When Faith is Strong, Other Things are Easy

Lent 1 Friday

Matthew 4:8-11

“Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory and said to him: “All this I will give to you if you fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said: “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship God your Lord and serve him only.’” Then the devil left him. And look, angels came and served him.”

The third temptation is worldly honor and power, as the words of the devil show this clearly when he showed Christ all the kingdoms of the world and offered to them to him if he would worship him. Here belong those who fall away from the faith for the sake of honor and power in order to have good days or who do not believe only as long as honor and power remain. Here also belong the heretics who start sects and rouse the rabble among Christians regarding the faith in order to be esteemed before the world and be held in honor. This third temptation may be placed on the right side as the first one was placed on the left: The first was the temptation of misfortune that entices us to wrath, impatience, and unbelief. The third and last one is the temptation of fortune where we are enticed to delight, honor, joy, and everything that is exalted. The second one in the middle is entirely spiritual in nature and seeks to entice reason away from faith by chance and error. For those whom the devil cannot overcome by deprivation, need, and misery, he attacks by means of wealth, favor, honor, delight, power, etc., thus fighting against us on both sides. In fact, he “prowls around,” as St. Peter says, 1 Peter 5:8. This means that he goes all out when he attacks by error, blindness, and a false understanding of Scripture those whom he can not overthrow by suffering or by love, that is, by the first temptation from the left or by the third temptation from the right. If he prevails with the second temptation, things will go badly on the left and on the right: Whether you suffer poverty or enjoy prosperity, whether you fight or are overcome, all is lost. For patience in misfortune and constancy in fortune are useless when you err in the faith. Heretics often prevail against the first and last temptations. And the devil plays along, pretending to be overcome, although he is not overcome in the first and last temptation so long as he prevails in the second temptation. For he allows those who belong to him to suffer patiently in deprivation and despise the world, but he does not let them do these things with a true heart and faith. Therefore, these three temptations are all very difficult and hard, but the second one is the greatest. For it assaults the doctrine of the faith itself in the Spirit, as it is spiritual and about spiritual matters. The other two assault faith in external matters, e.g., fortune and misfortune, love and suffering, etc., although these two also search us deeply. For it hurts that we always should follow heaven and always endure deprivation and eat stones where there is no bread. It also hurts to despise favor, honor and possession, friends and companions, and to let go of things one already has. But faith is able to do
all these things when it is founded on God’s Word. When faith is strong, these things are easy.

St. Louis ed., 11:542-543.

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