It Is Tempting Matthew 4:1-11

The season of Lent is now here which means that many of us will be giving something up.  At least, for a few weeks.  So we’ll give up social media:  Facebook, Instagram, etc.  We’ll deny ourselves the “vices” like alcohol, fast food or cigarettes.  In the past my big denial was chocolate.  The positive was the effect of losing a couple pounds.  The negative was on Easter morning gorging on the chocolate covered marshmallow bunnies and eggs.  The result was gaining the weight back and sometimes a pound or two more.  The great denial of Lent starts out with good intentions but the lure to return to former ways is strong.  This is how temptation works.  It just keeps pulling and pulling and pulling at our weakness like the taste for sweets, the excitement of how many likes are on Facebook or the social connection at the bar.  Temptation feeds off our fears, anxieties, desires until it has caught us in its trap.

The readings from the first Sunday in Lent are about two great scenes of temptation:  Jesus in the the wilderness, Adam and Eve in the garden.  The temptations were much more that eating an apple from the forbidden tree or turning rocks into bread to fill an empty tummy.  The temptations were really about our relationship with God.

The Old Testament reading is from Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7.  The serpent tempts Eve to eat the forbidden fruit while Adam seems to be silent in the background.  The serpent’s challenge is to the goodness of God who denied them the chance to be like God and know good from evil.  Eve and Adam both took a bite; so do we.  Yes we do know what good is because we have come to know evil so well.  The desire to be like God has brought us war, poverty, division, ecological damage to creation. In the end, death comes.

The temptation of Jesus in the wilderness by the devil seems to focus on the devil getting Jesus to do what he shouldn’t but the temptation goes much deeper.  “If you are the Son of God…” is how each temptation begins.  Lets be straight forward.  Jesus knew who he was and the devil knew who Jesus was as well.  What was at stake wasn’t Jesus’ ability to do what the devil tempted but his identity.  Jesus came as God incarnate to save a fallen world.  Would he surrender that identity to fill his empty stomach, force the hand of God to serve him or worship what is evil for the world’s power?  Jesus refused to give in and take a bite from that forbidden fruit.

The first Sunday in Lent seems to be about temptation but really it is about identity.  The verses just prior to Jesus in the wilderness were on his baptism.  The Spirit’s presence and the voice from heaven affirmed his identity, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.”  Baptized into Christ, we are marked with his cross and declared to be a child of God.  While we think temptation is about eating chocolate, the real temptation is to deny our new identity.  Will we deny this identity to claim the place of God?  Will we give up our identity to serve ourselves…get God to serve us…or, serve what is evil for power?  Giving up our identity is temptation’s real goal.

Whether you decide to give up chocolate or Facebook or fast food for Lent is up to you but hold firm to who you are in Christ – a child of God.


Beware the Lie Luke 4:1-13

Temptation is often treated like a joke.  We joke about the temptation of the box of jelly donuts a co-worker brings to the office and proudly announce we kept to our diet.  We make light of the reduced price of an article of clothing on Amazon and how we resisted the temptation to buy it.  We keep the level of our engagement with temptation at a superficial level.  If we probe any deeper, we discover that temptation is really about the lie.  If we probe any deeper, we see how easily we are taken in by it.

Lying is so much a part of our culture right now and we are having a hard time facing that reality.  In the world of politics, one lie is followed by another which is then countered by a stretching of the truth on the other side of the spectrum.  When a corporation is caught in questionable behavior, spin is applied to deflect the challenge and denial of responsibility.  Temptation is to fall for the distortion of the truth, the lie.

The Spirit is leading Jesus into the wilderness where the devil will have at him.  After, forty days of eating nothing Jesus was famished and at his most vulnerable.  The devil began the lies.  What is interesting is that Jesus knew his identity.  The devil knew who Jesus was too.  Yet, the lies began.

The first was about making bread out of rocks.  The lie was about independence from God the Father.  Jesus knew his oneness with the Father.  He was not going to declare that he was separate.  Jesus didn’t go for the lie.   If only we knew better than to declare our independence and face the consequences.  This is our sin.

The second was about getting all the kingdoms of the world by simply giving adoration to the devil.  Question, when did God cede his rights over the world to the devil?  This is the lie.  With the Spirit at his side, Jesus would have nothing to do with the lie.  How often have we bought the lie of worshiping that which has nothing to give in return?

The third lie was to doubt the Father’s life sustaining presence and jump off a building.  The devil even used Scripture to support the test.  Jesus knew well enough the lie of doubt the devil was trying to instill.  He wouldn’t test the Father’s care.

The testing was done for now.  The devil would try his best at future opportunities.  With the Spirit at his side, Jesus would face more lies the devil would throw at him.  Thankfully, he remained true.  This is how and why we can call him Savior and Lord.

Temptation is much more than resisting a piece of chocolate.  Temptation is all about the lies that come each day.  The lies are many.  They work to deny what Scripture says is true about life and loyalties and worship and identity and so on.  I can only wish that I and we as a whole were far better at seeing the lies for what they are… quit participating in them.