Leap of Fame (The Temptation of Pride)
Topic: Biblical Verse: Luke 4:9–4:13
The Nineteenth Sunday after Pentecost
October 18-19, 2014
Fall Stewardship Series, Part 3: “Leap of Fame” (The Temptation of Pride)
Today is Part 3 in our Fall Stewardship Series as we look at the third of Jesus’ temptations in Luke’s Gospel. Thus far, we have focused on those first two temptations that Jesus experienced at the hands of the devil out in the wilderness. Two weeks ago, we looked at “Stones to Bread,” the temptation of control, as the devil challenged Jesus to take control of his own destiny and feed himself by changing stones into bread. Last week, we looked at “All This I Will Give You,” the temptation of idolatry, as the devil urged Jesus to consider all the power and wealth which he said he would bestow on Jesus if he fell down and worshiped him. Both of these temptations have much to say to us about what it means to be stewards or managers of God’s gifts. How often we are tempted to take control of what belongs to God alone and see it as our own! How often we are tempted to idolatry by focusing more on the gifts which God gives instead of the Giver of those gifts! That leads us to today – the third and final temptation of Jesus, “Leap of Fame,” the temptation of pride. That is the theme for the message this day. May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.
So the location and setting here have shifted. In the first temptation, the location is the parched desert with rocks, rocks and more rocks everywhere you look. In the second temptation, the location is that “undisclosed location” where the devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. Now for the third temptation, the location and setting have moved to the very center of Israel’s faith: the temple in Jerusalem. Ironic, isn’t it? Pride, identified as one of the seven deadly sins, has to be confronted and dealt with here at the house of the Lord. The pinnacle of the temple was the highest point of the entire temple complex, some 700 feet above and overlooking the Kidron Valley. It should be noted that in the body of rabbinic literature, the Midrash states that when Messiah came he would manifest himself by standing upon “the” roof of the temple – not just any part of the temple, but the highest point, the pinnacle of the temple roof (Pesiqta Rabbati, 162a – see http://www.bible-history.com/backd2/pinnacle.html). Jesus is at that pinnacle point, literally and figuratively! The temptation he faces revolves around who will get the glory: God our heavenly Father or Jesus? And even more insidious, Satan uses Scripture itself to tempt Jesus (see Psalm 91). Will Jesus seize upon this moment, throw himself down to the awestruck crowds below, be rescued at the last moment by God’s angels, and then instantly be declared Messiah? For sure, that would have been the easy road to take, but that is not the road Jesus chooses. He chooses not to become the focus of fascination, but the Savior of our souls (The Choice: The Christ-Centered Pursuit of Kingdom Outcomes, by Gary C. Hoag, R. Scott Rodin and Wesley K. Willmer, p. 44). Jesus refused the pathway of instant gratification that is so much part of our world. He refused the pathway of pride that would have led to his own personal glorification. Instead, Jesus emptied himself, taking on the form of a servant, and became obedient unto death, even death on the cross (Philippians 2:1-11). In all of this, Jesus becomes not only our Savior from sin. He also becomes our model of the godly life.
All of this isn’t about just plain old pride. It’s really about spiritual pride, that is, the Hollywoodization (is that a word?) of faith. Spiritual pride is about wanting to exalt ourselves in such a way that attention is diverted away from God and instead gets focused on us. Following that Hollywood image, it’s putting ourselves in the spotlight out there on the red carpet in front of the cameras. As with Jesus’ temptation, all of this can happen very insidiously: under the guise of doing what’s right while standing right here in the house of the Lord. As with Jesus’ temptation, Scripture can be twisted in such way that we may even think we’ve got justification for all of this from the Bible itself. But at the end of the day, we will find ourselves doing the very thing that Jesus said to the devil: “You shall not put the Lord your God to the test” (Luke 4:12; see Deuteronomy 6:16). It comes down to what John the Baptist said about Jesus: “He must increase, and I must decrease” (John 3:30). What we do as the people of Jesus must point people to Jesus, and not to us. He’s the Savior; we are not.
So what’s all this got to do with stewardship and managing God’s gifts? More than you think! We have much to learn from Jesus about setting aside our personal agenda for the sake of God’s kingdom. We have much to learn from Jesus about what it means to be obedient for the sake of God’s kingdom. We have much to learn from Jesus about ferreting out the spiritual pride that worms its way into our lives and turning to the Lord in repentance. Luke’s Gospel records that “when the devil had ended every temptation, he departed from him [Jesus] until an opportune time” (Luke 4:13). What the devil did to Jesus, he will do to us also. The temptations of control, idolatry and pride, and countless others as well, will pop up at an opportune time in our lives, often when we’re not expecting them and are unprepared for them. And when they do, our only strength is in that One “who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). In the midst of sin and temptation, our only strength and refuge is in Jesus alone. Through his life-giving death upon the cross, there is mercy and grace to help in time of need.
Next weekend as we celebrate the Reformation, we will bring our commitments for ministry in 2015 forward to the Lord’s altar as an act of worship. In so doing, we acknowledge that the Lord God is the Maker and Owner of heaven, and we are merely his stewards, managing what He has entrusted to our care and for furthering his kingdom among us. We say with the psalmist: “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; bring an offering, and come into his courts” (Psalm 96:8). “Give the Lord the glory due his name” – not just with our lips here inside these four walls, but give the Lord the glory due his name with our lives out in the world around us in daily life. “Bring an offering” – but in doing this, are we giving God the leftovers of our lives? After everything else is taken care of, does God get what remains? We’re called to first-fruits giving; that is, giving the Lord the best of what we have – our time, our commitment, our resources. And when we do this first-fruits giving, God blesses that and ensures that all of the other things take care of themselves. “Come into his courts” – never underestimate the importance of coming together with fellow believers in the house of the Lord for worship on a regular basis!
In all of this, any pride we have is pride and thanksgiving in the Lord, and in his grace and goodness which sustains and provides for us day by day. To him be the glory and praise forever and ever! Amen.
More in Stewardship 2014: Jesus Tempted
October 12, 2014All This I Will Give You (The Temptation of Idolatry)
October 5, 2014Stones to Bread (The Temptation of Control)