Being Tempted To Seek Deprivation

Lent 1 Thursday

Matthew 4:5-7

“Then the devil took him with him to the Holy City and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him: “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written: ‘He will command his angels over you and they will bear you on their hands lest you strike your foot against a stone.’” Then Jesus said to him: “ Again, it is also written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’””

This temptation rarely happens in the tangible outward things such as bread, clothes, houses, etc. To be sure, there are many daredevils who unnecessarily risk their body and life, possessions and honor. E.g., there are those who voluntarily go to war, jump into water, gamble, or expose themselves to some other danger. The wise man says about such people in Sirach 3:27: “He who loves danger will perish in danger.” For you shall find what you strive for: good swimmers have a way of drowning; good climbers have a way of falling. But you rarely find those who, based on a false belief in God, abstain from bread, clothes, or other necessities when they have them. We do read about two hermits who did not want to accept bread from the people, but wanted God to send it from heaven. One died because of this and went to the devil, his father, who taught him such faith and let him fall from the pinnacle of the temple. But in spiritual matters this temptation exerts its power where one does not deal with food of the body but food of the soul. Here God has revealed a way by which one can most abundantly nourish the soul forever. This way is Christ, our Savior. But no one wants this way, this treasure, this supply. Everybody seeks different ways, a different supply, to help his soul. These are the ones, the right ones, who believe to be saved by their own work. The devil nicely places them on top of the temple. And they follow him and throw themselves down where there is no way. They believe and trust in God in their works where there is no faith or trust, no way or path. They throw themselves down and break their necks. But the devil adduces Scripture and convinces them by making them believe that the angels protect them and their way, their doing and trusting pleases God. They also believe that God commanded them by Scripture to do good works. But they do not consider that Scripture is presented to them wrongly. We have seen sufficiently and super abundantly who these are, namely, the works saints and unbelieving hypocrites under the name of a Christian existence and people. For this temptation must happen in the Holy City and is the opposite of the first in a peculiar way: In the first temptation, deprivation and hunger is the reason for not believing when people would like to have their fill so that one would not need to believe. In the second temptation, the superabundance and fullness is the reason for not believing when one grows tired of the common treasure, so that each picks up his own way in order to provide for the soul. This is our situation: If we have nothing, we despair of God and do not believe. If we experience a superabundance, we grow tired of it and want something else and, again, do not believe. There, we flee and hate deprivation and seek abundance. Here, we seek deprivation and flee abundance. No, the way God deals with us is not right. But this is the bottomless malice of our unbelief.

St. Louis ed., 11:541-542.

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