When Temptation Whispers

In the first temptation, the devil taunted Jesus to show his power by making a loaf of bread out of stone. Significantly Luke uses the singular "stone,"... conjuring the image of a foundation cornerstone newly laid... Here the temptation lies in the insubstantiality of short-term gratification represented by bread to be consumed versus the rewards of long-term effort symbolized by the stone as part of the foundation of faith. "This is the first stone you are putting down," Luke is saying. "This is about your commitment to the work of faith. Spirit will sustain you" (pp. 274-5).

The Temptation to Self-Righteous Authority

In Luke, the ordering of temptations is different than in Matthew with the devil next showing him all the kingdoms of the world and promising their glory "and all this authority" (4:6).  In the movement into a world that hasn't had our experience and may even be hostile to it, it's very tempting to want to assert our rightness in the face of the other's perceived wrongness.  Again, turning to Shaia:

Whether we are either alight with new zeal or consumed with doubt, the devil offers us "all the kingdoms." This leads us into attempts to get others to join our point of view.  We tell ourselves our intentions are only the best... we find ourselves displaying hyper-enthusiasm, exploiting affinity, feigning friendship, withdrawing friendship, telling partial truths, sometimes even shaming people... deep down, fear and a desire to control others lurks beneath our behavior... Giving in to this temptation leads us to denigrate a point of view that differs from our own and leads us into self-righteousness (p. 281).

The Temptation to Confuse Protection from Life with God's Desire

In Luke's missioning gospel the ultimate temptation is to throw oneself recklessly into life as an expression of one's faith as represented by the pinnacle of the temple. Surely, taunts the devil, God "will command his angels concerning you to protect you."  It's a way of saying "you initiate the action -- even reckless action -- and let God prove you right through protection from harm."

Yet Luke's community lived in dangerous times and knew that faith was not a protection from life. It's notable that no external angels appear at this point to minister to Jesus in Luke's account, perhaps because this is the time to discover the internal angels that come as we are clothed by and prepared for whatever we meet on the long road. In the next story of this gospel, Luke's Jesus is "filled with the power of the Holy Spirit" as he returns to his life in Galilee, engaging what is asked of him step by step along the Way. That's the promise of God -- equipping for the journey, not protection from the choices we make or the responses evoked by our willingness to walk the long road.

Sandra Lommassonis the founder and co-executive director of Bread of Life, a spiritual formation center in Sacramento, CA, and a spiritual director. Her passion is creating processes and pathways for the formation of spiritual directors and leaders of religious or public organizations. She is a published author in the field of spiritual formation and served on the Council of Spiritual Directors International from 1999-2005.

2/18/2010 5:00:00 AM
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