A discussion of temptation is only relevant when I seek a relationship with God. If my desire conforms to my own definition of good or to a casual, convenient, socially, postmodern, acceptable definition of good; a discussion of temptation remains relative. With no outside standard, I do essentially what I want as long as I don’t commit a crime and have an adequately rational and sentimental story to explain my behavior. I may also may choose a code of behavior for a group, but temptations outside this code remain relative. As long as my goal is pleasing people, then temptation is relative to the standards of the group.
Now, temptation becomes relevant if I want to become real, to embrace truth, and to embrace God. If I want to know God and he know me, a discussion of temptation becomes relevant. Most relevant because temptation becomes anything which distracts me from that end. And many times these distractions will be good things or things of such subtle corruption that a non-follower would not recognize as a temptation.
Temptation: to Gain or from Loss
Jesus is tempted away from his mission and his relationship with God when Satan dares him to glorify himself with his own powers, dares him to test God, and offers him all the power and pleasures of the world. In the temptation of Jesus, sin is a reality, compromise is unacceptable, and either God will live in me or sin will. I also can be tempted away from God by trusting in myself—pride, demanding God prove himself to me—also pride, or seeking my value in the hierarchy of achievement, material wealth, comparison—more pride again, and pleasure.
In contrast to Jesus, Job wasn’t offered a positive exchange for his relationship with God. Job lost family, wealth, and health, and yet he still did not let go of his relationship with God. In the end he received more than he had lost. What was most important was that he realized, no matter what, he had God. He knew nothing better existed.
Read Matthew 4:1-11
- What is most likely to disrupt or distract me from my relationship with God? The loss of something or the gain of something? What does this tell me about my relationship with God?
- When am I most likely to be tempted?
- What can I do to prepare for it?
- How can I better sense temptation?
- Why is pride only a temptation when I desire a relationship with God?
- Why is pride usually only considered a sin by disciples of Christ?
- How have I tried to compromise with sin?
Passage for Meditation
Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4b
Father, I confess that I am easily distracted and sometimes seek distraction away from the truth. Forgive me for seeking things and being busy with things that distract me from my relationship with you. Help me to seek your kingdom first and be alert to temptation and distractions which prevent me from becoming the follower you want me to be. Alert me to anything which makes a promise of fulfilling a want or need that focuses on my own abilities or gain. Drive me to bring my wants and needs to you in prayer, and help me to seek your will through a study of your word. I trust in you.
I confess… Please forgive me and heal me. To your honor and glory, make me a sinner as holy as you will, remove this temptation from me. I desire you more than it. Please nail it to the cross and kill it within me.
Reading NT Wrights, The Lord and His Prayer points to excellent way to begin a life of devotional excellence and daily worship to keep me alert to temptation. Daily readings from Utmost.org also help to sharpen attention.