In Matthew Mondays, we’ve been looking at the temptation of Christ and how Jesus was tempted in all the ways we are within the trinity of man: body, spirit, and soul as per Hebrews 4:15 and 1 Thessalonians 5:23.
In the previous weeks we’ve looked at how Satan tempted Christ in body and how Satan tempted Christ in spirit. This week we’re going to look at how Satan tempted Christ in soul.
The soul of a human being is the seat of the mind, will, and emotions. And while temptations affecting the body are often about survival and comfort and temptations affecting spirit are often about the supernatural, temptations that lure our soul are all about control.
Let’s look at how the temptation plays out:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.
"All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." (Matthew 4:8-9)
Satan’s offer is to give Jesus control of the whole world in exchange for worshiping him instead of God, basically submitting to Satan rather than God.
This is the last and perhaps the greatest of the temptations. It’s easy to empathize with the first temptation. We all get hungry. We all want to live comfortably. Only a crazy person says, “boy, I’d sure like to experience some pain and suffering today.” The second temptation of the spirit is easy to understand too. Who doesn’t want to see something miraculous? Ask any atheist what it would take to convince them that God exists, and they’ll give you some impossible sign for proof.
The last one is a bit more subversive because it is a temptation that we rarely recognize as such. It’s the temptation of free will. Will we submit to God every moment of every day, or will we pursue our own agendas and try to control our own lives? Will we be driven by our own desires, swayed by flippant emotions, or led by our own understandings, or will we seek God’s desires, God’s emotions, and God’s understanding, and let these be what guide our path.
What makes this particular temptation so hard is that sometimes we know what God wants, but we think we can speed up His process and do things on our own. That’s what Satan is tempting Jesus with in this example.
Ultimately the submission and obedience of our body, soul, and spirit to the Almighty God are what worship is all about, which is why Jesus responds to Satan the way He does:
Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" (Matthew 4:10)