Have you ever wondered why Jesus needed to be tempted in the wilderness? Theologians have debated this for a long time. Some maintain that Jesus, as a representative human, had to be tempted. Others believe that the temptation of Christ serves as an inspirational example to us, that we can be wooed by evil and resist it. Others teach that Jesus was tempted so that he could identify with our struggles, as Hebrews 4:15 declares: “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.”
All of these views have merit, but what about the time before Jesus struck out into the Judean desert? I don’t think he spent those 40 days without preparation and reflection, do you? I have a feeling that Jesus resolutely decided beforehand that he would not cave in to the wiles of Satan.
I suppose many of us, after we have succumbed to sin, wish that temptation would never come calling again. The liquor store you pass after a tough day of work, a friend who wants to share a juicy rumor, the fetching coworker who winks at you during the Christmas party – wouldn’t it be great if such enticements didn’t exist?
But they do, along with many more. Life is a series of tests and temptations, and we need to mentally deal with them before they rear their ugly heads. President Harry Truman, who was praised for his honest and integrity, once said that in his long political career, he had certain rules that he followed – “win, lose or draw.” Truman refused gifts, hotel accommodations or trips that were paid for by private parties, and he made no speeches for money or expenses. Truman noted, “I would much rather be an honorable public servant and known as such than to be the richest man in the world.”
Call them what you will: principles, precepts or rules, we must live by them or risk failure, regret and loss of self-respect. Of course, God offers forgiveness when we fall, but so much heartache could be avoided if we settle once-and-for-all that we will hold to our standards, no matter what. Fortunately, we have sacred scripture to inform us, the church to guide us, the Holy Spirit to strengthen us.
Being stuck in a desert of temptation is not the right time to decide what you will do. Decide now. Write a personal credo if that will help. But whatever you do, establish your rules and stick to them like glue.