@johnvinod | March 10, 2021
Recently a scandal came to light posthumously, which involved a renowned evangelical leader, respected as a great Christian apologist. Thousands of his fans were shocked that he had succumbed to his sexual and other temptations. He is, however, not the first and will not be the last of Christian “celebrity” leaders who abused their position, power, and gifts for selfish gains. If you have been reading the gospels during this Lenten season, you must have noticed that the first three gospels narrate Jesus Christ’s temptations. But what were these temptations about?
The first temptation according to Matthew is:
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written,
‘One does not live by bread alone,
but by every word that comes from the mouth of God’” (Matthew 4: 1-3 NRSV).
This is basically devil’s first attempt at provoking Jesus to use his gifts and powers for his own self-gratification. Jesus had not started his ministry yet. He has not called anyone to follow him yet. He has not performed any healing, sign, or miracle yet. But Jesus knew who he essentially was and what it implied. Even Satan knew what powers he possessed as the Son of God. Therefore, he wished that Jesus would utilize his inherent powers and gifts for selfish reasons and parade them for his glory rather than seeking and serving God’s purpose and mission on earth.
Since we are tempted daily in our lives, you may have noticed that most of us are seldom tempted much in the areas where we are the weakest and quite vulnerable to succumb to the temptations. Instead, we are often tempted in the areas of our strengths and where we think we are in control of our gifts, talents, and powers. William Barclay, in his commentary on Matthew’s Gospel, brilliantly put it:
We must always remember that again and again we are tempted through our gifts. The person who is gifted with charm will be tempted to use that charm “to get away with anything.” The person who is gifted with the power of words will be tempted to use his command of words to produce glib excuses to justify his own conduct. The person with a vivid and sensitive imagination will undergo agonies of temptation that a more stolid person will never experience. The person with great gifts of mind will be tempted to use these gifts for himself and not for others, to become the master and not the servant of men. It is the grim fact of temptation that it is just where we are strongest that we must be forever on the watch. (https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/dsb/matthew-4.html)
As we read about mighty men and women fall from grace, we are reminded that Jesus Christ was the mightiest of all. And Jesus bared his innermost struggles with his disciples sharing all that he went through and how he overcame it setting an example for his followers.
Today, let us recall all the areas in which God has gifted us. What are our positions of power? Where are we strong? Which are the spheres where we could exert power or influence over others? And as we recall these, let us also be humble to recognize that we are predisposed to easily give into the temptation of using our gifts, abilities, strengths, talents, positions, and powers, for purposes that are base and utterly selfish. They can easily make us susceptible to utilize them for less than godly purposes. As we take an inventory of our own inclinations, let us ask God for the grace to take preventive measures and actively learn from the example of Jesus Christ. Amen.