Thursday, February 19, 2004

Giving the Devil His Due

Luke 4:5-7, in which Jesus is being tempted in the wilderness, explains a few things: "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, for it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to (italics mine). So if you worship me, it will all be yours.'"

The enemy, according to this passage, can give what's been given to him - namely the kingdoms of this world and presumably everything therein - to whomever he wants. While it's certainly true that God won't tempt us beyond what we can bear (1 Corinthians 10:13), it also seems clear that Satan will stop at nothing in an attempt to disprove that truth. Everything, whether inherently good or evil, is at the enemy's disposal in his effort to interrupt our communion with the Father.

C.S. Lewis said our problem is not that we don't trust God; it's that we don't trust God alone. Lewis is in good company. Jesus said essentially the same thing in response to Satan's tempting in the desert: "It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'"

It seems significant to me that all three carrots Satan dangled in front of Jesus were either part of his inheritance or inherently good, namely 1) food, 2) the kingdoms of the world (which would eventually be under the sovereignty of Christ anyway), and 3) God's protection from harm.

That's what makes temptation so, well, tempting. The very things with which God has blessed us are often the things used to bring us down. A married man considers intimacy a right instead of a blessing, so he finds it elsewhere if he doesn't find it as often or as exciting as he'd like it at home.

In the temptation of Christ and us, for that matter, I think we see the very nature of God and Satan exposed: Satan takes that which is good and makes it bad; God takes that which is bad and makes it good.

Food for thought.

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