The temptation to seek fame and power

I’m continuing my thoughts on Luke’s account of the three temptations that Jesus faced during his 40 days in the wilderness.
The second temptation finds Jesus up a hill or mountain from which he can see (at least in his imagination) “all the kingdoms of the world”. “The devil” says to him “To you I will give their glory and all this authority….If you will worship me, it will all be yours.”
The very rational and convincing inner voice is saying “You’ve got what it takes to be famous and successful – to be the the Messiah – to save the world. Do you really think you’ve been called to spend your life in the hopeless task of proclaiming the Kingdom of God to illiterate peasants in a backwater like Galilee? That’s a waste of your potential. It won’t get you very far in the world – you know that. You could do great things; you could make a great name for yourself; you could be popular and powerful. Just think of all the good you could do! All you need do is devote your life to achieving fame, influence, power.” (?Devotion = worship?)
But Jesus resists the temptation to sell his soul to the devil. He believes that God has called him to a particular task. God hasn’t called him to seek popularity and power. He dismisses the tempting inner voice by recalling a verse from the Hebrew Scriptures: “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him”.
What I know, in my heart of hearts, to be God’s call to me in some particular situation, often doesn’t make much sense – especially when the going gets tough. There doesn’t seem to be much future in it. Wouldn’t I be more successful if I were to devote myself to being a well-thought-of leader? I could use that popularity and influence to do good.
This Lent, thinking about Jesus’ response to the second temptation, “Worship God and serve God only”, I am reminded that Christian discipleship – being true to God’s call – can sometimes require me to resist tempting possibilities that I know (if I am honest with myself) are not what God wants for me.

Luke tells us that when Jesus went into the wilderness he was “full of the Holy Spirit”. I thank God that we are not left alone to fight temptation – but that the very same Holy Spirit has been given to us – to enable us to remain true to God’s call and serve God only, however hard it may be.
Andrew B.

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2 comments on “The temptation to seek fame and power

  1. amyvhughes says:

    I love your interpretation of this temptation. When I was in Sunday school they always presented it as Satan tempted Jesus to be a power hungry dictator and Jesus quite easily tuns him down. The way you phrased it makes it a much more understandable temptation. The temptation of “you could do so much good if you only did X”. However, X usually comes with some serious drawbacks. This is a temptation I can related to – having the glory and authority of all the nations didn’t make sense in my life. Thanks for the great post.

  2. Pamela says:

    This temptation is interesting, because often the result of “giving in” might not seem drastic and evil. What I think about is how I used to want to be a doctor, because I could have and I could have done so much good in that role. What wouldn’t have been good in that, is that I wouldn’t have been fully myself. I know I am much more fulfilled as an OT (yes, even though I don’t have a job yet) and I would have missed that full expression of my soul had I done something that would have been “more sucessful”. Andrew, I find that I am interpreting your interpretation as a message to be yourself, and I think it is very helpful in a world that keeps pushing people to be something else.
    Sorry about the excessive use of quotes without real sources, I wasn’t sure how to express those ideas better.

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