The Three-Question Challenge
I’ve always been challenged by the stark, jarring dialogue in the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Imagine, Jesus and the Devil face to face in verbal combat! I was reading through it again recently when, for the first time, I considered the content of the exchange through a steward’s lens. I discovered in the encounter a confrontation of kingdoms. Simply put, the enemy asks Jesus two-kingdom questions and Jesus gives one-kingdom answers. Let me explain.
The two kingdoms refers to the way we divide our life up into the things we surrender to God (His kingdom) and those parts of our lives and relationships we hold onto in a desire to exercise control (our kingdom). In our sin, we are all second-kingdom builders. The power behind the things in our second kingdoms rob us of the abundant life God created us to live – the life of the one-kingdom steward where Jesus is Lord of everything.
Thinking in this two kingdom way, consider the questions the enemy asks of Jesus. And be prepared, because he asks the same questions to us every day.
The first question the enemy asks is, “What do you need?” He knows Jesus is hungry and he offers a solution – his solution – for meeting the need. “Make bread from stones, eat something.” The enemy meets Jesus at the moment of his greatest vulnerability and offers the simplest of solutions. In a two-kingdom mindset, the solution is logical. It places the control of the situation in Jesus’ hands. In essence, the enemy is saying, “Take control. Meet your own needs. Rely on your own actions.” Jesus refuses. His retort is a recommitment to one-kingdom surrender. He will live by the Words of His Father, not the bread He can make himself.
The enemy asks us this question every day, “what do you need?” In our moments of greatest need he will offer two-kingdom solutions, all of them throwing us back on ourselves to rely on our own strength, skills, wisdom and resources. He tempts us to set aside trust in God and obedience to His ways, and convinces us the best solution is to become our own provider. Where is he tempting you to make your own bread out of stones instead of relying on the power of the word of God?
The second question is, “What do you want?” The enemy shows Jesus the world and offers it to Him. If we desire to build our own kingdoms, the enemy will cheer us on and offer to help us along the way. Prideful ambition, misplaced security, worldly measurements of success – these are the raw materials for kingdom builders. Look deep inside yourself – what drives you? Jesus knew the answer, it was a life that honored God and God alone. It was the pursuit of success measured in kingdom metrics and a life lived according to kingdom values.
The enemy asks us every day, “what do you want? What are your ambitions? What drives you?” For followers of Jesus, the only possible answer is, “to know His will and do it faithfully.” The enemy counters, “I can give you so much more, put you in control and help you define success in your own terms.” Where have you bought that lie and pursued success – what you want – in second kingdom terms?
The final question he asks is this, “Who do you think you are?” He tempts Jesus to leap from the top of the temple, to do the spectacular, grasp at fame and generate applause. Building reputation as a people pleaser drives many of us. It is a big part of our second kingdom and the enemy knows it. If he can entice us to tie our identity to our accomplishments instead of our sonship in Christ, he has scored a great victory. So he mocks Jesus, “If you are the Son of God, prove it.” Jesus didn’t take the bait. One- kingdom people are confident in their identity in Christ. They don’t need to put God to the test, to prove it to others, or themselves.
Every day the enemy asks us, “who do you think you are?” He mocks our desire to be faithful and digs at our identity. He offers us choices that secure accolades from peers, tempts us to compromise to shore up our pride, and encourages us find our satisfaction in work that generates the most applause. Jesus simply asks us to find our identity in Him and be faithful in response. Where is the enemy causing you to question your self-image or succeeding in convincing you to tie your reputation to anything but Christ?
As our incarnate Savior, Jesus not only bears the fullness of our humanity, but He wins the victories on our behalf and promises to give us the power to do the same. He rebuked the enemy three times, and if we are in Him, so can we.
The enemy will ask you today, “What do you need? What do you want? Who do you think you are?”
How will you answer?