The Human Does Not Live By Bread Alone

March 1, 2009
日本キリスト教団 頌栄教会牧師 清弘剛生 Pastor Takao Kiyohiro, Shoei Church, Church of Christ, Japan
Translator M.A.F., Indiana, USA
Matthew 4:1-11

1. We entered into Passion Season (Lent) as of last month on the twenty-fifth. Lent lasts for forty-six days until Easter. Omitting the Sundays, it is forty days. Upon entering this forty day period, what we are given on the first Lord's day is the message of when Jesus had fasted forty days in the wilderness. While in that wilderness, Jesus underwent temptation by the devil. With Lent before us, the theme of the first message we are being given is on "temptation." It is highly unlikely that any one of us here in this place is exempt from "temptation." As we examine our own selves, we want to listen carefully to the words of scripture.

An Understanding Regarding "Temptation"

2. There are at least four things that can be said about "temptation" from today's passage. The first thing is that undergoing temptation in and of itself in not a sin. When we feel a temptation to sin, we often think that we are undergoing the temptation because we are weak. Also, we think that it is already sin just to feel the temptation itself. However, when we read today's passage, Christ is experiencing temptation. Christ is not weak. Nor did he ever sin. Martin Luther the religious reformer quoted the words of an elder and said, "You can't prevent a bird from flying in the air over your head. But you can prevent it from building a nest in your hair." Letting the bird build a nest is different from its flying over your head. Sinning is different from being tempted.

3. In addition, it is worth noticing that the story of Christ's being tempted by the devil is a continuation from right after the story of his being baptized. At the time of [his] baptism, Christ heard the voice that said, "This is my beloved son, the one who is in conformance with my will." In today's passage, the devil says, "Since you are the son of God ..." The second thing being said is that there are temptations that he will undergo because of the fact that he is the son of God. When you are a believer, when you receive baptism, will being tempted vanish away? Or will they at least become fewer? -- No, they won't. When we begin to live calling God our heavenly father, and when we begin to live as children of God, then we will become enemies to the devil. We will become hated by the devil. For that very reason, the Lord taught the disciples the prayer pertaining to this matter. "Oh our father who is in heaven, do not allow us to encounter temptation, but please save us from the wicked one." "The wicked one" is the devil. It is the sixth petition in "The Lord's Prayer." As for praying to God as "our father who is in heaven," [this] is an absolutely necessary [element in] prayer.

4. But, even though the devil hates us, we mustn't necessarily always think that we will have suffering and calamity. No, rather, the devil comes on with a gentle and trusting face. Please look at today's passage. The devil brought a suggestion to Jesus when he was suffering with hunger. The third thing said about "temptation" is that "temptation" often comes wearing the face of "helpfulness." The devil often brings advice. He brings a suggestion for getting over poverty and advice for solving shortages. He says, "If you just do this, you'll tide over your hunger right now. Make use of the strength you have for that. You can do it."

5. That's right, just like that, "temptation" works in places where we have strength. That's the fourth thing said about "temptation." Temptation doesn't work in the weak areas, but rather it works in the strong areas of a person. How [does it do that]? Everyone, do you think temptation comes to you saying, "Why don't you just command these stones to turn into bread?" I don't think so. [Our] temptations do not come like that; because we cannot [perform such things]. Temptation doesn't work where [we] cannot do it. Still, there are cases where you and I can do them. There are times we can do [something] to deliver ourselves from some misery or to deliver someone else from some misery. Whenever we have the strength to do it, a temptation is also at work to try to get us to use that power in a way that the devil wants it to be used. It is precisely because we can do something or because we have the ability or the position or the circumstances to have something we can't do done that a person sins, or it is because we are able to, that the temptation to sin is at work.

The Temptation To Pull Away From God's Word

6. Well, in today's passage it is written that Jesus experienced three temptations, but, today let's take note of one of them in particular. I will read to you again from verse three. "Whereupon, the tempter came and said to Jesus, 'Since you are the son of God, why don't you turn these stones into bread?'," (verse three).

7. Still though, how is this "a temptation?" When you think about it, it is curious. It might look like a temptation from the devil if it were so much as a story with him saying "Go ahead and steal [some] bread since you're hungry." If it were a message of being in need in general, not limited to hunger, for example, if it were a temptation of "By utilizing your ability and position, you can save yourself from the distress confronting you even if it is by illegitimate or improper methods," then we can make the case, quite reasonably, that it looks like "a temptation from the devil." However, any way you look at it, Jesus' commanding stones to turn into bread does not suggest impropriety, and neither does it seem to bring harm to anybody. Why then is this a temptation?

8. To understand the meaning of this temptation we should probably consider it from the words from Jesus as he rejects the one doing the tempting. The Lord rejected the devil with the following words. He said, "It is written, 'Man does not live by bread alone. He lives by each and every word that comes from the mouth of God.'," (verse four). When we consider it from the words from Jesus, this temptation from the devil seems to be a temptation that says, "[Let's] put an end to man living by bread alone." We could also say that it is also the temptation to pull [a person] away from continuously "living by each and every word that comes from the mouth of God." In short, it is the temptation to pull [us] away from the living relationship with this God [who speaks to us].

9. When we say it's "a temptation," don't we think right away of a temptation towards a crime or a temptation towards some impropriety or some immoral act? But, the devil's aim does not always appear to lie in these outward surfaces. They lie much deeper. They lure one into a much more foundational problem. It is to pull one away from the word of God. It is to separate one from a living interaction and fellowship with the God, who says, "You will live by the word of God." It is to separate one from God that way and then to separate one from true life. If I may be so bold to say it, but the devil could care less whether we commit a crime in which we get caught by the law. He could care less whether we do something to go to prison. What matters to the devil is if he could separate a person from God once and for all. What he cares about is if he could separate somebody from God and his word.

10. In fact, isn't this type of temptation still at work now among us? [I] have not done [anything] improper. Nor have [I] caused injury to anyone. Even from the perspective of society, [I] have not done anything that looks like it could be grounds for an accusation against something immoral. [I've] only found a solution to [my] need with [my] own strength. [I] just obtained bread after looking for it because [I] was hungry. In this case, the very things [I've done] do not look evil in any way, shape, or form. But, by the act of having solved [my] need in that way, [I am] no longer seeking God, nor [am I] seeking the word of God, and [I] don't seem to care anymore about [my] relationship with God, and so [I've] started walking without calling God [my] heavenly father and without worshipping [him] anymore. Don't you think that this kind of thing happens a lot? If that it is true and it is, the devil has been successful in his temptations [against me], hasn't he?

The Human Lives By The Word Of God

11. Essentially, whenever bread is given to solve the need, it must be something to deepen the relationship with God. It must be something to ensure a daily life lived through the word of God. The words of Jesus show this. The words, that Jesus used when he rejected the temptations, are quotations from the Old Testament [book of] Deuteronomy. In the original scripture passage it is written as follows. "Remember the journey in the wilderness of forty years, in which your God, the Lord has guided you. Thus, the Lord has tested you making you suffer, and has found out what is in your heart, that is, whether or not you will keep his commandments. The Lord has made you suffer, let you go hungry, and given you manna to eat, which neither you nor your forefathers had ever tasted. He did that to cause you to know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that comes from the mouth of the Lord," (Deuteronomy 8:2-3).

12. It was originally the story of the time Israel was journeying in the wilderness. In the wilderness their food ran out, and they became hungry. At that time, God gave them a food called "manna." But, it was not merely just to deliver them from hunger. He gave them "manna" in order that they might live in trust and obedience unto God. Therefore, God gave them conditions regarding the gathering of the manna. It was to be that they "gather only the needed portion for each day." They must not gather two day's worth. They should gather two day's worth only the day prior to the Sabbath. Conversely, they must not try to gather [any] on the Sabbath. Those were the conditions. "You must not gather tomorrow's portion" means, in effect, "You will trust God for tomorrow and live today in obedience to God." Thus, they would have, beyond any doubt, trusted God and lived in obedience to God precisely because they were still being delivered from hunger and more so because it was right then and there at that moment. But that's not how it actually went. The people of Israel would always gather two day's worth and gather on the Sabbath.

13. The first temptation referred to, that is written here in this text, is none other than the temptation into which the people of Israel had repeatedly fallen in the Old Testament. And it is none other than the temptation into which we have fallen. As a human being the Lord put himself in the same place. And the Lord has overcome that same temptation. In our place he declares to the devil, "It is written, 'Man does not live by bread alone. He lives by each and every word that comes from the mouth of God.'" As a result, then, at this Lenten season, when the words of the Lord are being read, we return to the life in which we live by the word of God, and we follow the Lord who has already overcome the devil.