The following is a reflection on Luke 4:1-13, the Gospel lesson appointed for the first Sunday in Lent, Year C, according to the Revised Common Lectionary.
Temptation. Let me go out on a limb here and say that most of us aren’t tempted to do truly diabolical things, because most of us aren’t diabolical people.
I’ve never been tempted to kill anyone. Or to steal a car. Or abduct a child. Or hurt someone just for the pleasure of hurting them.
And, if you’re reading this blog, I bet you would say the same things. (My blog’s settings filter out the truly diabolical…)
But, temptation…ah, don’t fool yourself. We’re all tempted. And usually tempted to do things that start out not sounding too bad.
I’ve been watching AMC’s Breaking Bad lately. Besides now having the insatiable desire to end each of my sentences with “yo,” (As in, “Hey, listen to this sermon, yo!) I’ve found it to be a powerful lesson in temptation and sin. Walt, the main character is stricken with inoperable cancer and he wants to provide for his family.
That’s a noble goal, right? How could you go wrong there? Candidate for Father-of-the-Year, right? Yo?
So…he decides to “cook” methamphetamine. Crystal meth.
I’ve also been watching NBC’s Scandal, another lesson on temptation. Some good people—again, the supposed “protagonists”, who consider themselves fine upstanding patriots, try and do what they think is best for the country.
So…they rig a presidential election.
Good people. Who have good intentions. And good ideals. Tempted to do the wrong thing…to do the right thing?
Like Eve, temped to eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil…so that she could discern what’s right and wrong.
“Knowledge” isn’t a bad thing, is it? Don’t we try and teach our children the difference between right and wrong?
But, is it what God wanted for Adam and Eve? Then? In that way?
After his baptism, Jesus goes into the wilderness and fasts for forty days. Then he is temped by Satan. He’s eventually tempted to seek after his own glory and power—diabolical stuff.
But, that’s not where Satan starts.
He first tempts Jesus to eat some bread, which Jesus can make out of a stone.
I mean, why not? Is there anything particularly wrong with that? After fasting for forty days, he can’t eat a little bread?
He can change water-into-wine, but stones-into-rocks is out of bounds?
But, the real question is—is that what God had in mind for Jesus on that day? Was that God’s plan for Jesus right then? Was that how God wanted Jesus to be fed?
You see, temptation isn’t just about the desire to stick your hand in the cookie jar. It’s about being led towards disobedience. It’s a lack of discernment—or the willing deviation from the discerned will of God.
The Christian life is meant to be a life of seeking after God. Listening for God. Listening to God. Following God.
And, when following God’s will, sometimes we’ll pass up things that are just fine. But, things which God didn’t have for us to do this day, or in this particular way.
Spiritual maturity looks not just for the things that are passable, or explainable. Not just for the things that will get you into trouble.
But, spiritual maturity looks for the way that God has set before us, and then summons the courage to go there—and to ask for God’s help along the way.