For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. – 1 John 2:16
Jesus was tempted but he did not yield. The stakes were huge. In that 40-day desert experience (Matthew 4:1-11), he was confronted by the three torments of the human soul – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. In the heat of the desert, Jesus forged his resolve to wholly obey his Father. It’s in the wilderness that a Savior is revealed.
So when I’m tempted, what does that look like?
The lust of the flesh temptation too often comes to me in the form of food – lots of it and often. I could list foods like a young single woman could list the things she wants in a husband. A love affair with food is a pretty shallow experience. These days you can get away with calling yourself a foodie provided you’re rail-thin. For me, that has never worked out. There are other lusts of the flesh I struggle with like wanting time to be my own…wanting to be able to while away the hours on my own interests, or hitting the snooze alarm umpteen times, or just dozing in front of rerun after rerun. It’s tempting to satisfy my flesh, but there’s no purpose in that…nothing lasting. I’m thankful that Jesus didn’t turn the rocks into bread, even though he was genuinely, earnestly hungry. In a manner of moments, once he held off Satan’s tempting, angels ministered to his needs. God is also right there with me in the tempting…I can choose a better path.
The lust of the eyes temptation, for me, focuses on what I’d like but don’t have – like money to travel the world over. It’s wanting what I perceive others have – like closer friendships…or a maintenance-free thinner body…or a family that wants to hang out all the time. It isn’t really all about me, but the lust of the eyes seems to call to the stuff that I think I deserve…should have…whatever. Such an insatiable thing, self! Jesus didn’t believe Satan when he tempted Jesus to just bow down to him and all on earth would be his. There’s wisdom in that for us. Having all the things or relationships I want, and the focus be on me, will only cause more hunger….more…more…more… When we bow down to self, it’s vain worship, and we are never satisfied.
The pride of life temptation is thinking of ourselves as higher than we are. Eve believed the Serpent (Genesis 3:1-5) when he told her she would not die if she ate the fruit forbidden to her by God. In fact, Satan told her she would become like God. Satan tempted Jesus to throw himself down to his death, and watch the angels come to his rescue. Jesus was quick to tell Satan not to tempt God. When our ambition or even our desire to want to be useful to God tempts us to despise our current situation, this is pride of life. God is sovereign and He will work in us in whatever our station is at the time. In the Kingdom of Heaven there are no second-rate assignments, no step-children.
We are going to be tempted…but we don’t have to yield…unless we yield to God instead, where there is true satisfaction of whatever longing we may have. He is enough.
What temptations take you into the desert? How does God bring you out?