Sonja Gerstenberger, Grimes, IA


Warm-up Question

When you think of the word “temptation” what is the first thing that comes to mind?


A recent Belfast Telegraph article explored the differing responses by men and women when asked if they thought various scenarios were acceptable, like increasing the amount of an insurance claim beyond what was needed for repairs, not reporting a bank error made in their favor, or allowing someone to take the blame for something that was their fault. The survey of 2,000 people conducted by the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment found:

  • 29% of men and. 19% of women felt it was okay not to point out a bank error.
  • 17% of men and 11% of women felt it was okay to increase the amount of an insurance claim beyond what repairs would cost.
  • 10% of men and 5% of women felt it was okay to let a colleague take the blame for their error.
  • 47% of men and 33% of women felt it was okay to use information discovered about a competitor for their own employer’s gain.
  • 17% of people felt it was okay to buy an item of clothing, wear it once with the tags on and return it to an online retailer while only 11% felt this would be okay to do with an item purchased from a local retailer.

The findings of the survey indicate there is some difference between men and women in terms of how they respond to temptation. The survey also revealed we feel differently about transactions made in person (like with the local retailer) and our online purchases. Without a face-to-face transaction, it can seem okay to give in to the temptation to cheat and return an item because it seems to affect only  a faceless corporation.

Full Article:

Discussion Questions

  • Do you find the results of this survey surprising? Why or why not?
  • Have you ever received too much change from a cashier or not been charged enough for a restaurant bill? What did you do? Did you have to think about it, or was your response immediate?
  • Do you think it is unethical to respond as did the people cited in the article? Why or why not?

First Sunday in Lent

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

Romans 5:12-19

Matthew 4:1-11

(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year B at Lectionary Readings

For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.

Gospel Reflection

In the story for today’s Gospel reading, Jesus has just been baptized in the river Jordan by John. The story moves directly from Jesus’ baptism to his temptation in the wilderness. This is an important to know because we need to think of what it means that just two verses earlier, Jesus came up out of the water, the Spirit of God descended like a dove, and a voice from heaven said, “This is my son, the beloved, in whom I am well pleased.” That very same Spirit led Jesus into the wilderness where he was tempted by the devil.

In the temptation, the devil first offers Jesus the material things of the world, tempting Jesus (likely hungry and thirsty) to command the stones to turn to bread. The devil is tempting Jesus to use the power of the Spirit given to him to get worldly things. Jesus responds by quoting Deuteronomy, “It is written, ‘One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God,’” (see Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus responds to the Devil’s temptation by reminding the devil he is called to speak God’s word.

Next the devil tempts Jesus to prove God is faithful, telling Jesus to throw himself down so God will send angels to save Jesus. To this Jesus responds again with words from the Old Testament, “Again it is written, ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test,’” (see Deuteronomy 6:16). Jesus does not offer proof, but faith that God will provide without needing proof.

Finally the devil tempts Jesus to conquer the kingdoms of the world by worshipping the devil. Jesus responds again by quoting scripture, “For it is written, ‘worship the Lord your God, and serve only him,’” (see Deuteronomy 5:6-7). Jesus does not choose glory, but the way of suffering love by rejecting the devil’s offer of the glory of being a conquering king. Instead he serves God, which will eventually lead Jesus to his death on the cross.

One way to read the story is that it is not just about temptation but about what kind of messiah Jesus will be. The Jews would be waiting and looking for a conquering king, able to provide material things, protected by angels, a ruler and conqueror of kingdoms. The messiah revealed in the temptation is one who will not be controlled by the devil and will not put God to the test. This Jesus chooses the way of suffering and compassion.  He will eventually bring about the promised kingdom through these means and not through glory and might.

When we think about being tempted to take what is not ours or not owning up to our mistakes, we give in to a desire to have things that aren’t ours. Jesus, our messiah, calls us to follow a different path. The path Jesus calls us to may mean giving up some material things for the good of our neighbor. It may mean risking our own safety for the sake of community. And it certainly means denying entities that promise to bring wealth, safety, and a secure kingdom in exchange for worshipping and serving a ruler instead of our one, true God, revealed in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

Reference: “Basic Bible Commentary.” Ministry Matters. Accessed February 15, 2017.

Discussion Questions

  • If the temptations of Jesus are about what kind of Messiah he will be, what does it mean to say our temptations are about what kind of person we will be?
  • Does giving into temptation mean God will not forgive or love us? Does it mean we are not a good person?
  • If we are forgiven by God’s grace through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, why do we resist temptation? What does resisting temptation mean for God’s good and gracious will for our lives and for living together in beloved community? What happens when we give in?

Activity Suggestions

  • Create a modern retelling of the temptation of Christ, either a narrative or pictures that depict the three temptations. What would represent material things to a believer today? What would represent being tempted to offer proof that God would deliver? What would represent a temptation to worship something other than God?
  • Consider creating your own “What would you do?” experiments (patterned after the ABC televised specials, to use with adults in the congregation. Consider using simple exercises (like leaving a dollar out in the open on the floor as if someone dropped it) and just observing (not recording) the behavior of people as they respond. Have the observation team report back to the class and talk about what they observed and how they may have made a similar or different choice.

Closing Prayer

Gracious God, we are tempted in every way to give in to a world that tells us the way to fulfillment is power, and riches, and might. In response, you sent Jesus, a humble, suffering servant who would eventually die on the cross, mistaken and misunderstood. May we feel the power of your presence when we are tempted. Help us make choices that bring life for us and for the world which you so love. Amen.