And the devil took him up and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time, and said to him, “To you I will give all this authority and their glory, for it has been delivered to me, and I give it to whom I will. If you, then, will worship me, it will all be yours.” (Luke 4:5-7 ESV)
Well now way back in the Bible
Temptations always come along
There’s always somebody tempting
Somebody into doing something they know is wrong
Well they tempt you, man, with silver
And they tempt you, sir, with gold
And they tempt you with the pleasures
That the flesh does surely hold
They say Eve tempted Adam with an apple
But man I ain’t going for that
I know it was her pink Cadillac
— Bruce Springsteen, Pink Cadillac
For modern, western people, Luke’s second recorded temptation may be the most tempting. It’s the kind of thing that most people think about, anyway, when they think about being tempted. Authority and power are obvious temptations. Glory can mean “honor” or “high opinion,” but it also can mean “splendor” or “brilliance.” The splendor of the world’s kingdoms includes not only their fame but their material splendor as well: magnificent monuments and buildings, gold and silver, and all the other eye-candy that powerful societies possess.
Responsible living in this world requires the judicious use of power. Luke’s word is actually, “exousia,” which means authority. Glory, however, inevitably accompanies power, and it is obvious that both power and glory are seductive and addictive. How many people, both individually and collectively, have set out to do great things for the world only to surrender to lure of power and glory? For them, the means has become the end.
Like all other forms of self-interest, an addiction to power and glory can exist without the addicted person even being aware. In fact, in our fallen state, almost everyone’s behavior is controlled to some degree by this addiction. An addiction to power can exist even within a family or a work setting. It doesn’t have to take place within the context of world politics. An addiction to glory can take place in just about any group, from a high school clique of friends to a professional association of business peers. It doesn’t take place just on Fifth Avenue in New York or Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. What brings honor and prestige varies from setting to setting. And, of course, there is the pleasure that power and glory can bring.
The story of Jesus’ temptation reveals something about us that must ultimately change. I suppose that might be considered bad news. Most people freed from addictions, however, consider that freedom good news. The good news for us, then, is that Jesus’ faithfulness and obedience won our salvation. Jesus answered the devil’s temptation thus:
It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God, and him only shall you serve. (Luke 4:8 )
Jesus loved God more than he loved power and glory. He was not willing to give his loyalty to any other, and thus he was not willing to turn aside from the path God set for him. The path of power and glory is more pleasant than the way of the cross, but faithfulness required that Jesus follow the way of the cross.