to get him to give in to temptations, the way humans do.
And while food is a strong temptation, there are other temptations in our lives that are even more powerful. One of those is the temptation to acquire more power. For some people, being powerful and able to inflict their will on other people is an irresistible temptation. These people seem to measure their self worth, and the worth of others by their status, their influence, and their wealth. The devil tempted Jesus with great power, promising all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus would just worship him.
We usually read this passage from the view of Jesus resisting the temptation to acquire great wealth and power. But there is another view. The devil has given into that very temptation. The devil is promising things he can’t deliver if Jesus will just bow down to him, to make him important, to make him seem great and powerful. Perhaps there are two lessons in this passage, that we should follow Jesus and not strive for power or influence or wealth, not give into those temptations, but continue to strive for a stronger relationship with God, and that we should beware of those who have given into that temptation and try to get us to follow them to make the seem important and powerful. This could be especially important during this time of political campaigning as some politicians promise us what they think we want, as they tempt us with promises they can’t keep.
Scripture tells us of one more temptation Jesus endured during his forty days in the wilderness. The devil took Jesus to the very pinnacle of the Temple and suggested he jump off because since Jesus is the Son of God, no harm would come to him. The devil used a different tactic here, one that is often used or more accurately, misused. The devil quoted Scripture to justify what he was asking Jesus to do. Jesus still resisted the temptation.
It seems people more and more try to go through life without enduring the challenges that come from aging. Every day there seems to be a new miracle drug that will help people overcome some challenge in their lives. Just recently I heard a paid program for a drug that would help people remember better. The announcer started off by asking the question “Do you have trouble remembering people’s names?” This is something I struggle with since my heart attack and was told it is normal. I have to work a little harder to remember things than I used to. I have to admit, there was a temptation to listen to what this program was selling, but thankfully, there was also a car show on that I found much more interesting.
I have noticed that the side effects of the drugs that are being developed to keep us from experiencing the challenges of aging have some pretty significant side effects, most of which seem far worse than the condition they treat. Now, I am not saying no one should take any medications, there are many medications that truly help us. But the temptation seems to be to make us confuse wants for needs. Yes, we would all love to go through life without any pain, without any loss of energy or hearing or memory.
But that is a tactic of evil. Evil tries to convince us that what we want is the same as what we need. Evil tries to convince us that those side effects are insignificant, that the benefit is worth the risk. Evil tries to convince us to trust it instead of God.
Fortunately, we were not put into this wilderness called life alone. We don’t have to face these challenges by ourselves. We don’t have to fight these temptations on our own. When Jesus ascended into heaven to be with God, he sent us God’s Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is always with us, walking our life’s journey with us, guiding us if we’ll listen, comforting us, protecting us from evil and sometimes from ourselves.
As we enter this season of lent, we enter a time for reflection, a time for repentance, and a time of renewal. It is a time to rededicate ourselves to God and to each other. It is a season to take time and listen for what God is saying to us.
Let us pray:
Out of your fullness we have received grace upon grace.
You are our eternal hope;
you are patient and full of mercy;
you are generous to all who call upon you.
Save us, Lord
O Christ, fountain of life and holiness,
you have taken away our sins.
On the cross you were wounded for our transgressions
and were bruised for our iniquities.
Save us, Lord.
O Christ, obedient unto death,
source of all comfort,
our life and our resurrection,
our peace and reconciliation:
save us, Lord.
O Christ, savior of all who trust you,
hope of all who die for you,
and joy of all the saints:
Save us, Lord.
Jesus, Lamb of God,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, bearer of our sins,
Have mercy on us.
Jesus, redeemer of the world,
grant us peace.
(moment of silence)
God of love,
as in Jesus Christ you gave yourself to us,
so may we give ourselves to you,
living according to your holy will.
Keep our feet firmly in the way
where Christ leads us;
make our mouths speak the truth
that Christ teaches us;
fill our bodies with the life
that is Christ within us;
in his holy name we pray.
Amen and Amen.