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Temptations of the Hungry

Luke 4:1-13


Each person has their own temptations. Things that tempt one person may not tempt another. An example of this would be a loaf of bread. To those who had breakfast this morning, this loaf offers little, if any temptation. But, what about a home baked chocolate cake. I would dare to speculate that a few mouths are watering. A few lips have been licked. Even if you have had breakfast, the delicious taste of chocolate offers an attractive lure.

This also applies to the story of the temptation of Jesus. The casual reader may wonder, how does this story apply to me? It is not a sin to eat food and I am not hungry. I could really do some wonderful things if people made me King or Queen for a day, but I am not going to bow down to some and worship any guy in red tights, a pointed tail and horns. I know God isn't going to violate the laws of gravity to protect me. So how to the temptations Jesus faced relate to me? They do not offer me any temptations.

The story may appear even less applicable by the confusion created in the different accounts. Depending on which gospel you favor, either Luke reverses the order of Matthew or Matthew reverses the order of Luke. Scholars have debated the reasons without agree on any definitive conclusions. The most plausible explanation is that Luke is emphasizing the humanity of Jesus while Matthew is directing the focus of the temptations toward his divinity. Although Luke perseveres the formula "If you are the Son of God", the appeal in each instance is directed at the human nature of our Lord. Luke wants us to know that...

His temptations are something with which we can identify, and in connection with them he becomes our example.1
By presenting a troika of options, Satan covers at least one if not all of the areas in which you and I face temptation. Therefore the author of Hebrews could write with such confidence:

We don't have a priest who is out of touch with our reality. He's been through weakness and testing, experienced it all-all but the sin. (Heb 4:14)
He understood that Jesus submitted himself to the same struggles, we face each and every day. The Son of God knows the lure of temptations. 


The conflict with the prince of darkness does not begin until after Jesus has fasted and walked the desert alone for forty days. Jesus was physically and emotionally exhausted. His inner strength was depleted. He was most vulnerable. So it often is with temptation, we are not most susceptible here in church singing praises to God or during our prayers, but when we are alone after we have expended ourselves on a project. When we feel alone and empty. When we are feeling unsatisfied and unfulfilled. A hunger burns within us. A hunger for something more. The distinguished politician and twice candidate for the Presidency, Adlai Stevenson, once said, "A hungry person is not a free person.1 If we are to live as free men and women we must learn to resist our... 
    Hunger for the now, 
         Hunger for power.
            Hunger for pleasure.


The first temptation begins with the classic challenge by Satan, "If you are the Son of God turn these stones into bread." However, for Luke the challenge is not to work a miracle but to satisfy a craving. Jesus had been without food for forty days. He was famished. Satan enticed him by suggesting that he satisfy his cravings now. Why wait? Why should you deny yourself? You are entitled. You have earned the luxury.  Make use of these stones that litter the desert. 

The immediate is always enticing. Lloyd John Ogilive says, "We want everything yesterday!" One of the most difficult challenges we must face is to wait. We remember all those times when we were told to wait.

Wait until your older before you can go to the play ground to play.
Wait until your 16 before you can drive the car.
Wait until your married before you can enjoy the intimacy of a relationship of love.
Wait until you have a better paying job and can afford to buy that new Miata.
We get tired of waiting. We get impatient. So we indulge in satisfying are hunger in the now, in the immediate. F. Scott Fitzgerald expressed the mindset of many people today, when he put these words into the mouth of one of his self-indulgent characters"
We took want we wanted until we no longer wanted what we took2

That is a difficult lesson to learn. The sad reality is that after we indulge ourselves we discover that we are still not satisfied. This is not limited to just food, but includes our approach to our finances, our jobs, our belongings and our friends. We are tempted in many ways to strive to satisfy our hunger for the now.

Long ago Gautama Buddha gave some wise counsel to his followers. He told them that they could only avoid "the marshes into which human yearnings may lead and the quicksand of insatiable desire" and attain Nirvana by riding themselves of desire and the need for immediate gratification.3 Jesus rebuked Satan by reminding the Chief Tempter, that the eternal brought greater satisfaction than the now.
What are "now" type of things do you hunger for?


Last week a friend gave us a set of Legos and the instructions for building a castle. The whole family contributed.  The castle even has a draw bridge and gate that can be raised and lowered. In Medieval Europe, castles were built by nobles to protect themselves from marauding Vikings and other nobles. They began as sanctuaries of safety, but became centers of power, centers of domination, centers of control. The ruler with the biggest castle, the most powerful army become king. 

Within our human nature the response to protect easily becomes transformed into a hunger for power. What begins as a well intentioned response for self preservation can quickly turn into a dominating manipulative spirit. A parent may want the best for their teenager, they may want to protect their teen from being hurt, but at some point they must learn to give their teenage son/daughter the freedom to make friends, to make chooses, to take risks. A boss may want to their company to succeed, but that does not allow them to harass, intimidate or excessively criticize their employees. A church member may have the noble goal of preserving a time honor tradition, but they should never take the license to badger, insists, accuse or condemn other people who are advocating for change.

We should always be attentive to how we approach others. How are we trying to convince another person to our position? How are we trying to influence a decision? We have every right to persuade, but we are not permitted to intimidate, or make others feel guilty or manipulate. No matter how virtuous our goal. Each person is entitled to their own choice, each person is entitled to their own beliefs, each person to enjoy their freedom in Christ.

In what ways do you hunger for "power"?


The final temptation by the devil has a subtle approach that we often miss. In a vision Jesus finds himself standing on a high pinnacle of the temple looking down into the Kidron Valley 450 feet below him. The devil quotes from Psalm 41:11, 12
He will command his angels concerning you to guard you carefully; 
they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike our foot against a stone

The devil's goal was to seduce Jesus into thinking that he needed some type of confirmation to remind him that God would protect him. Subtly concealed was the false premise that God would not let him suffer. The devil was essential mocking him with the message,

"You're the son of God, why should you suffer
 God will be there when you really will need him?
  He won't let you get hurt.
   God won't make you suffer.

No one enjoys suffering. The very word in our language denotes a miserable painful experience that any sane person would want to avoid. Yet, we have become a society that has magnified that natural, genetically induced avoidance response into an absolute obsession. 
In his book entitled, The Gift Nobody Wants, Dr. Paul Brand writes these words: the US, a nation whose war for independence was fought in part to guarantee a right to "the pursuit of happiness," I encountered a society that seeks to avoid pain at all costs. Patients lived at a greater comfort level than any I had previously treated, but they seemed far less equipped to handle suffering and far more traumatized by it. Pain relief in the US is now a $63 billion-a-year industry, and television commercials proclaim better and faster pain remedies. One ad slogan bluntly puts it, "I haven't got time for the pain.4

For the first time in history people have mistakenly concluded that suffering is not a part of God's plan. My friends, this is subtle temptation that Satan offers because he knows it will lead to discouragement and resent. Dr Brand, a world expert in the study of pain, reminds us that pain is truly a gift from God, yet it is the one gift that no one wants.

Pain is the natural response of the body to injury. It signals to the brain that something is wrong and that immediate attention and action is required to protect the body. Unfortunately you can't have just a little pain. When a hip is broken and bones have to be reset with screws, the trauma produces a higher degree of pain than a broken finger nail. Surgical removing a mass of cancerous tissue will inflict more intense pain than the extraction of a splinter from a finger. The "pain" that accompanies these types of trauma are the natural consequences of the miracle of the human body. Yet, we as a society have fallen into the temptation that no one should have to suffer, I believe that this is one of the underlying premises of the assisted suicide movement. People may be well intentioned, but they are very misguided.

God did not create a pain free world. He does not desire his creation to suffer, yet, suffering sometimes is a part of his plan. Jesus endured the sting of a whip, the piercing points of thrones, and the excoriating pain of nails not so that we could enjoy a life of pleasure and leisure, but so that we might know the forgiveness and mercy of God. He does not desire for you and I to live in pain, but sometimes suffering and pain is a part of his plan for our lives. 

This morning we learn that a man must endure the grief of his wife's death. Four child will cry as they touch the cold lifeless hand of their mother and say their good-byes. These are difficult, painful times but they cannot be avoided or denied. 

We must come to understand that 

... a time of hardship and severe testing is as old as the Exodus, Sinai and the desert.5

We should never be amazed whenever we encounter hardship, testing and temptation. They are the natural part of life for the believer. Rather, than complain about the circumstance or moan about the hardship we must endure, we should come to accept them as an integral component of God's plan for our lives.


Neither hungers nor temptations merely disappear with wishful thinking. We are required to make the conscious decision to say no. Ironically, we tell our teenagers to just say No, but so often we say yes to the temptations in our lives. We simply do not want to give up our lifestyle. We do not want to give up those pleasures. We resist change even when we know it is good for us. We are like the man who when told by his MD that the best thing he could do to prevent a heart attack would be to change his eating habits and stop his excessive drinking ask, "What's the next best thing?" 6

Lent is a time to examine ourselves; to discover what are the hungers that tempt us and pull us away  from our God. Some may be drawn by the hunger for the now, others may be driven by their hunger for power and still others my search to satisfy their hunger for pleasure. What is your chocolate cake?

1Adlai Stevenson (1900-1965), U.S. Democratic politician. Speech, 6 Sept. 1952, Kasson, Minn ,The Columbia Dictionary of Quotations, Columbia University Press, 1993 .
1 J. Michael Ramsey, Servant and Son: Jesus in Parable and Gospel, (Atlanta, John Knox Press, 1981), p 52
2 Glendon Harris, Pulpit Resource, Vol. 10, No. 1, Year , p 30
3 Glendon Harris, Pulpit Resource, Vol. 6, No. 1, Year , p 23.
4 Dr. Paul Brand, The Gift Nobody Wants, (New York: HarperPerennial, 1993), p12.
5 J. Michael Ramsey, Servant and Son: Jesus in Parable and Gospel, (Atlanta, John Knox Press, 1981), p 43.
6 Glendon Harris, Pulpit Resource, Vol. 10, No. 1, 30
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