This Lent, Resist Temptation by Following the Word of God

User’s Guide to the First Sunday of Lent

Read Scripture during these 40 days to learn from Christ.
Read Scripture during these 40 days to learn from Christ. (photo: Unsplash)

Sunday, March 6, is the First Sunday of Lent. Mass Readings: Deuteronomy 26:4-10; Psalm 91:1-2, 10-11, 12-13, 14-15; Romans 10:8-13; Luke 4:1-13.

Today the Gospel train pulls into “Temptation Station,” and we are asked to consider some of life’s temptations. The three temptations faced by Jesus are surely on wide display in our own times. What are these temptations, and how do we resist them?


Pleasures and Passions 

The devil encourages Jesus to turn stones into bread. After such a long fast, the thought of bread is surely a strong temptation. In effect, the devil tells Jesus to “scratch where it itches,” to indulge his desire, to give in to what his body craves.

We, too, have many desires and are told by the devil in many ways to “scratch where it itches.” Perhaps no generation before has faced such strong temptation. We live in a consumer culture that is highly skilled at eliciting and promising to satisfy our every desire. Some of our biggest cultural problems are ones stemming from overindulgence. We are a culture that struggles with obesity, addiction, sexual misconduct and greed. We have done well in turning stones into bread.

Jesus rebukes the devil, saying, “Man does not live on bread alone.” In other words, there are things that are just more important than bread and circuses, creature comforts and indulgence. Elsewhere, Jesus says, “A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions (Luke 12:15). 


Popularity and Power 

Taking Jesus up a high mountain, the devil shows him all the nations and people of the earth and promises them to him if Jesus will but bow down and worship him. This is a temptation to both power and popularity. One of the deeper wounds in our soul is the extreme need that most of us have to be liked, to be popular, to be respected, and to fit in. We dread being laughed at, scorned or ridiculed. We cannot stand the thought of feeling minimized in any way.

For many people, the desire for popularity is so strong that they’ll do almost anything to attain it. All of this is a way of bowing before the devil, because it demonstrates that we are willing to sin in order to fit in, to advance, or to be popular. Jesus says, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”

The real solution to this terrible temptation of popularity is to fear the Lord. If God is the only one we need to please, then we don’t have to expend effort trying to please anyone else.


Presumption and Pride 

Finally, the devil encourages Jesus to test God’s love for him by casting himself off the highest wall of the Temple Mount. Does not Scripture say that God will rescue him? The devil quotes Psalm 91: “With their hands they will support you, lest you dash your foot against a stone.” In our time, the sin of presumption is epidemic.

Many people think that they can go on behaving sinfully, recklessly and wantonly and never face punishment. “God would never send people to hell or punish them!” In saying this, they reject literally hundreds of verses of Scripture that say otherwise; they have refashioned God and worship an idol. 

Jesus rebukes the devil by quoting Deuteronomy: “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” We ought to be very careful about presumption, for it is widespread today.

Finally, note this, to every temptation, Jesus answers with Holy Scripture. St. Paul spoke of the word of God as the sword of the Spirit. For us, too, staying close to the word of God is an essential way to resist temptation.