By Grace Ida Rajan
WE know people who through short-cuts have achieved name and fame. Some people have become rich on money gained by exorbitant interests and cheating poor people. Once upon a time in India it was short-cut money through lotteries, now it is through share markets. In Christian conventional terms a short-cut can even mean a health and wealth gospel which is a heretic gospel. While short-cuts are unbiblical and un-ethical, narrow ways in contrast are the Biblical and ethical standards of living. I want to try answering these short-cuts to prosperity from the temptation account of Jesus found in Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13.
Here we see it was the Holy Spirit who led Jesus to the wilderness to be tempted by the devil for forty days. We see prior to the temptation, there was this garland of praise from a voice from heaven who said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased.” (Matthew 3:17) The wisdom writer has put it right in Proverbs 27:21 that a person is tested by being praised. No wonder Jesus underwent these tests from devil after receiving those words of praise.
Test 1: Physical need through shortcut:
Forty days of fasting. God who came in human flesh was terribly hungry. It was at that time that the devil came to Jesus with these words: “If you are the Son of God, tell these stones to become bread.” To prove that he is the son of God, Jesus would have yielded to this, for he was alone and he was not going to be a stumbling block to any one by doing that! But Jesus did not want his physical needs to be met by a short-cut. He chose the narrow way to remain hungry. He replied, ‘Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.’
What do we learn from this? We cannot choose to yield to the needs of our body by stealing, sinning sexually just because nobody is watching us. There can be no short-cuts to meet our basic physical needs. Matthew 7:14 says: “But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and only a few find it.” Lazarus remained hungry and it was this small and narrow gate he found to get to heaven. So even if we have to die because of hunger or any other physical depravity, we cannot choose a short-cut.
Test 2: Fame through shortcut:
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple and said, “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: ‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’ Some temptations come to us when on one watches us. Some temptations come when many are watching us. This was such a situation in the life of Jesus. He could have performed a great stunt, a miracle and got a wider applause and received a celebrity status easily through this short-cut. But a God who can perform the utmost miracles did not choose this short-cut, but chose the narrow way of waiting for the perfect timing of the Father God. He also encountered devil who was trying to misinterpret the scriptures through scriptures itself. He said, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’
Even today, in heretic attacks, a believer should use the same formula: “It is also written…..” and try to understand the whole truth of the Bible. Also just to become famous many use short-cuts like copying in academic settings, giving bribe and so on. Sometimes we can even go to the extent of spoiling other’s lives just to become famous. Joseph and Daniel in the Bible are known for integrity in their work places (Daniel 6:4). Joseph, a bachelor proved his sexual integrity even after he was repeatedly tempted by an influential person at work place. Their choices were narrow gates, resulting in loss of reputation, and finally had the former go to prison and the latter to lion’s den. But God saved them and in his own time raised them as rulers of nation. Narrow gate lead us to gruelling experiences. There is however no short-cut to become famous at the expense of following the ways of God.
Test 3: Power through shortcut:
The devil then took Jesus 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.” Devil is known for his lying and trickery all through history. He may be the prince of the world according to John 16:1, but true to 1 John 4:4 which says that the one who is in us is greater than the one who is in the world, Jesus said, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ The power of the word of God made devil powerless at this point.
For want of power and status, people are always tempted to idolise human heroes and money. Jesus chose the narrow way by choosing the way of the cross and suffered and bled which led him to ultimate glory (Philippians 2:6-11). So even if it amounts to bear a cross, we are not to choose short-cuts to attain power and glory.
The way of the devil is easy and always short-cut. It is broad and attractive. But it leads to death and eternal punishment. The way of God is narrow, difficult and unattractive. Yet Jesus has modelled us to choose that. Following God’s ways may either lead us to a punishment followed by a promotion in this earth like how it was in Joseph’s and Daniel’s cases or else a straight promotion from a beggar status to an eternal glory like how it was in Lazarus ’case. Which way do you prefer? Short-cut or Narrow gate?
“You can enter God’s Kingdom only through the narrow gate. The highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide for the many who choose the easy way.” (Matthew 7:13)
The writer is the President/Director of Women Auxiliaries of National Missionary Society of India.