Wisdom and Temptation

Written by Myles MacMillan.

“Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry. The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Man shall not live on bread alone.’” The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours.” Jesus answered, “It is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.’” (NIV) Luke 4:1-8

As we consider living with wisdom, there is (as usual) no better example for us to look at than Jesus. In Luke 4 we read the story of His temptation in the desert. Speaking in terms of “earthly” or “worldly” wisdom, there was no earthly reason that Jesus decision made any sense. From an earthly standpoint, He had hit the jackpot and could have had all the “authority and splendor” in the world if he would just give into the devil’s temptation. So why didn’t he take the devil up on his offer? The answer lies in Jesus priorities and motivation for the decisions that he was making. Jesus wasn’t focused on serving the devil, he wasn’t focused on serving Himself, instead he was focused on serving God. We would do well to have the same attitude.

We can see from this account that one of the tactics used by the devil was lying to Jesus to try and get Him to submit to his will. Jesus was wise enough to know that the devil was lying but are we wise enough? Jesus knew God’s word so well and the wisdom that came from knowing the word allowed him to thwart the devil’s schemes. Do we have enough wisdom from the word to see the lies the devil continues to tell us today? He may not directly speak to us like he did with Jesus but we can be sure that his deceitful schemes are still at work all around us. How many times have we heard things like: “Put yourself first and look out for number one”, “Do whatever makes you happy”, “It’s okay to compromise on what you know is right”, “Everyone else is doing it, so it must be okay”. Brothers and sisters: will we follow these lies or will we follow the example of Jesus and decide today to serve God instead? Making the correct choice may seem easy to us when we read a story like this but often times in our life it is not so easy. Whenever I think of this I’m reminded of Joshua speaking to the Israelites:

Joshua 24:14-18 says: “Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.” Then the people answered, “Far be it from us to forsake the Lord to serve other gods! It was the Lord our God himself who brought us and our parents up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the Lord drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.”

I like reading a bit more from the Joshua 24 test than just verse 15 because it shows that the Israelites called to mind all the good things God had done for them and used it as motivation to continue serving God. I hope we can all call to mind the good things God has done for us and have the attitude of the Israelites when they said: “We too will serve the Lord, because he is our God.” May God bless us with wisdom as we strive to follow His will in a world full of temptation!

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