Who controls the wealth of this world? (Mt 4 :8-11)
We’ve covered the first two temptations Jesus faced, now let’s look at the third. Jesus was basically offered all the power and riches of this world. He could have been the very visible King of the world that all men would bow to. He would have had all the wealth and riches of the world. He would have had every person bowing and serving Him. We can imagine what this temptation was like! Who wouldn’t want all of that? Isn’t that what God had planned for Him anyways? It must have been very hard not to accept. But He knew that this was a very worldly (sinful) vision of His true calling. God had something much better planned for Him…even though it would take longer to come to be. Jesus will have every knee bowing to Him and have all power and glory, but not in the way we probably imagine it.
This is a massive temptation for all of us every day in America. None of us have been offered all power and glory, but we are often offered some small bit of power, glory, or riches at the expense of what God is calling us to do and to be. Jesus tells us that we can have all of this, if we seek after God with all our heart and wait to receive it from Him in His timing. We’ll discuss this when the text brings us there, but the key is what we place importance on and what/who we chase after. There are some temptations that are pure evil. We must struggle past these things and can be given total freedom from desire of these things in Christ. Other things are not evil in themselves, but can be an idol in our hearts.
We know that in Jesus’ heart, he suffered through temptations for these things, but He submitted to God’s will in His life…and in the end, He has all things. Jesus said He learned obedience through the things He suffered (see Heb. 5:8). In our lives as well, we must seek after God and steward wisely what He gives us. Then, much will be given us as we live the life He calls us to.
An important thing to notice is that Satan reveals that He controls the “kingdoms of this world”. Jesus did not correct him and say, “No, my father owns everything in this world.” That would have been true in a sense, but Adam and Eve gave up control (stewardship) of this planet to Satan. God could have destroyed everything He made to undo the choice of man to give control to Satan. But He instead chose to redeem it slowly over time through Christ and the Kingdom of God.
If you’ve ever wondered why the wicked prosper, this is a giant clue. Satan does not care if the wicked man has earthly wealth. Even when the man does not believe in God or Satan, he is worshipping Satan by worshipping the corrupted system that he has made. God has thankfully chosen to give everyone of us the full allotment of time to choose Him. He does not punish those who seek lustily after earthly riches. He’ll let them achieve them as they will and discover that there is no real joy in these things. All the while, He is inviting them to choose Him.
Those that follow Christ have it much more difficult. We have the same temptations, but we are told to not give our hearts to these things tangible things we see and want so desperately. But instead to give our hearts to Him that we cannot see with our eyes. He does show us in His Kingdom how to gain wealth, both the lasting kind and the earthly kind, and He does bless us as we follow Him. But it must always be done in worship and service unto Him.
We live in this conflict, but we must overcome as He did. The non-believer is not so “tortured”. He can happily lust after earthly riches. We must fight that desire, even as we live in a world surrounded by them. Jesus demonstrated this, and this is what we are called to do as well.
What do you see in this temptation that I’m not seeing? Or maybe you see things differently? Please share your thoughts.