The Temptation of Christ: Feeding the World

The temptor came and said to Him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” -Matthew 4:3Temptations-of-Christ

Jesus, after his baptism, went into the wilderness to pray and fast, and to contemplate the calling on his life that he felt. How was he, a lowly peasant from Nazareth, going to rally the people of Israel behind him, and bring them back to the ways of God? What kind of leader, what kind of Messiah, would it require him to become?

He could become a provider for the children of God. He could simply overthrow the way of empire by flattening the playing field, by making all men equal in means. He could solve the material problems of the world, the hunger and poverty and need all around him, the same hunger and poverty and need he has grown up with.

He could give the people what they lacked materially, and thus rally them to his banner, convince them his way was a better option than the Temple’s way, than Rome’s way, because his way filled their bellies. They surely would follow this lead. Power could be had by showing his way as more likely to lead to material rewards than the ways of the world

But Jesus knew this wasn’t enough. He thought of Deuteronomy:

One does not live by bread alone,

but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Certainly, feeding the hungry, healing the sick, housing the homeless, all these actions are important, and necessary. More than once in his ministry, Jesus used his power to feed the hungry, and more than once he commanded his disciples to do the same.

But Jesus could not, and would not, guarantee a live free of need to those who took his Way. Living in the example of Christ, in the pursuit of relationship with God, in a life or service and love for others, is not a comfortable one. It does not bring big houses and great feasts.

It is a Way of hardship and rejection by the world. One who simply feeds others is one who is praised and worshipped; one who feeds other while asking why they are hungry, who identifies with them and thus convicts those who have enough but do not share what they have, is one who is labeled a traitor and a heretic and an anarchist.

Jesus saw in that desert, when he thought of becoming a provider for Israel, that it is not enough. He knew he must feed, but he must also help his followers understand that God is not satisfied with merely feeding. God wants us to go beyond the mercy of bread lines, to the justice of perpetually-filled pantries. And the way to do that is to fill people with the Love of God for one another.

And so Jesus declined the opportunity to turn stone to bread.

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One thought on “The Temptation of Christ: Feeding the World

  1. The underlying problem and true heresy with the Progressive Christian movement is that it is a religion built on works. That my deeds earn me favor with God. In order to do that, the God/man of Christ must be reduced to something less than God, but maybe a little better than man. In doing that, the Scriptures themselves become suspect and their words are reduced in value so that what is written as God breathed, becomes instead, merely an authors best suggestion as to what God expects. As a result, the works righteousness you suggest in order to earn God’s favor results in nothing more than the Christian version of Sisyphus. Ever day waking up knowing you need to accomplish a given task to please God and going to bed in the same hole you started.

    In your blog, you have put the responsibility of faith and conversion on the Christian. That is a false belief. We are to preach the Gospel (a little bigger than God’s desire for us to love each other), the Holy Spirit (HS) works faith. For example, you say, “God wants us to go beyond the mercy of bread lines, to the justice of perpetually-filled pantries. And the way to do that is to fill people with the Love of God for one another.” I as a Christian cannot ‘fill’ someone with God’s love, that is the HS. Yes, some that hear me speak of Christ’s work will be lead to faith by the HS, but others will reject. Based on your blog, I have failed those who reject. I have not satisfied God. All I did was feed them. So then like Sisyphus, I am back where I started, asking myself: Did I not try hard enough? Was my faith to weak? Does God not love me?

    In order to get to this place, you rewrite the incident of Christ’s temptation into a vision quest. There is nothing in the Bible that states this. It does say specifically that the HS lead Jesus into the wilderness to be tempted. As a result of your distortion of those events, you have turned this temptation story into some thing it is not. Both Matthew 4:3+4 and Deuteronomy 8:1-5 having nothing to do with feeding people (spiritually or materially); rather they are about trusting God to provide. The HS lead Christ out to the wilderness. Therefore, Christ knew that God would provide for him. As the words of Deuteronomy point out.

    You have misused the words of the Bible in order to perpetuate the narrative of works righteousness. You put Christ on a vision question (he already knew his role) in order to make him more human, so that we need good deeds to earn favor with God. As a result, you are living under the law trying to accomplish your own salvation (Romans 3:20).

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