“I will announce,” says the king, “what the Lord has declared. He said to me: ‘You are my son; today I have become your father. Ask, and I will give you all the nations; the whole earth will be yours…’” Psalm 2: 7b-8
Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness. “All this I will give you,” the Devil said, “if you kneel down and worship me.” Matthew 4: 8-9
God the Father had already offered his Son all the nations of the world. What did the Devil hope to gain by offering Jesus something that already belonged to him?
That’s how temptation works. Who’d be tempted by something false, damaging or undesirable? The Devil’s only chance is to make something harmful appear good. Temptation promises a good that evil can’t possibly deliver or a temporary reward that, in the long run, demands too high a price.
It isn’t always easy to see through the alluring promise of immediate gratification to the long-lasting effects of our choices. A quick drink, promising instant relaxation, might be fatal to an alcoholic. Another spending spree at the mall promises fun until credit card debt takes its toll. Lashing out might temporarily relieve pent-up emotions but wreak havoc in our relationships. Belittling, gossiping, or betraying a friend or co-worker might pump up our egos, get us off the hook, or help us get ahead in the world but is it worth the loss of self-respect?
What if we gain the world and lose our soul? For what? To feel important? Secure? Good about ourselves? The truth is, we already have all we need to feel good. We are precious to God. We are important by virtue of the fact that he loved us into being. We are secure in his love. Can we see that temptation promises something we already have? Can we see we have nothing to gain but damaged relationships with God, with others, and with our own selves by trying to take short cuts to the good that’s already ours?
Jesus saw through the immediate results of temptation to the long view that God’s perspective gives. He accepted the world his Father gave him and chose to love, rather than lord over, the nations. He saw through the Devil’s empty promises. May he give us the grace to do the same.
Prayer: Lord, help me see temptations for what they are.
Reflection: What’s tempting you right now? How will it affect you in the long run?
Copyright 2017, Barbara Hosbach