TEST OR TEMPT?
“The Spirit drove Jesus into the wilderness and he remained there for 40 days, and was tempted by Satan (Mark 1.12). Matthew surely startles us when he states that the Spirit led Him into the wilderness “to be tempted by the devil.” (Mtt.4.1).
We are startled. This certainly can’t mean that the Holy Spirit – the third person in the Trinity should intend that Jesus, the second person of the Trinity become Man, would sin – deliberately offend God. It would amount to God persuading God to do something ungodly – sin.
When we pray that God should not lead us into temptation we don’t suspect He might be tempting us to sin. We’re asking Him to prevent us from getting into situations we can’t handle and not allow us to get ourselves tangled up with people who are up to no good. We are also asking God to protect us from over-confident selves.
The Letter to the Hebrews helps us here, “For we have not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.(Heb.4.15).
In the divine scheme of things it is was of vital importance that the Son of God, the Son Man, one of us should be exposed to the experience of our first parents, Adam and Eve – to come face to face with sheer evil – Satan himself, who in his nastiness contrived to dislodge the beauty of their holiness, their godliness. Sad to say, they were enchanted by such seductive charm.
The Spirit led Jesus to be exposed to the same tempter, for Jesus to confront, defy, and triumph over him. This nasty testing was a glorious triumph for Jesus. What is so consoling is that we have Jesus on our side. The nasty temptations that spring on us by surprise do not make us sinners. The grace Jesus won for us through His own vanquishing of the devil enables us to react and resist if we choose to do so. It’s a very different matter if we thrive on our temptations, lap them up and look for more.
Sometimes God wants to test and challenge us so as to bring out the very best in us. He wants us to come through as champions. He provides us with the graces to do so. His grace is sufficient for us. We may not welcome this but we deal with this as He would want us to.
On the other hand, the tempter , who has no love for us, will strive to bring the very worst out of us. He tried this on Jesus and got nowhere. He will play on our weaknesses, which vary from person to person. With cunning he will suggest to us that what know to be wrong is not so bad after all. . There’s something in us that is all too ready to yield to what we fancy . We even feel comfortable in doing so.
For my Lenten reflection I’ve chosen this passage from the Letter of St. James, “Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the TEST he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him.
Let no one say when he is TEMPTED, “I am tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted with evil and He Himself tempts no one; but each person is tempted when he is lured and enticed by his own desire. Then desire when it has conceived gives birth to sin; and sin when it is full-grown brings forth death, (James 1.12-5).
During this Lent let us be good to ourselves. Guided by God let us discern what are the temptations most damaging to ourselves. For us they are occasions of sin. For us it is best to avoid them. And don’t we need to pray for ourselves and for each other?
God bless you