8 Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. 9 “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
10 Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’[e]”
11 Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him.
From the mountaintop, Jesus is tempted with materialism. The word the Bible uses for allowing something to take the place that only God deserves in our lives is idolatry. Satan begins by sowing discontentment. He shows Jesus a scene that stands in stark contrast to what he has recently known the past 40 days. He says that this would be given to him in exchange for his worship. Jesus is not only tempted to put material goods in God's place, but also Satan himself. Complying with this request would have been two turns away from the truth. Jesus is not seduced by this offer and rebukes Satan immediately invoking the worship of God alone. However, a familiar pattern is revealed that is as old as the Garden of Eden.
What is the purpose of temptation? It is to remove us from the worship of God by degrees. It is a gradual turning that blurs our vision and numbs our senses. We are often slow to recognize it, but eventually we begin to look more and more like the thing we have chosen to worship in God's place. We are enticed away, one small decision at a time, from perfect love.
How do we combat this kind of temptation? By acquiring a larger perspective. Jesus knew a higher mountaintop. The kingdoms of the earth were less than a few grains of sand on the beach in comparison to the Kingdom he already ruled. When we worship God, our Abba Father invites us to come and sit on his shoulder. To glimpse eternity and the splendor of God's eternal Kingdom. What could compare to that?
What small temptations in my life threaten to move me by degrees away from the worship of God?
Lord, enlarge my vision. Bring things into sharper focus. Help me in the moment of temptation to glimpse eternity. Let your Word carry me to a higher place. Let the short-lived pleasures temptation offers pale next the light and love of your Kingdom.