The Temptation in the Wilderness

Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness, to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungered. And when the tempter came to him, he said, if thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread. But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God. Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple, and saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down; for it is written he shall give his angels charge concerning thee, and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone. Jesus said unto him, It is written again, thou shall not tempt the Lord thy God. Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and showeth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them; and saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan; for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve. Then the devil leaveth him; and behold, angels came and ministered unto him.

— Matthew 4:1-11 

And how would our Lord, in thus conquering, be a servant of Satan? Wherein would this be a falling-down and a worshiping of him who was the lord of misrule and its pain?

I will not inquire whether such an enterprise could be accomplished without the worship of Satan, whether men could be managed for such an end without more of less of the trickery practiced by every ambitious leader, every self-serving conqueror---without double-dealing, tact, flattery, and finesse. If these were necessary, such a career for our Lord refuses to be for a moment imagined. But I will ask whether to know better and do not so well, is not a serving of Satan; whether to lead men on in the name of God as towards the best when the end is not the best, is not a serving of Satan; whether to flatter their pride by making them conquerors of the enemies of their nation instead of their own evils, is not a serving of Satan; in a word, whether, to desert the mission of God, who knew that men could not be set free in that way, and sent him to be a man, a true man, the one man, among them, that his life might become their life, and that so they might be as free in prison or on the cross as upon a hillside or on a throne; whether to give men over to the lie of believing other than spirit and truth to be the worship of the Father, other than love the fulfilling of the law, other than the offering of their best selves the service of God; whether to desert God thus, and give men over thus, would not have been to fall down and worship the devil.

Commentary

by Jolyn Canty

I often wonder whether there are idols in my life to which I am enslaved, unaware. It is one of my frequent topics of conversation with God. What do I desire more than Him?  What do I allow to take precedence over Him?  Show me every sin, every atom of sin from self-promotion.

Just as Satan tempted Jesus, he continues the same tactics with us. He subtly whispers to us through many means: “Be your own God,” “Do what YOU want to do,” “Me FIRST,” “You deserve that,” “Do what makes YOU happy.”

If I listen, quietly, the Lord’s still small voice can be heard over the din of self- worship: “give, serve, love, sing, die to yourself and live for Me.”

Praise, my dear one,
Let us disappear into praising.
Nothing belongs to us.
— Rilke, Collected Poems
The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead.  For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves,’ to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good.’
— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
When we remember our temptations to give quick indulgence to disappointment or irritation or unsympathizing weariness, and how hard a thing it is from day to day to meet our fellow men, our neighbors, or even our own households, in all moods, in all discordances between the world without us and the frames within, in all states of health, of solicitude, of preoccupation, and show no signs of impatience, ungentleness, or unobservant self-absorption, — with only kindly feeling finding expression, an ungenial feeling at least inwardly imprisoned;—we shall be ready to acknowledge that the man who has thus attained is master of himself, and in the graciousness of his power is fashioned upon the style of a Perfect Man.
— J.H. Thom

 

“The terrible thing, the almost impossible thing, is to hand over your whole self—all your wishes and precautions—to Christ. But it is far easier than what we are all trying to do instead.  For what we are trying to do is to remain what we call ‘ourselves,’ to keep personal happiness as our great aim in life, and yet at the same time be ‘good.’” –C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

“When we remember our temptations to give quick indulgence to disappointment or irritation or unsympathizing weariness, and how hard a thing it is from day to day to meet our fellow men, our neighbors, or even our own households, in all moods, in all discordances between the world without us and the frames within, in all states of health, of solicitude, of preoccupation, and show no signs of impatience, ungentleness, or unobservant self-absorption, -- with only kindly feeling finding expression, an ungenial feeling at least inwardly imprisoned;--we shall be ready to acknowledge that the man who has thus attained is master of himself, and in the graciousness of his power is fashioned upon the style of a Perfect Man.” J.H. Thom