The Gift of Temptation

How is temptation a gift?  Where is there “crowd mentality” or “mob mentality” in the bible and how well to those people fair against temptation?  Would you be able to fight the urge to follow?

Scripture: Luke 4:1-13

1 Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness, 2 where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing at all during those days, and when they were over, he was famished. 3 The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.” 4 Jesus answered him, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone.’ ”

5 Then the devil led him up and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world.

6 And the devil said to him, “To you I will give their glory and all this authority; for it has been given over to me, and I give it to anyone I please. 7 If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.”

8 Jesus answered him, “It is written, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’ ”

9 Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here, 10 for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you,’ 11 and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ” 12 Jesus answered him, “It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ”

13 When the devil had finished every test, he departed from him until an opportune time.

Background on the Text:

  1. In the Gospel of Luke, this passage represents Jesus’ commitment to his calling. From this point forward, Jesus will be resolute in following his mission to save the people of Israel.
  2. Jesus and the devil are employing proof-texting to make their debate points. This is the practice of pulling scripture verses out of context to support a particular point.  It’s not a good model for scripture interpretation today, but common at that time.

Exegesis (close reading) of the Text:

  1. Jesus is full of the Holy Spirit because he has just been baptized. (Luke 3:21-22).
  2. Jesus is brought to the “wilderness” by the Spirit (notice not the devil) as a place of both deprivation and encounter with God.
  3. After 40 days, when Jesus was supposed to be weak, he is tempted by the devil. There are three temptations: to be fed, to worship something other than God, and to replace one’s own agenda for God’s.  These temptations parallel the temptations of the people of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness for 40 years.

Questions the Text Asks of Us:

  1. Notice that these are not temptations to do evil things, like commit murder, or start a war. Instead, they could be construed as very positive things:  turning stones to bread could feed the world!  Having authority over the world might lead to more peace and prosperity for everyone.  Following our own agendas might lead to good things.  When have you been tempted to “do good” for all the wrong reasons?  What was your response?
  2. What gives you the strength to resist the temptation to do good for the wrong reasons?
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