Gospel:  Luke 4:1-13

For Self? Or, For Others?

When is pride acceptable in others? When is it unacceptable?

Pride. The source of healthy self-image? Or, one of the deadly sins? Unlike the sense of morality many post-moderns espouse, pride is never "relative." It does not depend simply upon one's viewpoint. Pride depends upon its direction. Pride is healthy when it includes others. It is sinful when it excludes others. The measure of pride remains the Great Commandment: to love others as self (not more, not less).

Jesus faced a choice of pride. Was he to choose for self? Or for others?

Jesus and Satan argued in rabbinical style over possessions, power, and fame, all sources of pride. All choices to be made.

Literal Translation

1 JESUS, full of the Holy Spirit, returned (to Galilee) from the Jordan (river) and was led about, in the Spirit, into the desert 2 for forty days, being tested by the devil. HE ate nothing during those days and, when they were at an end, HE was hungry. 3 The devil said to HIM, "If you are the Son of God, give a command (to) this stone, so it might become bread. 4 JESUS answered him, "It is written, 'Not by bread alone will man live.'" 5 Leading HIM up, he showed HIM all kingdoms in the (civilized) world in one moment of time. 6 The devil said to HIM, "I will give all this (ruling) power and their glory to you, because it has been given over to me and to whomever I wish to give it. 7 So, if YOU worship me, everything will be YOURS. 8 Having answered, JESUS said to him, "It is written,

'The Lord your God you will worship
and him alone you will serve.'"

9 He led HIM to Jerusalem, stood (HIM) on the pinnacle of the Temple, and said to HIM, "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here. 10 It is written,

'He will give orders to his angels concerning you, to guard you (from danger)'

11 and

'On (their) hands, they will carry you along, so you might stub your foot on a stone.'"

12 Having answered, JESUS said to him, "You will not challenge the Lord your God." 13 Having finished every test, the devil left HIM until the right time.

4:1 "full of the Holy Spirit" was a permanent condition. Luke used this phrase to point out the Messiahhood of Jesus. Jesus received his anointing as Messiah with the descent of the Spirit in his baptism (3:22). "filled with the Holy Spirit" was a temporary condition of prophetic utterance received by followers.

4:4 "Not by bread alone will man live." (Deuteronomy 8:3)

4:6 "this (ruling) power and their glory . . . because it has been given over to me and to whomever I wish to give it" The devil presumed power in the world, because people, by their sin, had given it to him. Unlike the fatalism of the Greek culture or the dualism of the Persian culture, Jews in the time of Jesus held the view that people, not God, were the source of evil. Evil came about by the abuse of free will.

4:8 "The Lord your God you will worship and him alone you will serve." (Deuteronomy 6:13)

4:10-11 "He will give orders to his angels concerning you, to guard you (from danger)" and "On (their) hands, they will carry you along, so you might stub your foot on a stone." (Psalm 91:11-12)

4:12 "You will not challenge the Lord your God." (Deuteronomy 6:16)

In verses 1-2, the Spirit led Jesus into the desert for the purpose of the test. The temptation was to be a "crisis point" for Jesus; in Luke's gospel, this event foreshadowed Jesus' ministry as Messiah. The temptation of bread represented the miracles of Jesus [3-4]. The temptation of temporal power represented his leadership in the Church community [5-7]. And the temptation in Jerusalem represented his growing popularity which had its peak when Jesus entered the capital [9-12]. For Jesus, each temptation represented a choice he had to make, a choice to trust in God or to promote self interest.

Jesus replied to the first two temptations with Scripture, the power of God's word. But, in the third temptation, Satan quoted two Scripture passages that seem to insure God's favor over his chosen [10-11]. In reality, Satan cloaked the sin of presumption in religious garb; we presume we can do what we want because we have God's favor or promise of faithfulness. Jesus immediately saw through the ruse with a passage of his own; we are to trust in God alone, not presume on his favor. (As a side note, Jesus argued from the Law, the core of the Jewish faith. But the devil argued from the Psalms. The quotes from the Torah themselves won the argument.)

When we compare Luke's account of the Temptation with Matthew's, we can see Luke's has been rearranged. Matthew has the traditional order: stones to bread, jump from the top of the Temple, offer of power from the mountain top. Matthew began with the sense of a local Messiah (feeding the needs of those in Galilee) to a national Messiah (popularity in the Jewish capital) to an international Messiah (control over the known world, like Caesar). This greater and greater meaning of Messiah was changed in Luke when he reversed temptations two and three. With Jerusalem as the last temptation, Luke emphasized the final destination of Jesus over any Jewish meaning of Messiah. For Luke, the Messiah image in the first two temptations emphasized the material sense (bread for the mob and international military power). The last temptation emphasized a spiritual choice (Messiah for the Jews alone, or for all). In Luke, Jesus rejected the mob, the standard of Rome, and control of Judaism. He wanted to show something greater: the Son of God. He would reveal his role on the cross outside the walls of David's city. Luke portrayed Jesus as the Messiah for the lowly, not just the powerful. Such a Messiah did not have any room for the sin of pride.

Catechism Theme: The Proliferation of Sin (CCC 1865-1869)

What would have happened if Jesus gave into the temptation in the desert? Sin would have grown. And salvation would have been denied.

We face the type of choice Jesus faced. Do we choose for God and others? Or, do we choose for self? Both choices have effects. The choice for self, sin, fuels the growth of vices (also called the "deadly sins"): pride, avarice, envy, wrath, sloth, lust, and gluttony. These attitudes fan the flames of sin and help to destroy a sense of morality on an individual and communal level. Through our acts, our omissions, or our approval, sin weaves its way into the structure of society. Evil can grow beyond the power of the individual to control it. At that point, we can speak of social sin.

However, one choice for others can help tear down social sin. One choice for good can help change the world. The desert choice of Jesus made that hope a reality. When he denied the devil's sense of Messiah, he took one more step to reveal himself as God's Messiah. And our Savior.

Have you ever seen personal sin grow, like a disease? Have you ever seen sin stopped by the choice of one person? What happened?

The choice lies before us. Do we choose the self? Or others? Do we choose self pride? Or, pride in others? Choosing the self points toward a downfall. Choosing others eventually chooses toward God.

Jesus had the same choice. Self or the Other? Ultimately, he chose between what he could have vs. what he could give. He chose to give. He gave of himself so all could live. That is the reason he is Lord. Not the mob, not military power, not the following of the faithful. He is Messiah because of his gift, his grace.

What can you give to others this week? How can you set aside your pride for the good of others? Choose one way and act on it.