Tested by Self-Interest

In today’s Gospel we hear Matthew’s account of Jesus’ temptation in the desert.  Immediately after his powerful experience of hearing his father’s voice during his baptism, Jesus is driven into the desert where he is tempted by the devil.

This is a passage I have prayed with frequently and have often talked about it during retreats.  I have heard the temptations characterized in various ways, but was struck by how Barbara Brown Taylor talks about them in her book Holy Envy.  It was almost an aside for Taylor, a lead in to her discussion of Jesus’ preaching his first sermon in Nazareth.  She describes Jesus as being “sorely tested by self-interest,” writing

The devil had suggested all kinds of ways that Jesus could take magnificent care of himself- by turning a stone into a loaf of bread to end his hunger, by becoming king of the world to secure his power, by summoning angels to protect him from all harm  All Jesus had to do was ask, the devil said, and God would make sure that he did not so much as stub a toe.

What a simple encapsulation of the temptation to sin – the temptation to think only about yourself.

The passage on Jesus’ temptation is always a good one to pray with, especially during Lent.  In doing so, you might reflect on where you are tempted to act in ways that reflect only your self-interest, rather than the interest of others.