A little Scripture helps the ‘medicine’ go down

I have been provoked by the quoting of Scripture in the mouth of ‘the adversary’ when confronting Jesus in the temptations. Three intertwined temptations related to mammon, religion and power. Interrelated because they impinge on one another, and are seldom ever totally separate. The Scriptures are a dangerous set of writings as can seemingly bend them for my own purposes. The three take place in three separate locations: the wilderness (the journey through with enough but not an over-abundance) hence a good place to throw the temptation of abundant provision; the high mountain to see whatever oikoumene (imperial domain) might be appealing to us to be the king of the castle over; and then the Temple (religious context) – the context in which the Scripture was quoted by the adversary.

In Revelation (the book that corrects our sight) the wilderness was the place where Babylon was manifest (Rev. 17:3) to John; unless we learn how to navigate the wilderness it is unlikely we will see Babylon manifest. Likewise it was at the top of the mountain that John saw the New Jerusalem come down (21:10) and we are going to be tormented by the seemingly eternal existence of Babylon unless we can refuse status, domination and hierarchy.

So to the temptation where Scripture is quoted:

Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written,
‘He will command his angels concerning you,’
    and ‘On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’ ”

This is the temptation in the temple. God is with you in a unique way. Always this is what seems to be the signs that surround those who can tell us the way to go. God is with them, thus proving they are beyond me. Or… God anoints the person who is embodying the great rejection of heaven (the king); the disciples (not the 11 but the 12) come back with ‘even the demons are subject in your name’. Says a lot about God; does not speak about the approval of deviant behaviour or position.

There are those who carry the presence of the Lord in unique ways – that is the nature of the anointing… but super-stardom is not the way of the kingdom.

One of the big concerns I have is when the three temptations come together in a way that ‘a three-fold cord is hard to break’… Economic promise, political power and religious uniqueness, then add to that the quoting of Scripture. Warning bells sound!

2 thoughts on “A little Scripture helps the ‘medicine’ go down

  1. Well, Amen to this one Martin. We have all seen the results of a corrupted church colluding with those in power to gain and expand its own power. So much of what we see is fueled by greed, which according to scriptures, breaks community. And it does, it breaks our relationship with one another (do not eat with a greedy man) and with the earth.

    I’ve been thinking about transformation especially as I start teaching again in a course for planning students. My premise is that we live on a new planet with parameters we have never seen before. This is borne out by my reading right now, Fire Weather, by John Vaillant. An account of the Fort McMurray fire in 2016. The fire was literally nothing they had seen before. Terrifying. Riveting book.

    So planners must transform cities to adapt to this new reality, this new planet if we are to survive and thrive. We all suffer a failure of imagination when it comes to this. We can’t believe the fire will be so intense that it can vaporize homes in 5 minutes. Or that the flooding can cut off all roads. Or that the storms can be so strong.

    Beyond a failure of imagination we suffer from leaders who cannot lead in this new place where we all find ourselves. They are based on the old planet, trying to lead as if we still live there. They are based in cultural practices, including the ones we name as corrupt, that lack the imagination to understand that we live in a new place, with new rules. We need a new form of leadership, one fit for this new planet we live on. I believe that is what Jesus tried to demonstrate – what leadership for this new world/planet looks like. And indeed it does not look like one based in patriarchy, greed, wealth, corruption, religious and political power that leads to destruction of people and places. Trying to use that kind of leadership on this new planet is a disaster, it is new wine in an old wine skin. It serves little purpose and is not going to end well.

    In this new world we need a humble leadership that works within a community to restore and regenerate those lost relationships with each other and the earth. A new world demands new leadership and the sooner we get to that, the better.

  2. So deeply challenging. I hear a lot in charismatic circles about ‘levels’ of spirituality which I find troubling considering that Jesus said that the best way to come to him is in the posture of a little child. I think it is somewhat a relief that I am not elevated to the place of great anointing and influence because with it comes massive responsibility and temptation as you say. Having stuff stripped away seems awful but perhaps is a way of protecting us from the worst sins and worst alignments – or perhaps that’s a ‘cop-out’ on my part? It is a burden to be a powerful voice in the body of Christ for sure. Thinking of Ezekiel 34 when he talks about shepherds forsaking and mistreating sheep and stuff and God is very unhappy about that. Even Jesus was tempted as you refer to and I guess there must have been a chance that he would have given into it otherwise it would not have happened? Thankfully he didn’t for our sake!!
    Thank you Martin and for your previous post which was very interesting and thought provoking. A lot to think about for the coming year!

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