February 26, 2023, When Desires Are Too Expensive, Matthew 4:1-11 – Mtr. Kathryn Boswell
To listen to the sermon, click the link above. Below is an outline of the sermon.
1. This week marked one year since the beginning of the war in Ukraine. What is the status of the anti-war movement in Russia? “The anti-war movement is non-existent.”People in Russia who are so afraid of the authorities that they betray one another – so any resistance to war and violence has been squashed through a successful campaign of terror. Story of people in restaurant…
People in Russia have become so afraid that out of a desire to stay safe, they are willing to betray others. And who can blame them? Desires are not evil. The desire for safety is certainly not evil; it is natural and good. But when we give in to the temptation to pay too high a price for safety – in this case, the price of betrayal and doing harm to others, that’s when the desire becomes sin.
I would never be so arrogant as to condemn the people of Russia, who have been terrorized into a state of fear and mistrust and betrayal. But the truth is that it is a great evil. There is terrible sin, and the root of the sin is a totalitarian government, who uses fear and unjust power to cause its people to sin against one another.
2. We read about temptation today. We know that temptation is not sin, because we know that Jesus himself was tempted. Hebrews 4:15 “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.” I think that is something that is hard for us to really believe. Jesus fought the battles of temptation just as we do, but he didn’t sin because sin is not contained in the desire, but in the choice we make to pay for that desire.
3. Jesus went out into the wilderness for a time of testing before beginning his ministry. It was a very little bit like hardening off transplants before putting them in the garden – a time of strengthening through hardship.
4. Fasted for 40 days, didn’t eat or drink anything. Satan came when Jesus was at his weakest – that is when temptation happens. We might believe in a Satan with hoofs and horns, or we might imagine Satan as a troublesome inner voice – but no matter how we view Satan, we all know that the battle of standing up to temptation, of making the right choice, is something that happens inside of us.
Jesus’s desires were not evil. First desire – food – temptation to put his physical needs before his need for God – Second desire – to know the faithfulness of God’s promise – temptation to force God to prove it Third desire – to receive what was rightly his – temptation to compromise his allegiance to God – to bow down to God AND… so that he could have it now
Through wrestling with temptation, Jesus learned trust: Matt. 6 – Seek first his kingdom…
He chose not to hold onto what belonged to him Phil. 2:6-7 but poured himself out –
In his victory he emptied himself of all desires but one – “emptied himself of all but love” (Charles Wesley hymn “And can it be”)
5. We face the same battle in so many ways, big and small, when we desire something, even something perfectly good, and we are tempted to pay too high a price for it
(we discussed in Bible study) We desire comfort and convenience, and those are not evil. But we are tempted to pay for convenience by turning a blind eye to the exploitation of children, or the destruction of the environment, or the abuse of workers.
As the people of Russia – We all desire safety and comfort. But betrayal is too high a price to pay for safety. The suffering of our fellow human beings is too high a price to pay for comfort. It could be us – faced with the temptation to remain safe and comfortable when we are threatened with persecution, or even martyrdom. What choice will we make? What is too high a price to pay? We each have to search our own hearts…..James, brother of Jesus, wrote to the church “It’s your desires that are causing you to sin – you strive to get what you want and instead of asking God, you end up biting and devouring each other in the process – but he gives us more and more grace – draw near to God and he will draw near to you”
6. During the next four Sundays we will be looking at the lives of four individual people, real people, that Jesus met along his way – an important man and a nobody, a good woman and a bad woman – and see how their lives were transformed by Jesus, and not only their lives, but the lives of the communities they belonged to.
Because during Lent, we’re speaking metaphorically of traveling 40 days through the wilderness terrain of our hearts. But I hope it’s clear that there’s nothing personal or private, nothing imaginary or spiritualized about the journey. It’s as real as the fear of people sitting in a Russian restaurant, it’s as ordinary and everyday as our decision to buy a new pair of pants. Jesus showed us in his own battle in the wilderness that our inner struggles – and the choices we make – are the very form and fabric of our lives in the real world.
The good news is that we belong to the one who won the battle – who by his life and by his death poured himself out in his great love for each one of us, and for the healing of the whole world.
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