Thanks for joining me during this season of Lent, I’m glad you’re here! This post is the second in a series I began last week. Click here to read more about the series called Lent, In Other Words. This week’s word is worth, inspired by Matthew 4:1-11.
Many Christians give up something they’ll really miss during the forty days of Lent. The idea is that by denying ourselves a bit of pleasure, we’ll remember Jesus’ ultimate sacrifice on our behalf. The practice tests our resistance to temptation, reminiscent of Jesus’ forty days of temptation in the wilderness.
As the story in Matthew goes, Jesus went into the wilderness to fast and pray when he was tempted by the devil to take the easy way out. “Feed yourself!” the devil said. But Jesus resisted. “Test your own power,” the devil goaded. But Jesus resisted. “Take more for yourself,” the devil tempted. But Jesus resisted.
His strength came from knowing his place in the right order of things. Jesus gave the devil no reason to believe that he thought any more—or any less of himself. In humility, Jesus emptied himself of his divinity so to be totally submissive to God, which would eventually lead to his death on the cross. However, Jesus also knew his worth. He was God’s beloved son, and the embodiment of God’s love for all of humanity.
We don’t have to escape to the wilderness to find temptation; the wilderness of everyday life is full of it. Like Jesus’ temptation, we are constantly faced with choices: to fill up on the empty promises the world offers, or to feast on the Word that brings life; to test or to trust God; to serve ourselves or to serve others. But we are faced with another temptation too: forgetting our worth in a world that doesn’t value humanity in the same way God does.
As much as we talk about the epidemic of “me-first” culture in the US, we are remiss if we don’t also address the secondary disease of insecurity that plagues us. We are constantly bombarded by images and messages that make us question whether we’re smart enough, beautiful enough, talented enough, etc., etc… People talk over other one another and use their privilege to get ahead. For those who are left behind, resisting the temptation to think less of ourselves requires as much strength as resisting the temptation to think more of ourselves.
There is much to learn from Jesus’ example in the wilderness, however the spiritual practice of emulating it during lent can backfire if we don’t balance the story. We must resist the temptation to give ourselves power that is not ours to have, and submit to God instead. At the same time, we must resist the temptation to heed a world that tells us we’re not worthy, and listen to God instead.
I’d love to hear from you! How will you resist temptations to think more–or less–of yourself during Lent?