The Wilderness Temptation and the Coronavirus Pandemic (Part 3)
Reading: Matthew 4:5-7
Christ’s wilderness testing can teach us much during this current pandemic. The things that tempt us as humans have not changed much, nor the truths necessary to overcome those temptations. Part three of this multi-part post explores what we can learn from Jesus’ second temptation and His response.
Misguided Application of Scripture
This second temptation of Jesus in the wilderness almost exposes errors some are prone to during this pandemic. This week I heard about two pastors who were arrested for breaking orders not to assemble. “God is our healer,” one of them tells us. The devil told Jesus, using Scripture, that God is our protector so go ahead and jump (Matt. 4:5-6)!
Some Christians have quoted Scripture to explain to me why pastors should lead their churches to disobey. It boils down to trusting God, they tell me. (Frankly, as a pastor, it takes more trust in God not to meet during this time knowing how dependent our survival is on meeting!) This is the same logic that the devil tried to use on Jesus.
Christ-Centered Integration of Scripture
Jesus’ response was to apply the proper Scripture text to the situation. “Do not put the Lord your God to the test” (Matt. 4:7). The Word of God was so integrated in Jesus’ thinking that He understood its right use and application. In following Him, which is always the path to the cross, we discover the right application, which is always an integration of the text with the life and death of Jesus as the One who shows us the way. The right application involves not grasping onto our rights or using them to our own advantage but thinking more highly of others than ourselves (Phil. 2:3-8).
Some would tell you to disobey the prohibition on assembling during this time and will support their argument from the Constitution. Yet when Jesus said, “It is written” (Matt. 4:4, 7, 10), he quoted the Scriptures properly and not the Constitution. (I don’t think that if He were here today, He’d do any differently.) As believers, we conform our lives to the Scriptures understood through the life and death of Jesus our King, the One who faithfully obeyed the Father all the way to the point of death (Phil. 2:8).
When this pandemic arose and people were told to prepare for a time of isolation, two temptations occurred. One was to hoard, which was rooted in fear. Fear never allows us to act in love (1 John 4:18). The other was to declare, “God is my provider,” and make no preparations. The first temptation is to act in a way that is inconsistent with the image of God for which we were made (to love our neighbor for their flourishing), and the second puts God to the test. In the end, both are folly (Luke 12:20; Deut. 6:15-16).
A Prayer for the Church
May the Word of God understood through the life and death of Jesus Christ become so one with us as a community of God’s people that we respond to every temptation which this crisis presents with actions that demonstrate God’s saving ways in the world. May we conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel (Phil. 1:27).
Love the Gospel, Live the Gospel, Advance the Gospel,