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Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor.
“All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.”
Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’”
Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. Matt. 4:8-11, NIV. Also see Luke 4:5-8
As we have seen, the first temptation was to act independently of God and the second temptation was to act in presumption. The third temptation centres around having a higher priority than God, to compromise for success.
By the time Jesus was baptized, He knew Who He was and what His mission was. He knew that He was the Son of God and that in order to save rebellious humanity He would need to suffer a cruel and painful death. He knew that would involve reaching the depths of mental, emotional, spiritual and physical pain. He also knew, that after successfully completing His mission, He would become the King of kings and the Lord of lords forever.
Now Satan was offering Jesus a way to accomplish the end goal, but to bypass all the pain and suffering. The temptation to rule the world without cost would have been great. He could have it all for just one little compromise.
Jesus never disputed Satan’s claim to be able to give Him authority and rulership over all the kingdoms of the world. While God always retained ownership over all His creation, Adam did hand over his authority to Satan in the Garden. Now Satan was offering to give it to Jesus. All Jesus had to do was realign His priorities, to compromise for success. It was servanthood vs. rulership.
Satan’s offers always sound good, but have hidden agendas. Yes, Jesus could have ruled the world, but it would always have been under Satan not under God. Plus He would never have achieved His mission of bringing salvation to mankind. We would have been forever hopelessly under Satan’s control and have spent eternity in Hell with him.
Jesus knew that the easy way was not God’s way. God had a specific mission for Him that involved being a “man of sorrows” so that we could move from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light. No deviation or short cuts or compromises were permissible.
In our own lives Satan comes up with “good” ideas. They sound wonderful. They would help us get what we want without all the character-building activity of the Holy Spirit. It is the easy way. It is rusty metal painted gold, when God wants to give us pure gold.
In this temptation to take the easy way out Jesus was asked simply to worship Satan one time. One little compromise to gain all the kingdoms of the world. Think of all the good He could do when He was in control…
Satan always wanted to be God. That was his downfall. Now he wants to receive worship as if he were God. He wants us to validate his claim to Godhood. His desire is get us to worship someone or something other that the only One Who deserves our worship. He will hold out easy [and short-term] pleasure if we worship a movie star or sports or sex or drugs or our family or… He will hold out achievements if we will cheat or lie or compromise…just a little one - you understand - but think of all the good you can do, all the people you can help…
Like Jesus, Who answered, “It is written,” we must stand on the Word of God. We must walk in obedience. We cannot allow ourselves to be distracted. God alone is worthy of worship. We must keep our priorities straight. Compromising on essentials - like worship - will never achieve good things in the long run. We are deceiving ourselves if we think it will. Stay the course Jesus has laid out for you and you [and others] will be the winner in the end.