Temptation rarely shows up saying “Hey, I want you to do something you know is wrong and you’ll regret for the rest of your life.” Usually temptation shows up wooing us into doing something that would seem logical, given the circumstances. The temptation that many black leaders faced during the Civil Rights protests was to meet violence with violence. As racists attacked those marching for equal rights with clubs, dogs, and firehoses, among other things, it would seem natural to retaliate in kind. Andrew Young was one of the voices that called for non-violence in the face of physical oppression. “If we had started guerilla warfare in America’s cities, if we had given into terrorism in America, we could not have won but America could not have survived,” said Young.
It would be wrong to say that racism no longer exists in America. But it would also be wrong to say that the non-violence practiced by the Civil Rights leaders didn’t have a positive effect on our culture. Racism still exists, but because leaders didn’t give into the temptation to retaliate and meet violence with violence, our society, as a whole, condemns racism. When we refuse to give into temptation to accomplish godly goals through ungodly means, we grow stronger and the Kingdom of God benefits. Jesus had to deal with that kind of temptation. While fasting in the desert, Satan tempted Jesus to proclaim His kingdom in three different spectacular, but ungodly, ways. He refused. His final words before Satan left Him are important to us still today. “Jesus said to him, ‘Away from me, Satan! For it is written: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.”’” (Matthew 4:10)
Every one of the temptations that Satan sought to divert Jesus with were valid expressions of Jesus as Messiah. None of them appeared to be designed to make Satan look good to the people. If Jesus had given into the temptations, everyone would have been flocking to Jesus. It’s important to remember that. What did Satan offer Jesus through his temptations? Satan began by dealing with the physical need of Jesus: turn the stones into bread and eat. Satan recognized the power of Jesus, but Jesus recognized that even more powerful for His ministry was the discipline of fasting. He then called on Jesus to make a spectacular entrance for His ministry: jump from the corner of the Temple so that all would see the angels protecting You. Jesus recognized that we should not test God and that His ministry was not designed to be spectacular, it was designed to be life changing. Finally, Satan offered Jesus an easy route to rule: bow down and worship me and I will make You Lord over all these lands. Jesus sent him packing – He knew the plan that would result in Him becoming the ruler of all those lands and it didn’t include Satan.
Temptations abound in our society today. How often do we read about men and women who have been arrested because they gave in to sexual temptations that were illegal and ungodly? How often do we see stories of people who are rich and famous falling due to financial irregularities or other sins? These temptations face us every day. It would be so easy to give in to gain physical gratification or financial status. How easy would it be to give in to temptation that would bring political power? As we face those temptations – especially those that might seem to give results that would bring honor to God by giving in, we need to remember those words of Jesus: “Away from me, Satan!” We need to accomplish God’s work in God’s way.
Lord, lead me not into temptation. When temptation comes, deliver me from evil. Let me always seek to accomplish Your will in Your way.