After Jesus has spent over a month fasting and praying, and perhaps fending off temptations we don’t know about, the devil brings on the big guns. He begins with the most obvious area of need – physical hunger:
Jesus did not refuse because he wasn’t hungry, nor because his power was limited – at other times, he easily commands molecules, plants and animals. I think he was unwilling to employ the power he possessed on a party trick, or to prove his identity. That power in him – which, by faith, is also in us, when we but trust it – is connected to the will of the Father. Maybe Jesus was unwilling to try to bend the will of God to this end for an audience and a purpose so unworthy of it.
Once again, the temptation begins with an attempt to undermine the target’s sense of self: “If you are the Son of God…” Jesus is too smart to fall for it. We aren’t always so confident. If we remembered who we are, and whose we are as beloved sons and daughters of the Living God, we might not be so prone to taking matters into our own hands or falling into patterns destructive to ourselves and others.
Our appetites are an area in which we are most vulnerable to making choices that are not life-giving. Today let’s take stock of how our perceived need for some things can become distorted and cause us to turn away from the Life of God and toward things we think will fill us. In "some things” I include food, alcohol, sex, work, screen time, relationships, affirmation, importance, power, accomplishment – even exercise can become excessive if our motives are unhealthy.
It’s not the “what,” or even the “how much,” so much as “why do I need this,” and “how much of my energy goes to craving this, securing it, consuming it.” We can feel somewhat empty as soon as we've finished that cycle if this is an area of distorted need in our lives.
How do we interrupt the cycle when it hits us? We might use Jesus’ words, substituting our need in the blank: “One does not live by alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” We might ask the Holy Spirit to fill us with God’s presence so we don’t hunger for things that can’t fill us. We might ask Jesus to sit with us and give us his peace.
We might even dare to sit with our hunger or desire or need and not rush to fill that empty place. It's important to feel the feelings that come from that emptiness. Certainly our Good News tells us that God shows up in pretty amazing ways in empty spaces...