The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’”
At the heart of the temptations of Jesus in the desert and all the way to the cross is the implication that God is not dependable, we need to look out for ourselves. “If you are the Son of God,” the tempter begins. This vicious “if” calls Jesus’ relationship to God into question and suggests that he really should establish himself on his own terms and meet his own personal needs to show that he is the Son of God. However, Jesus resists the temptation to define himself apart from God. Even in his physical starvation when bread must have sounded so good, he is more gratified to know who he is in relation to whose he is, God’s beloved Son.
Isn’t that always the challenge that comes to us when we are tempted. Invariably when I am tempted it is where I am most vulnerable, at my weakest moment. I am faced with declaring that this is what I need for me, rather than seeing how important it is for me to declare that I am as a child of God. I am tempted to declare that I can do my own thing. I don’t have to consider that God is part of the picture here. We each have our own temptations daily that call for us to deny or ignore our relationship with God momentarily in order to satisfy what we believe we need.
Jesus shows us that we have a relationship that we can rely on in those moments of temptation. It came to us in our Baptism, when God chose to claim us as his very own child. If we remember in our moments of temptation that God conferred upon us our essential identity as His beloved children in Baptism, we can resist the various pressures to define ourselves in terms of what we have in worldly goods or status or what we may want.
Years ago when I felt that God was calling me into full time ministry, I was faced with accepting a professorship at the university where I was teaching, or leaving that behind to enter seminary. It was a big decision that could put my family at risk financially. It would also ask me to give up an esteemed identity as a professor of a leading university, for who I was called to be as a child of God. All of our daily temptations may not be as profound as that one was for me then, but each one is profound in some way in how we relate to God our Father. It may be a choice of the food we eat or choose not to eat, the things we purchase or choose not to purchase. It may be whether we choose to read God’s Word daily with a time of prayer instead of rushing to get more things done in our day. The question for us is always “If you are a child of God….because temptation is not once and done, it is every day all the time. Jesus rejects the tempter here, but he has other moments of temptation, in the garden of Gethsemane and on the cross. Likewise, as Christians we always deal with doubt, need, or a sense of incompleteness.
May we be reminded often that Jesus has triumphed, not only at this moment in the wilderness but more importantly as he endured his death on the cross, committing himself and his destiny to God, not just for himself, but for us too. Therefore, when we fall short we can confess our failings and trust that through the crucified and risen Jesus we have the promise of forgiveness and new life. May you be strengthened with God’s Word, prayer and worship for these forty days of walking with Jesus to the cross and always.
- What are the temptations in your daily life that asks “If you are a child of God” of you?
- Can you follow Jesus example of relying on the promises of God in Scripture and remembering your baptism daily to help with your temptations?
Sue is NLS Spiritual Director, since 2019 and is a retired Lutheran Pastor (ELCA). Active in VdC since 1995, she has served two terms on the Board of the Texas VdC Secretariat, and also on the Texas Gulf Coast VdC Board as Spiritual Director since its start-up in 2017.