Lent starts Wednesday, and one of the reasons it is 40 days long is because Jesus was tempted by the devil in the wilderness for 40 days. There were three things Jesus was tempted with during his wilderness time. He was tempted to turns stones into bread [since he was fasting], he was tempted to throw himself off a very high point so God’s angels could save him, and he was tempted to have the devil give him all the kingdoms of the world so that they would bow down to him.
I recently started a book called Made to Crave by Lysa TerKeurst where she states that the story of Jesus teaches us about three types of cravings we all have. She writes that Jesus’ temptations, like all temptations, are about “cravings, or trying to get our physical desires met outside the will of God; lust of the eyes, or trying to get our material desires met outside the will of God; and boasting, or trying to get our need for significance met outside the will of God.” (p. 21). Jesus was tempted to eat [physical], that entire kingdoms would bow down [material] and to boast [by commanding God’s angels].
Then she connects the temptations of Eve with those of Jesus. She writes that when Eve was in the garden, the devil used these three tactics with her as well. He told her that the fruit was good for food [cravings], pleasing to the eyes [lust of eye] and would help her to be wise [boasting]. Eve[and Adam!] was unable to resist the temptation, but Jesus, through his complete reliance on God was.
I had never noticed the similarities of Jesus’ temptation with Eve’s before. When Luther talked about cravings, he talked about something called the Bondage of the Will. He wrote that all of us are going to have something that we make the most important thing in our life. It can be money, or food, or a person, or a job or most anything really. But it is only when God is at the center of our lives, that we can have lives that are truly free and truly full.
This is one of my favorite Lutheran doctrines because I find it rings so true in life. Jesus was able to resist because he kept God’s word at the center. And as I think about Lent this year and trying to resist some things that tempt me, I am hoping that by keeping God’s word at the center for me, it might help in some way.
TerKuerst suggests that when cravings start, you should remember who you are and who you belong to. I was made for more than that piece of cake. God made me in God’s image—and I was made for more than yelling at my kids all the time. I am a child of God. And when I crave having God at the center of my life, there just isn’t room to obsess about winning or getting ahead or even just staying afloat.
We are going to be bound to something. We were made to crave. There is just something about us as humans that needs a focus. But the problem is that most all of what we focus on does not really give us life. That dream job doesn’t love you, and neither does chocolate or your cell phone or whatever that “thing” in your life is.
But God does love you and God wants you to be able to be fully present in your life and that can only happen when you are focused on God first. And when God is at the center, you can keep all those other things in their proper place. Food is for nutrition. Entertainment is just entertainment. Money is just money and not all-powerful.
Jesus’ ministry started out with temptations. He could have had all the things the world deems the most important things. But instead, he kept his focus on God and doing God’s will and then he was able to go through the rest of his life being fully present to all those people in need—including even you and me.
It is ok to have things that you love, like your friends, or your phone or whatever. But you were not made to have those things be more important than anything else in your life. You were made to crave God and a relationship with God, and when you have that at the center, everything else will flow out of that in a healthier and more balanced way.
I hope that as we enter Lent you might find a phrase like, “I was made for more than this” or “I am a beloved child of God” to remind you of who you are and to whom you belong.
Blessings on your journey.