This is the fourth in a short series on the testing of Jesus as He started a new phase of the work He was born to do
When Jesus of Nazareth was faced with the dilemmas of shortcutting his way to satisfaction, he articulated the principle of living by the word of God and modelled it by quoting the word of God in his response.
The next step was a classic counter-measure. He was then invited to throw himself onto the mercy of God on the basis of a quotation from the word of God. It now appeared that the word of God was in contradiction with itself.
Before you close this file on the basis that we are now stuck in a theological ivory tower and you want to get out as soon as possible, you might like to consider that you will face or have faced such dilemmas where you work. There is a biblical principle of honesty, and a biblical principle of considering others’ feelings. There is a biblical principle of supplying needs for yourself and standing up for what is right at the risk of losing your job. There is a biblical principle of patience and forgiveness and a biblical principle of high standards. In each case, in your dealings with people, these pairs of truths can come into conflict.
Most football fans hate referees as a matter of principle but sometimes the referees seem deliberately to provoke irritation. Sending off an individual for celebrating a goal may be within the law but misses the point of the game. Jesus was faced with a perfectly plausible quotation of a biblical principle – that God protects his children. He was then invited to take a risk, and actually do something showy and stupid, to authenticate God’s word. It would have been a spectacular stunt, hit the headlines and could have resulted in a newsworthy display of God’s power. But it was ill-conceived, foolish and would inevitably have turned people off, as much as claiming to see a weeping statue arouses a weary scepticism in people today.
His actual response was to warn against putting God to the test. God’s power is not reducible to a demonstration of support for my stupid actions. Many a Christian has sadly fallen into the trap of making a trivial issue the touchstone of faith or identifying God’s faithfulness with his support of their position. It leads to discouragement, despair, and from others, mockery.
There are many ways by which God proves himself as we throw ourselves upon his mercy and power. He does provide resources and rescue for his people andhe does invite us to trust him implicitly. But he does not want us to say, ‘If you help me make this a success I will serve you forever’, because if the success doesn’t come you lose your way. More importantly, he is calling you to work in such a way that others can see that you trust him because you are walking with him in integrity, not taking the moral high ground or laying down the letter of the law.
Neither God, nor you are here to pass a series of tests. To think like that would be to fall at another hurdle. God is not about stopping you committing suicide. He is about walking with you through work and life. So when you find yourself caught between two words of God look for the higher, third word which resolves the conflict. God will not hide this from you – you’ll see.
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