I have been doing a bit more reading lately and it’s been really good stuff, and one of the ways that I process information is by writing down what I read and applying it to real life. Recently I came across the idea that we are most easily tempted to do wrong in one of three ways: approval, appetite and ambition. It’s absolutely uncanny that these three categories actually encompass so much of what drives us in life. Interestingly enough the three areas that we struggle with the most in life are the three ways Satan tried to get Jesus to fall as well.
Food is an essential part of life to be sure. We all need food to survive. But often our fear of not having the right stuff or enough stuff can drive us to do weird things! And appetite isn’t just about food. It’s about our need and desire for more. Appetite is about gathering for ourselves in a way that makes the created stuff more important than the creator. Need an example? You don’t have to go far.
I mean seriously if you’re being honest you have to admit the toilet paper shortage of 2020 was a bit ridiculous to put it very mildly. People in the world were scared that when the pandemic, an upper respiratory virus, hit in early 2020 they needed to control as much as they could. Store shelves were ransacked. Banks were filled with people drawing out money at alarming rates. Guns and ammo were impossible to find. And toilet paper was gone! The appetite of the American people became so consumed with a self-serving attitude that we gathered when we should have shared.
Turn these stones into bread was the temptation Satan gave to Jesus. You’re hungry do something about it. Fill that appetite with what pleases you and makes you feel better. Instead of falling for the idol of appetite, Jesus relied on the provision of his Father. We would be well served if we focused on what we have instead of what we want. Then our appetite god is less likely to get away from us.
It’s great to be recognized isn’t it? I mean you put in a lot of work on a project. You do a good job. You succeed in what your boss wanted from you. A little ‘atta boy’ or pat on the back wouldn’t hurt anything would it? I don’t mean getting your name in lights and having the world shout your name from the mountains but a thank you isn’t too bad a thing is it?
The god of approval can be a dangerous and slippery slope. While there isn’t a real problem with a thank you now and again the issue of approval turns sour when we seek the approval of everyone around us thereby seizing our actions out of fear that we won’t gain that approval. Taken to another level we’re supposed to seek the approval of God rather than men.
When Satan was tempting Jesus, he tried to get him to get teh approval of the crowds. Go and throw yourself off this peak and let them all see how great and powerful you are. Jesus didn’t take the bait. He didn’t fall for it. Instead he rested in the approval he received from his Father. This approval is the one we need to seek as well. The approval of those around us will vary based on their emotional status and how they feel in the moment. But God is consistent and his approval of us isn’t tied to what we do but what Jesus already did for us.
The final area of temptation to which we often fall is ambition which when taken too far is pride. This area of ambition being a problem is when we try to climb the ladder of success at the expense of all those around us. Or when our ambition is all about making a name for ourselves. This is when things get bad.
Jesus faced this same thing too. When he was with Satan in the wilderness, the carrot of self aggrandizement was waved before Jesus. Satan tried to offer to Jesus all the power he could imagine. If you please me then you get all this. Jesus wanted nothing of it. He knew that his ambition wasn’t in himself but in the promise and provision of his Father.
So there you have it. All of them are good in moderation but good taken too far is evil. Curb your appetite. Seek approval from God alone. And remember that your ambition should be for service not gratification.