Talents and Temptation

"As we build upon our talents, becoming more successful in our endeavors, we often fall to the temptation that we don't need God."

How do we face temptation in our lives?

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From the Denver Post: "Like many sheep ranchers in the West, Lexy Fowler has tried just about everything to stop crafty coyotes from killing her sheep. She has used odor sprays, electric fences, and 'scare-coyotes.' She has slept with her lambs during the summer and has placed battery-operated radios near them. She has corralled them at night, herded them at day. But the southern Montana rancher has lost scores of lambs--fifty last year alone. Then she discovered the llama--the aggressive, funny-looking, afraid-of-nothing llama...'Llamas don't appear to be afraid of anything,' she said. 'When they see something, they put their head up and walk straight toward it. That is aggressive behavior as far as the coyote is concerned, and they won't have anything to do with that... Coyotes are opportunists, and llamas take that opportunity away.'"

The author of temptation is much like the coyote. This ancient enemy of man is an opportunist, always seeking the easiest way to draw us away from God. But if we are firm in our faith, firm in our trust in God to give us the strength we need to resist temptation, then he is easily beaten. The apostle James told us this: “Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” James 4:7-8

When we are tempted, the best course of action is often to stand up to it, recognize it for what it is, and stare it down.

During Lent we prepare to celebrate the resurrection of the Lord. Traditionally we do this by prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. But Jesus offers us a different way to start our Lenten observance, with a declaration of faith.

A profession of faith accompanies Israel’s offering of sacrifice. By reciting, in a very abbreviated form, the saving work of God they not only recall their gifts of freedom and land, but their offering of the first fruits of the harvest becomes a symbol of their faith. 

Artistic Temptations

Like the ancient Hebrews Jesus begins His ministry with a homeless wandering in the desert. In both instances it was a time of temptation and testing. Jesus is fully human and we should not underestimate the temptations He experienced after a month of fasting. Yet with each temptation He is offered, He responds with words that are a declaration of faith.

Jesus is first tempted to satisfy His hunger, to take the easy way out by relying on His own talents instead of relying on the Father's providence. 

As we build upon our talents, becoming more successful in our endeavors, we often fall to the temptation that we don't need God. But everything we are, all we can do and accomplish, is because of the gifts God has given us in the first place. Even Jesus, fully God and fully man, made Himself dependent on the Father. “I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me.” John 8:28

When Jesus is tempted to His human hunger he responds by quoting Deuteronomy, “It is written, One does not live on bread alone." Luke 4:4

Next Jesus is tempted with worldly power, “all the kingdoms of the earth.” How often are we tempted to misuse our gifts in order to obtain money and influence? In doing so we create false idols, something we pursue with such single-mindedness that we leave no room for God. But Jesus reminds us of the danger by calling us to refocus on what is important. “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.” Luke 4:8

And finally Jesus is tempted to put His own wants and desires ahead of the God's plan for man's salvation. We too can can easily be mislead into pursuing our own wants and desires without regard to God's plan for us. And we can just as easily be discouraged in the use of our gifts when things don't work out the way we want them to. Jesus again reminds us, “You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.” Luke 4:12

Our task is to use our gifts and talents as God intends for us to. Do not tell God how you want to use your talents, ask instead how He wants you to use them. And wait for the answer, be patient and discerning. Patience can be difficult and we don't always like the answer we get. But only by putting God's plan for us ahead of any plan we may have for ourselves, will we know true peace and contentment.

By declaring our faith, that Jesus is Lord, and that God raised Him from the dead, we are saying that the Resurrected One is Lord over all the earth, over our hearts and our life, and we recall the gifts and blessings He has given to us.

Throughout this season of Lent let us remember all that God has done for us and bless Him for it in our prayer. Let us our fasting remind us that it is sometime necessary to forgo what we want in order to accomplish God's design. And let us detach ourselves from the desire for riches and alleviate whatever hardship we can in our almsgiving. In this way we declare our faith and strengthen ourselves against temptation.

Pax Vobiscum
1st Sunday in Lent

Pontifex University is an online university offering a Master’s Degree in Sacred Arts. For more information visit the website at www.pontifex.university

Lawrence Klimecki, MSA, is a deacon in the Diocese of Sacramento. He is a public speaker, writer, and artist, reflecting on the intersection of art and faith and the spiritual “hero’s journey” that is part of every person’s life. He maintains a blog at www.DeaconLawrence.org and can be reached at Lawrence@deaconlawrence.com