For the first Sunday in Lent, our Gospel reading was the story of how Jesus was tempted by the devil after He had fasted for 40 days in the desert. (Matthew 4: 1-11, if you want to look it up.) It’s a fitting way to start the Lenten season, because many of the traditions of Lent are based on this story–Lent lasts for 40 days, and many Christians fast during this time.
I always understood this story to symbolize the many times and different ways in which Jesus was tempted but never sinned. I also admire His snappy comebacks.
Devil: If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.
(Seriously, Satan? I just went 40 days and 40 nights without eating. Do you think I haven’t that of doing that already?)
Jesus: One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.
Devil: If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, . . . “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.”
(Dash my foot–do you mean stub my toe? You really don’t know what my Father has in store for me, do you?!)
Jesus: Again it it written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
Devil: All these things I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.
(In all that time I spent at the Temple, don’t you think that I learned at least the first of the Ten Commandments? Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.)
Jesus: Away with you Satan! for it is written, “Worship the Lord your God and Serve only Him.”
In the sermon today, the priest said that it was good for us to face temptation. She didn’t really develop that theme, so I have spent some time puzzling over it.
From a health/fitness/diet perspective, I usually try to avoid temptation–why go to Krispy Kreme if I don’t want to eat a donut? On the other hand, knowing that I can go to Krispy Kreme without getting a donut can be empowering.
Thinking more broadly, I see that resisting temptation helps us learn that we are stronger than the things that we think have power over us. Our beliefs about the importance of coffee, soda, sugar, chips, chocolate–or whatever we may give up during Lent–will be shattered when we see that we can survive (and thrive) without them. And, when we are tempted, we can turn to one of Jesus’ snappy comebacks, or make up our own snarky ones.
Do you think it is better to avoid temptation or resist temptation?