Genesis 2: 7-9; 3: 1-7, Romans 5: 12-19 or 5: 12, 17-19, Matthew 4:1-11
Sources of Temptation and How to Overcome
This year’s First Sunday of lent begins with the readings on temptation. The readings of today’s liturgy exposes the nature and consequences that are associated with temptations, the sources of temptation and how to overcome these temptations when they come.
As Christians who are committed to the work of Jesus Christ, temptations will always come. When temptations come, we have two choices; either to conquer them or we fall into temptation. Whichever one that we choose, catapults us into another level of spirituality.
Conquering temptations will always elevate us to another level in the spiritual world while falling into them, will definitely bring us down.
Every temptation comes with it, some seeds of greatness or downfall. Temptations normally rear its head whenever we prepare to come back to God.
So, the readings of today also try to tell us what we must expect especially at that time we have decided to be committed and have returned to God.
Meaning of Temptation.
To be tempted in a Greek word is peirasthenai from peirazo . The word peirazo can mean tempt or test.
To tempt is to entice a person to do what is wrong; to test is to give a person the opportunity to choose what is right. To tempt is to hope for failure or hope for success.
In Jesus’ temptation, the Spirit is testing Jesus. Satan intends to tempt him to compromise him to break him.
The readings of today provide us with the necessity of temptation, and what happens when we win or fall into temptations sometimes.
In the first reading, we can see the fall and the consequences and in the gospel we can see the victory and the positive consequences too. The readings of today also exposes the mission of Jesus who has come to correct what was done by our first Parents.
Temptation Will Always Come.
The gospel of today is only the first temptation of Jesus. And it is not just once but thrice. Throughout his ministry, Jesus will experience conflict with some of the religious authorities. Also, Peter will also tempt Jesus to avoid the cross (Matthew 16:23).
In Luke 22:28, Jesus will commend the disciples for standing by him in times of trials. At Gethsemane, Jesus also had another once again, whether to accept the cup of suffering or not. He even prayed to God ““Father, if You are willing, take this cup from Me. Yet not My will, but Yours be done.” (Luke 22:42).
We have to know that temptations will always come. Temptation has not lost its power, it will always be there. It is still an active force today.
When you are working for Jesus and when you are always devoted in the ministry of touching lives, do not think the devil will always fold his hands and allow you to snatch souls away from him.
Those who are working for Christ and the kingdom of God can expect to be special targets for Satan’s enticements.
However, as we resist these temptations, we will grow stronger and stronger to resist future temptation. If Jesus can be tempted then who are we?
This is the reason we have to be ready at all times.
When Temptation comes.
1.The first reading explains to us how God fashioned man out of dust from the soil. Then He breathed into him the breath of life. After this, man became a living being. Therefore, living in man is already the divine spark that comes from God.
1b.Secondly, after this, the same God planted a garden in Eden and put the man he had fashioned there. Therefore, God gives man a better comfort, environment and wonderful place to live in.
1c.Thirdly, God did not allow him to stay there and perish, rather he sprung up from the soil every kind of tree, enticing to look at and good to eat. Then among the trees are the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the middle of the garden.
Now when the serpent came, it did not ask the woman about how good the garden was , He went straight to ask the woman about that tree that God said they were not to eat.
It convinced the woman that what God said about the tree is a lie, rather when they eat it, their eyes will be opened and they will be like God. This encounter reveals when the devil always shows itself.
2.Therefore, Just like Adam and Eve, we have to understand that temptation always comes at that time when we are very close to God.
Adam and Eve were already enjoying a divine privilege and hence came the devil. When you go for confession, always expect him to come back and rear its head against you.
2b.Second, just as the devil tries to convince Eve that what God told them is a lie, he also always comes to us to make us accept and believe that the word of God is also a lie and fabrication.
He could convince you that listening to the word of God is a waste of time. When we listen or read the word of God, sometimes that temptation to see it as false and that you cannot be able to do it will always come.
Sometimes, the lessons we learn from homilies end at the church, then we go back to continue from where we are.
Jesus was specific about this in the parable of the sower in Matthew 13, when he says that the seeds that fall along the path are those who hear the word of God but the devil comes immediately and snatches it away from them.
2c. The devil always comes to attack the blessings that you already have. Then, he will convince you that you need to have more, and in the bid to have more, you may begin to commit a lot of atrocities.
In the first reading, the serpent knows that Adam and Eve are already blessed but He came with his fake promises that when they eat the tree of the garden, they will be like God. They went ahead to eat, maybe they wanted to be like God, knowing good and evil.
Therefore, one of the things that do lead us into temptation is greediness. What you have can always be a source of temptation.
3.We have to know that the devil has nothing to do with those who are already his disciples. He always shows up at that time when you have decided to amend your life.
Then those people that have not been calling you will begin to call you, many things you wanted to do before but there was no opportunity will begin to show themselves again.
When the devil tempted Adam and Eve, they were already enjoying the bliss of heavenly paradise. When the devil tempted Job, he was already a rich man and in all three Synoptic Gospels, the temptation immediately follows Jesus’ baptism and as Jesus enters the wilderness to prepare Himself for the mission, the devil surfaces.
If you are part of the Lenten journey, always expect him to rear his ugly head. He can come through busyness, lack of time, tiredness to pray, friends trying to bring you down. The devil targets those who will cause havoc to his kingdom, not those who are already with Him.
The Sources of Temptation: Where The Devil Attacks.
1.He uses your position, what you have and what you want to have.
a.In the gospel, the devil says to Jesus , “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to turn into loaves” . Let us remember that at baptism, God announced Jesus’ sonship. Following the baptism, a voice from heaven announced, “This is my Son.”
This sonship later became a relationship that the tempter uses in the temptation. He says to Jesus ”If you are the Son of God”.
b.In the first reading he uses the tree of the garden. The garden that Adam and Eve enjoy.
c.In the gospel, the devil also took Jesus to the mountain and showed him all earthly possessions and promised to give him all if He bows down to him. Many Christians will not resist this temptation.
Do you still remember what the devil told Eve “If you eat the fruit, you will be like God” So for Eve, eating the fruit indicates that She wants to be in God’s position.
These analyses reveal some of the sources of temptation. Sometimes the devil uses your position, what you have and what you want to have to tempt you.
d. Sometimes, our greatest problem today is the incessant quest for earthly positions and possessions. Many today have gone diabolical and requesting contacts of anyone who can make them rich today and tomorrow. The truth is that whatever the devil gives can never last.
2.He attacks you at your weakest point.
In the gospel. The devil knows that Jesus is hungry and he asks him “command that these stones become bread” . Therefore the devil attacks Jesus at his weakest point, which is His compelling physical hunger.
Such hunger drains us, not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually. A starving person will do nearly anything to get food, the drive to survive is built into us.
The temptation of today is for Jesus to relieve his own hunger, to use mighty power for a small purpose.
In the same way, the devil uses our problems, our poverty, our weaknesses, challenges and difficulties to tempt us away from God.
He gives us an impression to help but destroys us later. Or he makes you believe that God is not capable of saving you. Our problems are also part of the sources of our problems.
3. Temptation can come from Any Person.
Temptation can come even where you least expect it. It can be from our friends, parents, and loved ones. You will discover that sometimes in order to impress some of the people that we love, we do some of the things we never wanted to do.
This is the reason in the first reading, Adam also joined in the temptation through His wife Eve. Therefore, the people around us can also be a source of temptation to us, both those we love or do not love.
4. He uses those things that are enticing
In the first reading, Eve saw that the tree was good to eat, and fair to the eyes, and delightful to behold, she took the fruit and ate. She also gave it to her husband who also ate it.
The first lesson here is that we need to be mindful of the things that we eat or the things that people do give to us. They can also be sources of temptation.
Some people today have been misled due to the things we receive and the gifts that someone gives to us. Many people are already in bondage because of the gifts they received.
2. Secondly, in all the temptations of Jesus, the devil uses those things appealing to the mind, wealth, position, power, beauty. Sensual appearance has led many to their early graves. They are also sources of temptations.
Many beautiful girls and handsome guys have destroyed many great men of God, left some families into shambles, destroyed many marriages and rumbled the future of many.
Also, the crave for wealth, power and position has led many into occultism and many have gone diabolical, invoking the spirit of water to help them instead of God. These have led many to their early graves.
The End of Temptation can be Disastrous or Victorious.
Our fall can be disastrous to our spiritual strength and growth. It can affect our lives even. It can have a very serious negative influence against us. Had it been Adam and Eve knew the consequence that would come, they wouldn’t have failed.
Secondly, every temptation that we win brings us to another level of spirituality, promotion, and gives us more strength.
After His temptation. Jesus was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. The gospel says behold angels came and ministered to him.
God allowed Satan to test Job, a righteous man. Terrible calamities befell Job, who remained steadfast in his faith. God blessed Job by restoring his health, wealth and family.
The examples of Abraham and Job provide us a clue to God’s intent. God allows the beloved to choose good or evil, and hopes to bless the right choice .
How to Overcome Temptation.
From the readings of today, let us analyze how we can win temptations.
1.Firstly, in all the temptations, Jesus’ response to the devil is “It is written”. Jesus reveals to us through this response, that the word of God is a strong arm against the wiles of the devil.
In the midst of temptation, one of the greatest weapons to overcome temptation is the word of God.
In the first reading, Eve followed the word and advice of the Serpent and lost, Adam followed the words of Eve and lost.
Here, Eve represents humanity and falls. We can fall when we abandon the word of God, to follow the words of one influencer on social Media, who does not even love Jesus.
During the time of Jesus’ temptation He was guided by the Word of God. Temptations can come to us sometimes to the point of losing our faith. Negative voices will arise.
People will try to mislead you but Jesus teaches us today that the only way to stand strong is to find what God is saying in such a precarious situation.
Also remember that in the first temptation, Jesus answered the devil ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God’.
Jesus does not claim that we do not need bread, but that we do not live by bread alone. We must have bread, but our deeper need is satisfied only by the word of God.
So, don’t be misled by the things of the world like Adam and Eve. Let the word of God be the guide always.
Secondly, we need a relationship with the Spirit. It is the Spirit of God that leads Jesus into the wilderness. He guides and goes with him into the wilderness, which is reminiscent of the Psalm 23 where God goes with us through the valley of the shadow of death.
The Spirit leads Jesus and accompanies Him. Therefore, We also need the Holy Spirit to lead us always, so that when we walk through the valley of the shadow of death, we shall always remain faithful and strong.
At that time, when we think our faith is nothing, when everything begins to go against us, His Presence in our lives will be our consolation. When the Spirit of God is the shepherd, our victory is sure.
Thirdly, Let us be strong. 1 Peter 5:8-9 says “Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” then he says “resist and stand up to him”.
At his baptism, Jesus was faithful, then at his temptation, he is faithful despite the tempter’s efforts to get him. At His mission, He stood strong against the Pharisees. During His suffering and crucifixion, He did not give up.
Today, immediately He rebuked the devil, the devil goes on his heels. Let us Imitate Him and be strong.
1.Temptation is part of the christian journey. Jesus’ life is filled with a series of temptations. Whenever we are tempted, let us not get weary nor downcast. It is not a sin to be tempted.
The temptation then offers us the opportunity to stand strong. Sometimes, God allows the temptations for us to be more strong.
We are tempted to be strong and not to fall. When we overcome the temptation, we rise to a newer level of spirituality.
The fall always has adverse effects but the victory always catapults us to another level. Let us continue our prayerful journey. Do not give the devil any single opportunity.
2. We have to know that the Devil and His Disciples Also Disguise as Angels of Light In 2 Corinthians 11:14, Paul says that even the devil disguises as angels of light. In the temptation of Jesus in the gospel, you can see how the devil is even quoting scriptures for Jesus.
In today’s gospel, the devil quotes from Psalm 91:11-12, verses that reassure the person “who dwells in the secret place of the Most High” (Psalm 91:1) of God’s help in adversity.
The truth is that the devil and his angels also know the scriptures, let us not be deceived. They can come in so many ways, even use the things of God to deceive and manipulate people.
Many people now use the scriptures today to back up their evil actions. Some people will tell you that Jesus says give Caesar that of Caesar and that of God to God etc. We have to remain strong.
3.When the devil came to Jesus, he took him to the holy city of Jerusalem and made him stand on the top of the Temple. He says to Jesus that if he is the Son of God, he can throw himself down for God promises to send His angels charge over him and they will support him in their hands.
Despite the theological undertone of this statement, what we can see here is an image of real deceivers. They come to you with another thing but deep inside their hearts they come for another thing.
They may laugh at you and smile with you, but their smiling is not real. We can always find these kinds of people around us.
In the gospel, Jesus says to the tempter, “depart Satan. He did the same to Peter in Matthew 16:23, when He rebuked him saying “Jesus said to Peter, “Go away from me, Satan! You are not helping me!”. Therefore, we do not need to entertain these kinds of people when they come.
We have to cut them off and rebuke their antics. Secondly, we have to do the same to our tempting thoughts when they arise.
4.Finally, the devil sometimes comes with the appearance of one who wants to help but deeper in his mind he has an evil agenda.
In the first reading, the devil told Adam and Eve, you will be like God. He always tells you what you want to hear. He came to Adam and Eve as if He wanted to help them.
These people can promise you heaven and earth just to get what they want. Once they have their way, you become a laughing stock.
They often dress well and well spoken. They are friendly. Their goals seem sound and their logic seems unassailable. Hence, they have deep inside their hearts their selfish interests and desires. They know they came for your money, body, possessions etc, but they will come as if they love you and want to help you. Some of them may even go as far as promising you marriage.
Hence, as time goes on, you will come to understand that this is far from reality. We have to stand strong against the wiles of the devil in this Lenten season. Let us hold on to God for nothing surpasses Him.
May God give us the strength to overcome our temptations. May He continue to be with you. Amen.
Happy Sunday and God bless you.