Without a doubt, as many Christians become familiar with the Enneagram, the obvious question arises…
So if the Enneagram is a tool of self-awareness that can be used within a Christ-centered discipleship program, where do we find these things the Enneagram teaches in the life & ministry of Jesus?
As I see it, there are numerous places in the Gospels where the Master, in His humanity, models both His own personal temptations with the Enneagram’s three key struggles of self (Power, People and Provision), and His use of the three Enneagram core personality types (Doing, Feeling & Thinking) as He was conducting ministry with others.
Let’s start with the three temptations/tests of Jesus as found in Luke 4: 1-13…
Now Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wild. For forty wilderness days and nights He was tested by the Devil. He ate nothing during those days, and when the time was up He was hungry. The Devil, playing on His 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.” For the second test he led him up and spread out all the kingdoms of the earth on display at once. Then the Devil said, “They’re yours in all their splendor to serve your pleasure. I’m in charge of them all and can turn them over to whomever I wish. Worship me and they’re yours, the whole works.” Jesus refused, again backing his refusal with Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God and only the Lord your God. Serve Him with absolute single-heartedness.” For the third test the Devil took Him to Jerusalem and put Him on top of the Temple. He said, “If you are God’s Son, jump. It’s written, isn’t it, that ‘He has placed you in the care of angels to protect you; they will catch you; you won’t so much as stub your toe on a stone’?” “Yes,” said Jesus, “and it’s also written, ‘Don’t you dare tempt the Lord your God.’” That completed the testing. The Devil retreated temporarily, lying in wait for another opportunity. (MsgB)
In the first temptation (v 3-4), Jesus is encouraged to turn stones to bread and feed Himself, tempted to “preserve” Himself, to create an environment where He is safe and secure rather than trust God for provision. Those in the Head / Self-Preserving Triad are preoccupied with anxiety and how to reduce it. After all, the world is an insecure place and we’ve got to get all our ducks in a row if we’re going to make it through!
In the second temptation (v 5-8), Jesus is being offered the kingdoms of the world and all their power. Satan is basically tempting Jesus to be “large and in charge,” to shape the environment and put things right. The preoccupation of the Gut Triad is anger, and the temptation is to shape the environment beyond oneself in order to gain control and reduce anger.
Finally, in the third temptation (v 9-12), Jesus is prompted to throw Himself from the temple’s pinnacle, showing others convincingly that He is, in fact, the Messiah. Satan is saying that the way God chooses to reveal the Messiah is faulty: too slow, too hidden. Jesus is encouraged, in a sense, to agree that He is not enough and must do something else to manage people’s perception of Him. People of the Heart / Social Triad are preoccupied with image and the perceptions of others; they live with a sense of being inadequate.
Scripture teaches us that Jesus was tempted in all the ways as we are (Hebrews 4.15). We understand this to mean He was tempted in all the main ways we’re tempted, not the particular ways. For example, He was never tempted to exceed the speed limit, but He was tempted to break laws. He was never tempted to view online porn, but He was tempted sexually. He was never tempted to underreport His annual income, but He was tempted not to pay the temple tax or the tax to the Roman empire. The three temptations recorded in the Gospels seem to be umbrella temptations under which all the others fit.
Now, let’s explore the ministry of Jesus as seen through the lens of the Enneagram…
Notice, in the following Gospel texts, how the three triads (Head, Gut, and Heart) might be operating both personally in Jesus’ life, and in the specific ways He ministers to others.
JESUS MINISTERS FROM THE HEAD TO THE HEAD WITH STRAIGHT-FORWARD DISCOURSE (Thinking)
John 3: 1-12 MsgB There was a man of the Pharisee sect, Nicodemus, a prominent leader among the Jews. Late one night he visited Jesus and said, “Rabbi, we all know You’re a teacher straight from God. No one could do all the God-pointing, God-revealing acts you do if God weren’t in on it.” Jesus said, “You’re absolutely right. Take it from me: Unless a person is born from above, it’s not possible to see what I’m pointing to—to God’s Kingdom.” “How can anyone,” said Nicodemus, “be born who has already been born and grown up? You can’t re-enter your mother’s womb and be born again. What are you saying with this ‘born-from-above’ talk?” Jesus said, “You’re not listening. Let me say it again. Unless a person submits to this original creation—the ‘wind-hovering-over-the-water’ creation, the invisible moving the visible, a baptism into a new life—it’s not possible to enter God’s Kingdom. When you look at a baby, it’s just that: a body you can look at and touch. But the person who takes shape within is formed by something you can’t see and touch—the Spirit—and becomes a living spirit. “So don’t be so surprised when I tell you that you have to be ‘born from above’—out of this world, so to speak. You know well enough how the wind blows this way and that. You hear it rustling through the trees, but you have no idea where it comes from or where it’s headed next. That’s the way it is with everyone ‘born from above’ by the wind of God, the Spirit of God.” Nicodemus asked, “What do you mean by this? How does this happen?” Jesus said, “You’re a respected teacher of Israel and you don’t know these basics? Listen carefully. I’m speaking sober truth to you. I speak only of what I know by experience; I give witness only to what I have seen with my own eyes. There is nothing secondhand here, no hearsay. Yet instead of facing the evidence and accepting it, you procrastinate with questions. If I tell you things that are plain as the hand before your face and you don’t believe me, what use is there in telling you of things you can’t see, the things of God?”
Matthew 5: 1-10 MsgB When Jesus saw the crowds, He went up on a hill and sat down. His followers came to Him, and He began to teach them, saying: “They are blessed who realize their spiritual poverty, for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them. They are blessed who grieve, for God will comfort them. They are blessed who are humble, for the whole earth will be theirs. They are blessed who hunger and thirst after justice, for they will be satisfied. They are blessed who show mercy to others, for God will show mercy to them. They are blessed whose thoughts are pure, for they will see God. They are blessed who work for peace, for they will be called God’s children. They are blessed who are persecuted for doing good, for the Kingdom of heaven belongs to them.”
JESUS MINISTERS FROM THE GUT TO THE GUT WITH PASSION-FILLED ACTION (Doing)
John 11: 32-36 MsgB Mary came to where Jesus was waiting and fell at His feet, saying, “Master, if only You had been here, my brother would not have died.” When Jesus saw her sobbing and the Jews with her sobbing, a deep anger welled up within Him. He said, “Where did you put him (Lazarus)?” “Master, come and see,” they said. Now Jesus wept. The Jews said, “Look how deeply He loved him.”
Luke 19: 41-46 MsgB When the city came into view, He (Jesus) wept over it. “If you had only recognized this day, and everything that was good for you! But now it’s too late. In the days ahead your enemies are going to bring up their heavy artillery and surround you, pressing in from every side. They’ll smash you and your babies on the pavement. Not one stone will be left intact. All this because you didn’t recognize and welcome God’s personal visit.” Going into the Temple He began to throw out everyone who had set up shop, selling everything and anything. He said, “It’s written in Scripture, My house is a house of prayer; you have turned it into a religious bazaar.”
JESUS MINISTERS FROM THE HEART TO THE HEART WITH COMPASSIONATE TOUCH (Feeling)
Mark 1: 40-42 MsgB A leper came to Him (Jesus), begging on his knees, “If You want to, You can cleanse me.” Deeply moved, Jesus put out His hand, touched him, and said, “I want to. Be clean.” Then and there the leprosy was gone, his skin smooth and healthy.
Luke 13: 10-13 MsgB He (Jesus) was teaching in one of the meeting places on the Sabbath. There was a woman present, so twisted and bent over with arthritis that she couldn’t even look up. She had been afflicted with this for eighteen years. When Jesus saw her, He called her over. “Woman, you’re free!” He laid hands on her and suddenly she was standing straight and tall, giving glory to God.