Saturday, July 16, 2016

Matthew 4: What I learned this time.

I see three erroneous assumptions being teased out in the devil's temptation of Christ.

a.  That meeting one's physical needs, including food, is of primary importance, ahead of doing that which may be the will of God, or our spiritual needs at any particular moment.

b. That one of God's primary purposes is to prevent us or others from having to suffer; that safety, health and well-being are not only things we can pray for, but also are things we should expect. from God if we are good.

c. That the praise of the world, or power in it, is so desirable, for whatever purpose, that we should have no compunction about indulging in ignoble activities, or embracing evil, in order to attain them. For certainly, we rationalize, think of all the good we could accomplish from such positions!

So, what do I learn this time around?

a) To think soberly about how often I let my appetites for food or other enjoyable aspects of life entice me to avoid spending time and effort doing something else the Lord would wish me to be doing at that time. Certainly supplying what my body needs is good stewardship, but focusing on satisfying cravings to the extent that it gets in the way of my being open and responsive to the will of God, or indulging in them to the extent that it causes me to physically be unable to work well with Him is unwise.

b) Certainly it is reasonable to want the charitable desires of our hearts, including safety from harm for ourselves and those we love, and to pray to God for those. But to expect it when I know about the suffering of the Son of God himself during his lifetime, seems foolish. I should be extremely grateful for those safe and healthy times in my life, certainly. But if maintaining my health and safety and that of those I love is my measure of navigating life successfully, I am misguided in my choice of measuring stick. Praying for health and safety is good. It is best when coupled by understanding that I must expect to be called upon to unselfishly navigate sometimes, with God, situations or periods of time when that is definitely not the case.

c.) Jesus lived in a world not unlike ours. He lived in a country governed by a dictatorship, where many local power brokers were not afraid to wheel, deal, trample and kill in order to maintain their positions, and where the result was frequent abuses of power, and injustice delivered to the poor and oppressed. No wonder many Jews hoped he would be the Messiah they hoped for. Just think what a relief it would be if a person of charity, honesty and vision were the one in power instead! 
 And so we likewise are tempted to “play the political game” or fudge a bit in regards to an annoying law, or galvanize the troops, in order to get ourselves or someone else into a position where we or they will have the power to do enact the good we want to happen in society.

What Jesus chose:
Prioritizing godliness over gratification. 
Appreciating health and safety but not making it a defining definition of a blessed life. 
Never compromising principles in order to secure anticipated opportunities to do good.

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