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The Temptation of Practical Goodness

• Greg Boyd

When people think about “temptation”, they often think about thoughts or behaviors that seem obviously evil or negative. Because of this idea, it is sometimes assumed that temptation is something that can be easily avoided. What people forget is that something does not have to be evil in order to be a temptation. Sometimes, there may be several options to choose from that seem good, but that pull us away from what God would want us to do.

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When people think about “temptation”, they often think about thoughts or behaviors that seem obviously evil or negative. Because of this idea, it is sometimes assumed that temptation is something that can be easily avoided. What people forget is that something does not have to be evil in order to be a temptation. Sometimes, there maybe many good things around from whence to choose. And that can make it quite hard to choose what’s best for the situation at hand. Jesus faced this kind of temptation from Satan when he was in the desert wilderness in the Luke 4 passage. Satan offered opportunities to Jesus where Jesus could have possibly done great practical things for the world. He could have demonstrated himself as the Messiah, giving himself religious power. He could have taken control over all the governments of the world and have the perfect human government. He could have used his power to heal and deliver people without going to the Cross. Jesus saw good opportunities as the temptations because Jesus was focused on being faithful to God and lead by God’s Spirit.

When we “live in Adam”, we are basically deciding that we can decide for ourselves what the best options are in a situation. Life in Christ doesn’t remove the fact that we have to make our own choices in life. Rather, living in Christ makes it clear that we must seek God’s ways and wisdom on the choices we make. This is important, because there are times where God will have us to so things that may not seem practical! If we are not careful, we can fall into the temptation of doing the practical thing for practicality’s sake…and not listening to what God has to say about the situation. The way the Jesus got around Satan’s temptations was to keep his focus on God. He continually asked himself “What would God have me to do? What are the options that align with God’s Kingdom?” As we live this way, not only do we place ourselves in the “New Adam” but we also find a new wisdom that comes from God.

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Topics: Faithfulness, Judgment, Power, Temptation


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Focus Scripture:

  • Luke 4:1-13

    Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, left the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil. He ate nothing during those days, and at the end of them he was hungry.

    The devil said to him, “If you are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread."

    Jesus answered, “It is written: 'People do not live on bread alone.'"

    The devil led him up to a high place and showed him in an instant all the kingdoms of the world. And he said to him, “I will give you all their authority and splendor; it has been given to me, and I can give it to anyone I want to. If you worship me, it will all be yours."

    Jesus answered, “It is written: 'Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.'"

    The devil led him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down from here. For it is written:
    “ 'He will command his angels concerning you
    to guard you carefully;
    they will lift you up in their hands,
    so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.'"

    Jesus answered, “It is said: 'Do not put the Lord your God to the test.'"

    When the devil had finished all this tempting, he left him until an opportune time.

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