Temptation is a strange experience. We are threatened by it, yet we are drawn into it. We complain about it and wish we were free of it. Even so, it is not going to go away. The Gospel for the First Sunday of Lent is always a story about the temptations of Jesus in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11). Jesus was truly tempted, just like we are. If Jesus in his humanity was tempted, this means temptation is a universal experience. Many people think temptation is a sin. We learn from Jesus it is not temptation that is the sin, it is giving into it and acting on it that can be sinful. Energy expended on feeling guilty for being tempted is better spent on facing our temptations and learning how to steer clear of acting on them.
Jesus was tempted when he was alone in the desert, away from the crowds. Our moments of solitude can also be occasions for some powerful temptations. It is easy to live a good life in the public eye. If we know our behavior is being watched, we tend to behave ourselves. It is in those moments when we are convinced we are alone and nobody will ever find out that our character is really tested.
When Jesus was extremely hungry after fasting for several days, the devil tempted him to turn stones into bread. He was tempted to put material comfort ahead of spiritual growth. Sometimes we are tempted to compromise our spiritual values in exchange for the security or pleasure that may come from an unbalanced focus on material goods. Jesus was tempted to jump from a high pinnacle confident of being caught by angels who would save him. This was a temptation to do something dazzling to prove he was God. Sometimes we are tempted to want God to do something dramatic to prove his presence. We are tempted at times to want our faith to work magic instead of allowing it to be a powerful force guiding our lives. Finally, the devil tempted Jesus to betray his fidelity to his Father in exchange for fame and power. Jesus chose suffering and the cross to make his point. He chose the hard way, not the short cut.
Instead of complaining about being tempted, Jesus confronted it head on, relying on God’s Word to get him through. Lent challenges us to do the same.
Together in faith,
Very Rev. Christopher Smith, Rector