Spiritual Temptation19 October 2019
Those who are serious about their spiritual progress and wish to advance their relationship with Christ, attempting to keep His commandments out of love for Him, will have noticed that, no sooner did they make this decision than a variety of temptations began to afflict them. Some of these would have been obvious, others more subtle, some from the left and some from the right, some corporeal and others spiritual. The aim of all of them, however, would have been the same: to obstruct these spritual people in their chosen path, to discourage them and to bring them sorrow.
Was there ever a saint who wasn’t tempted? Anyone whom temptation left untempted? If Christ Himself, as God and human, was tempted, shall we not also be?
The Gospel tells us of the three trials the devil subjected Christ to, after His baptism by John and His forty-day fast in the wilderness, in the hope of overcoming Him and thus halting His salvation of the world.
Although the first temptation, based on his ‘praise’ for Jesus, has to do with making material goods a paramount consideration, so that people forget that they ‘do not live by bread alone’, the second is purely spiritual in nature.
The devil takes Christ ‘to the holy city’ and sets Him on the highest point of the temple, saying: ‘If you’re the Son of God, jump’. He even quotes the relevant passage of Scripture which declares that, in such a case, God would send His angels to prevent any harm coming to Him.
This is a cunning temptation which casts doubt on Christ’s relationship with God, His Father. It’s the same temptation that comes to us in the difficult times of our life and questions God’s love for us. It makes us wonder whether He’s genuinely interested, whether He’s close to us, and even whether He exists at all. This temptation progresses to something more powerful and more challenging: that God should do something about these negative circumstances and should prevent any impending disaster. What we’re really asking is for tangible proof, through a miracle, which will confirm His interest in His children.
Jesus’ answer, through the Scriptures is: ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God’. And this is the context in which we can resist temptation and set ourselves free: we should trust in His love, which may be expressed as allowing and tolerating trials, or through silence. Not as indifference, but because of the prospect of us experiencing something which an intervention on His part would deprive us of.
The second temptation Christ suffered from the devil was more spiritual than the first, but the most powerful was the third. This was overwhelming lust for power, which is totally unacceptable to those who, like Christ in the Church, are working for the salvation of the world.