A school boy wrote in his RE exam that ‘Jesus was tempted in the dessert’. That suggests a ‘naughty but nice’ understanding of temptation; all about chocolates or sex. But the most corrosive evils are often ‘respectable’; society condones and even rewards them.
On the first Sunday of Lent we see Jesus, alone in the desert, confronted by the demons in his head. His first temptation is to turn stones into bread. It’s the temptation we all face; that of performance. I am what I do. I prove that I am somebody by doing something. I keep busy to demonstrate my worth. To whom? To the inner parent? To God? Jesus does not have to prove anything. He is the Son of God. And so are we.
In the second temptation Jesus sees the whole world and all the wonderful things it contains. ‘You can have it all.’ It’s the temptation of possessions. I am what I have. Yet however much I own it is never enough. I want this, I want that: a new sofa, car or kitchen. Do they satisfy?
The third episode sees Jesus tempted to play to the crowd; to go for the spectacular. It’s the temptation of popularity: I am what others think of me. It’s addictive and never satisfies. I can’t please the audience or the opinion polls for ever. How many friends, likes or followers do I have on Facebook and Instagram?
All three temptations are attempts to deaden the most fundamental yearning of all: to be loved. Satan’s promises are lies. They are hollow but also unnecessary. That’s sound psychology and good spiritual sense. I am already loved by God. St Augustine was right: ‘You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it finds its rest in You.’