Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Allure of Temptation

In Jesus’ first temptation he is tempted to turn stones into bread at the end of his forty day fast in the wilderness. Satan tries to get him to miraculously satisfy his hunger. Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in his book On The Way To Christ says the following about this temptation. “Where God is viewed as something secondary, which can be set aside temporarily or altogether for the sake of more important things, then precisely these supposedly more important things fail.” He goes on to say “In this world we must oppose the deception of false philosophies and recognize that we do not live on bread alone but, first and foremost, on obedience to God’s Word. And only when this obedience is put into practice does the attitude develop that is also capable of providing bread for all.”

In our daily lives we face the same temptations that Jesus did. How often do we temporarily set God aside when critical issues face us? How many times do we set aside our moral and ethical principles in our business lives? How many times do we compromise and rationalize “just this once.” This was the major temptation Jesus faced. “Just this one time turn stones into bread to satisfy your hunger. One time won’t hurt you at all.” But such bread would have left a hollow emptiness inside. Satan then tells him “Worship me just this once and I will give you the entire world. One time won’t hurt you. You will then have the power to do whatever you want.” But the quick fix Satan offered to rule the world would have ultimately been a hollow victory. Again Satan tells Jesus to throw himself off the temple wall so that everyone can see God’s angels protecting him. He asks Jesus to become part of the “now” generation. “Do it now! Take matters into your own hand!” But God had a different plan, so that for Jesus to have declared himself early would have placed him outside of God’s will for his life. In each of these three temptations Satan focuses upon the glamour of selfish desire.

Satan uses the same allures with us. He tells us that it won’t hurt for us to take one look at pornography, or cheat on our taxes one time. He entices us to compromise our morals to get ahead. He tells us to do what it takes because we deserve power and status. He encourages us to seek the quick fix. He attempts to persuade us that one little lie won’t hurt anyone. But when we take a hard look, we see that in each of his attempts, he seeks for us to put something else ahead of God. Like his attempts with Jesus, many times the allure he offers us is for our own self gratification. Grab what we want, when we want it, and don’t worry that God’s plan may be different. But he conveniently ignores telling us that the one time event he often glamorously dangles in front of us has a barbed hook that will ultimately snag us in his clutches. Once he has us hooked, we will find it extremely difficult to become untangled from his hold upon us. We will have placed ourselves above God.

As Ratzinger states, it is essential for us to be listening to and obeying the voice of God found in his word. We must actively resist setting God off to the side. Otherwise we may easily succumb to Satan’s temptations. Whose voice are you listening to, God’s or Satan’s?

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