Posted by Forrest Parkinson

Q 7
Tempting God and Spiritual Growth
(part 1)
Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem
and made him stand at the top of the Temple.
“To prove you are God’s son” he said to him,
“jump down from here and remember, it is written;
‘He will send his Angels to guard you and catch you in their hands
so you won’t even hit your foot on a stone.’”
Jesus answered him
“It has been said; ‘You must not put God to the Test.’”
Borg-Powelson-Riegert Reconstruction (1996)
ref: Luke 4: 9-12 & Matthew 4: 5-7

Luke 4: 9-12
Then the devil took him to Jerusalem, a
nd placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him,
‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down from here,
for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you”,
And “On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’
Jesus answered him, ‘It is said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’

Matthew 4: 5-7
Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
“He will command his angels concerning you”,
and “On their hands they will bear you up,
so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.” ’
Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’

Dear Jesus Way Friends

“Oh God, let me survive this lightning storm and I will become a monk!” So said the promising law student Martin Luther. He lived and become an Augustinian priest. Did God pass?

“Oh God, if the cop lets me go on this ticket, I’ll never speed again!” So said repeat speed offender, Forrest Parkinson every time he (I) sees the flashing lights in the rear view mirror. After a number of tickets back in the 80’s and 90’s, I seem to have learned my lesson or how to keep my oath… or both!   ….Did God pass the test or did I?

“Oh God, if you love my aunt June, you will let her slip away without so much pain.” Yet June dies a painful death. Does God love her, or you, less? Does God fail the test? Was the prayer wrong?

We want to know about God’s love, Gods care and God’s power, especially the power to answer our prayers on our terms.

“Oh God, save our country from these horrible oppressors and we will dedicate our whole national life to honoring you, oh God. In fact, even under the prevailing stifling conditions, we will commit ourselves to honoring with every part of our lives. Only, God, save our country!” The Pharisees of Jesus’ day raised prayers like that. The people were fervent and still the prayers were no answered as the people hoped. Did God fail the test? Did the Pharisees fail in prayer?

Knowing that Jesus ended up brutally crucified, angels turning his feet from stones seems a poor test indeed. From our side of the story, Jesus’ glory is his authenticity. Being pampered was not a sign of his glory. Those signs included the work of peace through courageous non-violence. Jesus testified to the dignity of all people. Jesus demonstrated actions that served human need had an absolute priority over religious ritual.

So, Jesus did not test God by jumping off ledge to show who he really was. The enticement to prove his Poppa-God would preserve his life or guard his comfort was not enough.

So. did Jesus test God on anything?

Most of the time our God-testing goes on in the secret of our mind; private little deals with God that we feel a little guilty about or would be embarrassed to talk about. BUT… when God *doesn’t come through for us,* our resentment can be real.

“Padre, I was ready to separate (leave the Navy) before retirement to save that marriage, hell, I still love her even after all this, and I prayed to God for her not to file, I’d do anything, but she’s gone. Now you tell me, where was God in that? I never prayed for anything like that, not even for my life, but it was no good. Either God don’t care or God can’t do much.”

Here’s one millions of people tomorrow: “God, I had such good plans for the $600 million Powerball and I promised I would believe in you if I won… well guess what?”

Jesus gave us the useful approach. “Don’t test God!”

Think about it. If Jesus foresaw the cross… what a perfect temptation; to prove God’s love by demanding comfort and security? If Jesus did not foresee the cross but knowing he would in his preaching test the strength of the temple religion, how tempting it would be to prove he would not be hurt even if he was thrown down from the highest (most powerful) places of the Temple.

Maybe we can learn something by noticing how we test God. Do our temptations to test God focus around financial insecurity, health, loved ones, politics or relationships?

In my imagination, the Tempter struck Jesus at his heart; “Are you really God’s son? Prove it!” And prove it in a way that evokes the maximum fear! Jesus expresses his spiritual identity by quoting Scripture, by saying what he knew to be true. And no son needs to prove his Pappa.

I think it is human nature, and especially for (but not limited to) prayerful people who believe in a personal God, to make deals and put God to the test. In following the Jesus Way we discover that putting pressure on God, in terms of deals or multiplication of prayers has little discernible effect. (The fervor of our prayer is different and is another matter for another essay.) Since it is our nature to test and deal, the question is, what can we learn from the deals we spontaneously offer?

Did Martin Luther deeply prefer the priesthood over lawyering? As a young adult, did I authentically value living a safe and moderate life, but “not yet”? Suffering, including aunt June’s suffering, is a prevailing condition of portions of human life. Can we accept that and the rest of our difficult, messy humanity? Did the Pharisees need to learn that their God was bigger than their nation or religion? A painful lesson, for sure. Did the divorced and inconsolable sailor turn his failed marriage and impotent God into a rationale for a life that fell short of his hopes? Will the millions of people disappointed in the Powerball results reconsider the conditions that will lead to happiness? Did Jesus discover or reveal the one critical dimension of his relationship with his Pappa-God precisely by refusing his personally specific temptation?

If we understand why we test God or why we want to test, we will discover a specific opportunity for spiritual growth.

Faithfully,

Forrest

NEXT WEEK

Practicum: How to Test God?
(part 2 fin)
Then the Devil took Jesus to Jerusalem
and made him stand at the top of the Temple.
“To prove you are God’s son” he said to him,
“jump down from here and remember, it is written;
‘He will send his Angels to guard you and catch you in their hands
so you won’t even hit your foot on a stone.’”
Jesus answered him
“It has been said; ‘You must not put God to the Test.’”
Borg-Powelson-Riegert Reconstruction (1996)
ref: Luke 4: 9-12 & Matthew 4: 5-7