There is an easily missed central point in the account of Jesus being tempted by the devil.
Note that Jesus was led to the wilderness, the place of his temptation, by the Spirit of God. And Jesus experienced temptations from the devil precisely because he was “filled with the Holy Spirit” and was seeking greater maturity and intimacy in his relationship with his Father.
Now take a moment to imagine that you, today, were offered:
- the ability to turn stones to bread, which would enable you to feed the hungry of the world.
- the power to turn every nation into a Christ-centred kingdom, and
- a spectacular and visible evidence that God will rescue every person who falls, caring, safe-guarding and preventing suffering.
Surely these are gifts not temptations? Such good powers must be from God ?
Jesus was offered good things, wonderful super-human abilities…
…and he responded NO!
The reason for his “no” is important for we who seeks greater maturity of faith.
Temptation is usually understood as an impulse to choose wrong over right, bad over evil, unhealthy over healthy and so on.
But Jesus’ response presents us with a more mature appreciation of temptation not simply as an opportunity to choose right over wrong or good over evil but to discern our deeper motivations by asking one central question: what is God asking me to do?
So the question we need to ask (not only when we experience temptations but in every moment) is: Jesus, how can I live more intimately with you in the face of these options?
It is helpful to relate this to our Lenten commitments.
If I’ve given up dessert for Lent, a refusal of this course lovingly prepared by a dinner host might be more about my own pride than Christian faith.
If we seek to grow in our relationship with Jesus we don’t rigidly stick to our programmes and plans but instead listen for the whispers of the divine voice in every moment.
Temptation for the Christian is not simply an impulse towards evil over good. Temptation for the one who is growing in faith offers an opportunity to grow in relationship with Jesus rather than stubbornly make a God of my own albeit well-intentioned and virtuous Lenten practices.