Lenten Devotion: Tempting

The LORD God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it. (Gen. 3:15)

First Sunday in Lent
Year A – RCL
Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7
Romans 5:12-19
Matthew 4:1-11
Psalm 32

The readings from the first Sunday in Lent all revolve around temptation and through it the entrance of sin into the world. The Gospel reading from Matthew recounts how Jesus resisted temptation and through him, the epistle declares, came “justification and life for all.”

When I think about temptation in our lives, outside of the Garden or the messianic wilderness, I am struck by the fact that the things by which we are tempted often have no relation to our needs. The most spectacular examples of stealing money are often by people who are already quite wealthy (anyone remember Enron?). The possession of great wealth and goods simply led to a desire for more, not because they were impoverished and had need.

I have heard many marriage counselors say that infidelity often occurs in marriages that are otherwise sound but one partner was looking for distraction. It was not for wont of sexual relations but a desire for more (or different) of what they already had.

Temptations are often the little things near to us, or at least they seem little to us in the moment, and that is what makes them so tempting. Just a little more, we seem to say, it won’t hurt. Yet with each small submission we erode our own integrity and make the path smoother and easier for subsequent temptations.

As I write this I realize how cheesy it sounds. The ol’ slippery slope and before you know it you’re in hell! But one doesn’t have to be a fire and brimstone preacher to know that this is just a fundamental part of our human nature. (If it weren’t how do you think we ended up with some many Disney Channel specials on this theme?) We desire what we don’t have and then we take what we already have, even and especially when we don’t need it, like Nathan’s parable to David of the rich man taking the poor man’s sheep (2 Sam. 12). Temptation works best on those near strikes and we do not do well at resisting it. But thank God Christ did!

Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

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