Sunday, March 26, 2017

Temptation in the Desert

The air is clear in the desert. They say the stars are spectacular when seen from the desert, with not even humidity to cloud the vision.

When I hear of Jesus being tempted in the desert, I wonder. The temptations in the desert seem unusually clear. We're tempted all the time, but we can't always tell that it's the voice of evil. The disguise of evil is too good for us to recognize it, or there's some confusion, some ambiguity in the offer. We can't always see the choice so clearly: taken to its logical conclusion, stripped of all pretense and decoration.

As others have noted, the first temptation is nearly a reversal of Eden. In Eden: in an overflowing paradise, take one more thing for yourself: a promise of being like God. In the desert: in a wasteland and very hungry, take some simple bread, even one thing for yourself -- by using miraculous powers for your own benefit, not suffering as simply man. And so in Eden a temptation to claim God's power for personal benefit was accepted by people. And in the desert, a temptation to assert divine power for personal benefit was rejected by the Lord. And does the tempter have a sense of irony? The temptation to be like God seems intended to dethrone God, and to take away the value of being "like God" for both God and for us wannabes. (I don't see any signs that there was real interest learning to discern good from evil.)

The other temptations in the desert involved status, pride, power, riches, recognition, safety, and escape from cruel and undeserved hardship. Those temptations have taken down many of us. They are often the focus of our prayers. We're eager to think that any path toward them comes from God. And Jesus did receive those same blessings from God. From God, not from the tempter. In God's way, in God's time. If he had gotten any of that in the tempter's way, they would have been worthless. Would we really have honored Jesus if the story ended there: "And Jesus bowed down, and received all honor and dominion." And everything Jesus received would have remained under the temper's ultimate control since Jesus bowed to him. The tempter promises gifts to his subjects; nothing would actually leave his domain.

If the tempter does eavesdrop on our prayers, it is no reason to stop praying for God's honest blessings. But it may be time to ask for what we once tried to claim: real knowledge to discern good and evil. May God grant us clarity to see, and compassion on each other as we struggle to see.

2 comments:

Martin LaBar said...

"But it may be time to ask for what we once tried to claim: real knowledge to discern good and evil. May God grant us clarity to see, and compassion on each other as we struggle to see."

Weekend Fisher said...

Hi Martin

Thank you for the encouragement.
Take care & God bless
Anne / WF