“Lead me not into temptation…I can find it myself!”
We always begin Lent with an account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert for 40 days after his baptism. These days, we have nice parties after baptisms, but Jesus was driven by God’s Spirit immediately into a most uncomfortable situation!
Scholars have attached many interpretations to these three temptations of Jesus by Satan…and there are many good ways of looking at them. This Lent, I want us to think about little temptations vs. the greater temptations in our lives.
Custom invites us to “give something up” for Lent, which is a fine thing to do. But these small sacrifices (sweets, gossip, alcohol) need to represent something larger and more meaningful: the greater temptation that God is concerned about.
For instance, Jesus’ first temptation was to turn stones into bread. He was truly famished, so this would be tempting indeed. But the greater temptation here is to use divine power for personal gain. Jesus refused to do it.
Likewise, If I give up alcohol for Lent (not a bad experiment for any of us), more than wine with dinner, or an occasional scotch, is involved. The greater temptation is to succumb to other addictions: the addictive tendency of human beings. That includes my addiction to wealth and comfort, to power and prestige, to getting my way in relationships. (Not to mention other clinical addictions I might be hiding – to gambling or food or sex or shopping.)
So this Lent, whatever you are “giving up” or “taking on” as a symbolic sacrifice with Jesus, let’s concentrate on the greater temptations we face, and how we as a Christian community can support each other and create a healthy, faithful, joyful environment in our congregation. JBM