I’ve been praying and pondering the line from the Lord’s prayer – “Lead us not into temptation” quite a bit lately.
Most of the time when I have thought of this line from the Lord’s Prayer I have tended to think more of the obvious temptations out there like lust, lying or cheating. No doubt these are temptations each of us face daily in a world that is so supersaturated with sex and deceit, but I think there is a scarier type of temptation that we are not typically nearly as wise to.
The Gospel of Matthew records (Matt 4:1-11 ) that just after Jesus was baptized, he went into the wilderness for a time of fasting, testing and temptation, a time of direct confrontation with Satan himself. What is interesting to me is that Satan didn’t tempt Jesus with the obvious evils of illicit sex, lying, or hedonism but rather he tempted him to use his power as God in a way that was counter to the Father’s plans. Another way of stating this would be that Satan tempted Jesus with autonomy.
First Satan tempts a hungry Jesus (he’d been fasting for forty days) to make bread. This may not seem like that big of a deal. It’s not like Satan was asking Jesus to break any of the ten commandments. Then he goes on to tempt Jesus to prove that he’s really God’s son by jumping off the temple and letting the angels catch him. Again this temptation was not towards anything overtly sinful (anything at least in the books of the law). Then finally Satan tempts Jesus with getting everything he came for – all of the kingdoms of the earth if he would bow down and worship before Satan. Now this temptation was to engage in an activity that would no doubt be considered sinful – worshipping Satan. However, even this temptation was tied into what Jesus came to do. Jesus had come for the very thing that Satan was offering, and Satan was offering the express-line, which didn’t involve the pain of the cross that would await him on his current trajectory.
Philippians 2:5-8 (The Message ) says this,
1-4If you've gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don't push your way to the front; don't sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don't be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.
5-8Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn't think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn't claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death—and the worst kind of death at that—a crucifixion. (Philippians 2:4-8, The Message)
You see, Jesus did not use his God-ness as something to be exploited to his own advantage. He refused to use the very power he had access to and instead humbled himself as a human and lived in complete harmony with the Father’s will. Jesus faced Satan not as God but as a man and as such began to wrestle back the authority man had given to Satan when he chose autonomy in the beginning.
Perhaps the temptation we need to be most mindful of is the subtle temptation to use our power, our resources, our position and prominence in a way that dominates, coerces, uses, and objectifies others. Sometimes we can so easily do this and find a scripture to justify each of our actions. But just remember that even when Satan was tempting Jesus he offered scripture to justify autonomy from the Father’s will.
What might it look like to live in a stance of humility today, to serve others rather than looking to others for gain or as objects that exist for “my” agenda?
What might it look like to not give the other guy the thing he deserves and what you have every right by law to repay him with for the wrong he committed against you?
What might it look like to live completely for the Father’s will today instead of in autonomy?
I think these kinds of questions can help us into a deeper understanding of “lead us not into temptation” and perhaps more of life as God intended it for us.