Lenten Day 5: The Temptation of Self-Preservation.

Today’s Lectio Divina: Luke 4: 3-4 (MsgB)

The Devil, playing on His (Jesus) hunger, gave the first test: “Since you’re God’s Son, command this stone to turn into a loaf of bread.” Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: “It takes more than bread to really live.”

In my book, The Perfected Self (2002) I write about the three major tests of self that Jesus is presented within His wilderness adventure, as found here in Luke’s gospel. This first wilderness test is one that hits hard at the very heart of who we are as human beings.

The temptation of self-preservation.

When it comes to securing life, there are no greater basics than staples like food, water, and shelter. Without a doubt, people just can’t live very long without these three building blocks of life. And so after Jesus has spent forty days wandering through the Israeli wilderness with no food, minimum shelter, and most likely, very little to drink, I think it a fair assessment to say we have one very hungry, thirsty, depleted man.

Now, I’ve never taken the challenge of a forty-day fast, nor have I tried to conduct my spiritual disciplines in a remote location like the backside of the desert. For me, missing a day or two of meals while ‘getting spiritual’ in the comforts of my air-conditioned home is as spiritually challenging as it gets! I’m guessing that’s probably true for a majority of American Christians.

Does anybody know, by the way, why they call it ‘fasting’? My experiences of going without food for several days make it feel more like ‘slowing,’ don’t you agree?

But, I digress.

As I said, if there is one thing that a person has the right and responsibility to pursue in life, it’s the securities of life such as food, water, and shelter.

So when the devil comes to Jesus suggesting He turn a desert stone into a loaf of bread, this temptation represents so much more than just the Son of God being tempted to use His supernatural powers to cook up a quick bite to eat. This temptation is a custom-made opportunity to see if Jesus will bite (sorry, no pun intended) when it comes to using His own human initiative in meeting His basic needs of life.

As I see it, God knows that we human beings all have basic needs like food, water, and shelter. God also knows that when it comes to our human nature, our first tendency is to believe that we are on our own in taking care of those basic provisions in life. So, back in the Book of Genesis, when God takes His ancient people out of Egypt, Moses tells them that God wants to teach His people that He is fully willing and able to be their daily provision if they would only trust Him to do just that. As the story unfolds, we find that God provides His people both manna and quail on a day-to-day basis over a forty-year period! And during that entire time in the desert, God is consistently trying to teach His people that they can trust Him completely as Jehovah-Jirah, the provider of all of our daily needs.

He humbled you, causing you to hunger and then feeding you with manna, which neither you nor your fathers had known, to teach you that man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. Deuteronomy 8: 3

Now, flash forward two thousand years and here we are again out in the desert. Jesus is one hungry man with the basic right to do whatever He needs to do to meet His basic provisional needs. And here comes the devil, right on time, ready and eager to suggest that Jesus, since He is the Son of God, go ahead and take matters into His own hands, cooking up some quick manna muffins in the desert to meet His hunger.

But, praise God, Jesus doesn’t fall to this temptation of self-preservation. Rather than submitting to Satan’s cunning deception, Jesus refuses to take His life’s needs into His own hands, choosing wisely instead to remind Himself and Satan that He serves a God who promises to meet our daily provisions by His own initiative, not ours!

So rather than pulling out a supernatural miracle that would benefit no one but Himself and His own hunger, Jesus defers to the Spirit of God inside Him, looking to His Father, trusting that God has a better plan of provision for His day-to-day basic needs.

Great job, Jesus.

In doing so, You’ve given all of us human beings, who don’t have supernatural powers, the model of overcoming the temptations of self-preservation, teaching us that we can fully trust God to take care of our basic needs as we place our faith and hope in Him alone!

My prayer: Thank You, God, for the reminder that You are our complete provision for everything we will ever need in life. As Jesus was able to overcome the temptation of self-preservation, so I can, by the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, defer to You as my complete provider for the basics in life. Thank You that You are always there to meet those basic needs, for Your name’s sake. Amen.

My questions to ponder: So how have I failed the tests of self-preservation? How have I failed to trust God for His basic provisions, moving in my own self-initiative to meet my basic needs; needs which God says clearly He will provide for? How can I be more like Jesus, deferring instead to God, my Father, for His perfect plan of provision versus taking those needs into my own hands?

So, what are you experiencing today as we are journeying through this Lenten Adventure?

Over a 48-day period (from Ash Wednesday through the Monday after Easter), you and I will be taking a deeper look at the stories surrounding the life and ministry of Jesus (especially the last week known as Holy Week) as recorded in the Gospel of Luke. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Our Lenten Journey home page for ease of use. 

If you like what you’re reading, might we suggest you share this page with others!

Click here to go onto the next Lenten session…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.