Sunday, March 13, 2011

All of this can be yours ...

“Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. He fasted forty days and forty nights, and afterwards he was famished. The tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’” Then the devil took him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, saying to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written, “He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “On their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not dash your foot against a stone.’” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor; and he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! for it is written, ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.’” Then the devil left him, and suddenly angels came and waited on him.
– Matthew 4:1-11

“All of this, all of this can be yours/ Just give me what I want and no one gets hurt.”
– U2, “Vertigo”

Sometimes we think we can see it all. We climb to the heights and take it all in. Perspective. A lot of perspective. In the words of one of the members of the fictitious rock group Spinal Tap, while standing at the grave of Elvis Presley, “It’s too much f---in’ perspective.”

Whenever we think we can see the whole picture, we start to get big ideas. If only we could get this group of people to do this, and that group of people to do that, everything would work much better around here. So we gain power and authority, and we seek to carry out our ideas. Politicians do this all the time. People with lots of money do this sometimes without even realizing it.

But if we don’t approach such responsibility humbly, our overabundance of perspective will defeat us … and those we are trying to help. Jesus could have fed not only himself, but the entire world. He could have proven to everyone that he was divine. He could have made all the nations bow down to his awesome power.

But he didn’t. Instead, he went to the seashore and called out to a few fishermen—nobodies, really. I like to think he chose his disciples at random, because he trusted that God’s grace would make these people exactly the right people, over time. Rather than coming among us at a time when mass communication could have made him a superstar, Jesus showed up in a backwater district of the Roman Empire, taught radical new ideas, and healed people. That was enough to plant the seed that is still growing today. And even then, the history of Christianity is littered with unintended consequences!

No matter how much perspective we think we have, we never have the entire picture. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t dream big and accomplish big, important things in the world. But we must always remember that the things we do aren’t meant to satisfy our own need for power and control. Next time we find ourselves at a great height, looking out over the world and seeing how everything connects, let’s not fool ourselves. We have a lot of perspective, but not that much. Let’s not give in to the temptation.

Here’s U2 with “Vertigo.”

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