Summary: Designed to challenge those who abstain, instead of giving up something, take something up!
Each of us in our daily lives, succumbs to some form of temptation, be it by overeating, drinking too much, smoking too much. Some of us are even tempted by the famous seven deadly sins; sloth, lust, gluttony, pride, envy and anger. Think about it, how many of us are so used to using a remote control on our everyday electrical items? How many of us lust? Just watch men driving in the car when a beautiful woman crosses the road and watch their heads, better still watch the head of their partner! Gluttony, well obesity levels in this country are epidemic now and as for pride just look at some of our homes and possessions. Envy, I defy anyone to claim that they have not been envious in their lives, Glasgow Celtic winning the cup – makes many Glasgow Rangers fans envious and those of us who carry that little more weight, can be envious of the super slim size 10 women or six pack men and each of us has surely been angry at some point in our lives.
In many ways, many of us have committed the seven deadly sins without even blinking an eyelid. We have all succumbed; we have all given into some form of temptation and some for a price! Everything has a price if we think about it. Eating too much becomes overweight and the list goes on.
Trouble is there are other ways in which we give in to temptation and we don’t even think about it. We give in to challenges before they are even attempted, finding the negative points to concentrate on before we find the positives! Some of us are guiltier than others in certain areas and today’s bible lessons, are both examples of giving into temptation.
In the Old Testament, we see what happens when we give into temptation, we see the punishment that God, dishes out and it is not really something to enjoy. Adam and Eve are cast out from Paradise, the fall of mankind begins and we paid the price until the arrival of Jesus, who despite everything manages to resist the temptations of the devil and let’s face it, if you were Jesus, if you were provided with the offers that Satan provided, an easy, cushy life, no worries, no troubles, no public beating, no humiliation and rejection and best of all, no crucifixion; what do you think you would have opted for?
We always tend to opt for the easy way, the quick fix solution. We tend to avoid challenges at all costs, because we know in our hearts of hearts, to do so requires effort and for some it’s quite an effort to accept a challenge but its often the case, that it is more of an effort to avoid the challenge. Just think back to Adam and Eve, they seemed to capitulate very easily, whereas Jesus on the other hand, has a much harder task and from all accounts, he seems to handle it very well. I bet many atheists and those of other faiths would look upon Jesus as being quite a fanatic, a religious zealot but still he triumphs.
Today marks the first Sunday in Lent, traditionally the day when many Christians throughout the world will give something up, to test themselves, to see if they can go the journey that Jesus undertook. I think giving something up is rather silly, I think it makes a mockery of his sacrifice personally and whilst, there are times that I will follow Lent to a point and I have tried to abstain from certain things once before during a previous Lenten season, I realise that giving up chocolate, booze or ciggarettes is hardly a test is it?
Maturity onset diabetics have to give up chocolate for life to save their life, so forty days is hardly a test. Alcoholics give up drink (hopefully) and smokers give up cigarettes at different times of the year, these addictions are not easy to give up, they are a curse but they don’t come anywhere close to the temptations put to Jesus in the wilderness, do they?
No, I would prefer that we in the Reformed tradition hold true to our values and principles and that we are not made to feel guilty by not giving something up. I spoke with a Presbyterian Minister on Sunday night, who asked me what I was giving up for Lent and I told her nothing. She was quite taken aback by my statement, but I gently reminded her that whilst there are denominations that follow this religiously, there are other activities one could do for Lent. For starters we could take something up! We could begin a hobby, we could volunteer or we could do something worthwhile, we could even become more involved in the life of the Church and add to his workforce of agents against Satan! That’s one way to look at it!