Jesus had been fasting in the desert for 40 days. He was understandably hungry, so the enemy presented to Him a very practical and relevant idea. “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3 NAS). The enemy was not saying that Jesus should prove His identity as God’s Son by turning stone into bread, although that is often how we misread the story. The enemy was saying, “If You are God’s Son then You have every right to satisfy Your desires. You don’t have to deny Yourself or be hungry. Go ahead, make some bread and eat. You’re entitled to it.”
Of course Jesus was God’s Son, but He rejected this invitation to satisfy His natural desire for food. Instead He quoted Scripture, “It is written, man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God” (Matthew 4:4). Jesus understood that life is not ultimately sustained by what we eat, but by God’s will. True life is to be found in Him and not merely by consuming His gifts.
The temptation Jesus faced in the wilderness is one we face every day. According to The New York Times, each American is exposed to 3,500 desire-inducing ads a day, each one promising us the life we’ve always wanted is just one purchase away. Rodney Clapp says, “The consumer is schooled in insatiability. He or she is never to be satisfied ‒ at least not for long. The consumer is tutored that people basically consist of unmet needs that can only be appeased by commodified goods and experiences.”
The world, like Jesus’ enemy, tells us that we are defined by our desires, and the purpose of life is to satisfy them. To be fair, not every desire is ungodly or even unhealthy. There is nothing immoral about desiring food as Jesus did in the wilderness. The problem is that we have elevated desires to the status of rights and the thought that a desire should go unfulfilled, even temporarily, or that we should willingly deny ourselves in order to generously bless others, is utterly inconceivable to most people today. To deny ourselves a desire, we are told, is to deny our very identity and purpose! We have made our desires, rather than our Creator, the goal of life. And in this consumeristic soil, generosity is nearly impossible to cultivate.
That is why, more than ever, we need to hear the wisdom of Jesus: We do not live by bread alone. We are more than our desires, and the purpose of life is more than satisfying our natural longings however legitimate they may be. True life flows from the Living God, and our deepest longings are ultimately only satisfied in union with Him.
Real generosity will only be cultivated in our lives when we see God Himself, rather than material things, as the source of our life and well-being.
Reflect: Rather than fasting from food as Jesus did in the wilderness, consider a media fast ‒a time to disconnect from all of the screens that bombard you with advertisements each day. Use the media fast to detox your soul and rediscover that you are more than a bundle of unmet desires.
(Excerpt from Whole-Life Generosity Devotional, used with permission from GenerousChurch).