Thou Shalt Not Live by Street Food Alone, Luke 4:1-13, February 21, 2010
 
As we are moving into Lent—a time of self-examination and re-dedication—our Sunday morning services will be a different format. We will use ancient Christian prayers, Celtic prayers, and add Psalm readings. Lent is a time to refocus, to be alert, aware, a time to examine our spiritual journey. That being said, let’s talk about Temptation.

Years ago, I took my preschool-aged son to the mall to buy a birthday present for his friend. Before we entered the toy store, he dug in his heels and began to protest, “Mommy, I can’t go in there. You know I’m attracted to toys, and I’ll see something I want. Then I’ll cry, and it’s just better if I don’t go in.” Though the word temptation was not yet in his vocabulary, he sure knew what it was and what to do about it. —Kari Myers.

A father told his son not to go swimming. The father later caught him swimming.
         “I didn’t mean to go swimming,” pleaded the boy.
“So why did you bring your bathing suit?” the father asked.
         “Oh,” replied the boy, “I brought it along just in case I was tempted.”--Anonymous.

When I first read this title, “Thou Shalt Not Live by Street Food Alone,” I thought it was clever and immediately thought of the temptations we Americans have because of the many fast food restaurants available to us.  But that’s not what the author had in mind. Street food is different than fast food.
 
Some of the world’s best food is found in the same place you’ll find cabs, newspaper stands and crowds of people making their way to work. Some of the best food your fingers can grab is found on the street.

Now, in the States, quality street food can be hard to find — unless, of course, you make your home in some major metropolis such as New York City, where thousands of vendors peddle everything imaginable, from the standard hot dog and pretzel to crepes or knish. In the rest of the world, however, street food is standard fare and, according to many, it’s some of the most satisfying food to be found.

In Palermo, Italy, it’s easy to be lured in by someone selling panelle, a snack of chickpea fritters, or caponata, a lush dish made with fresh eggplant and capers. In Mexico City, where street food is essential to the local culture. Here you’ll find churros made of fried dough covered in cinnamon. You’ll find roasted cobs of corn and freshly squeezed fruit juices. [1]
 
But, according to one street-food fanatic, you must try the tacos al pastor. “Hunks of marinated pork topped with pineapple are cooked gyro-style on a spit until they’re tender. Then chunks are sliced off and served atop two-bite corn tortillas. Cilantro, chopped onion and a squeeze of lime make a perfect garnish.” Are you hungry yet?

Street food typically isn’t the healthiest of foods, but forget about the fact that it isn’t good for you. Instead, think of how the handmade tacos and the warm pretzels are good to you — good to your taste buds and good to your wallet. After all, street food is usually cheap!

In today’s text, we encounter a Jesus who had to be hungry after forty days wandering in the wilderness. sure, Jesus was sinless and perfect, but he was also fully human. That means when we find him in chapter 4 of Luke’s gospel, Jesus is seriously hungry. In place of a street vendor, however, Jesus crosses paths with Satan himself.
 
Knowing that Jesus is feeling weak and hungry, he nudges up next to Jesus, saying, “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3, ESV). In other words, “Hey, Jesus, if you’re hungry and you’re God, then what are you waiting for? How ’bout a little street food? You make the bread, and I’ll provide the butter.” Tempting, to say the least!

Just like Jesus, you and I know what it’s like to be tempted. We know what it’s like to have a hunger for something we want — something that others might say we need — but that we know will serve only to distract or derail us. Click on that questionable Web site. Spend that extra dollar. Talk trash behind the back of this coworker. Sleep in on Sunday. Eat the doughnut. Ignore the kids. The list is endless. Temptation is everywhere. And, like the smell of great street food when your stomach is empty, its pull is strong. The truth is that Jesus isn’t the only one who has Satan whispering in his ear.

So what do we do about temptation?How do we fight temptation and stay on track? First, it begins with understanding what temptation truly is. Being tempted is not a sin. Some people see temptation as evil. Some Christians would probably answer that being tempted is a sin. The result is that followers of Jesus worry about the strength of their faith or the fullness of God’s Spirit in their lives because they feel the pull toward selling out to sin.
 
Being tempted is not a sin. So don’t treat yourself terribly because you’re tempted. It simply means you’re human. I encourage you to read chapters five, six, seven and eight of the Book of Romans in the New Testament for further study of sin and temptation in the Christian’ s life. It reads especially well in Eugene Peterson’s “The Message” version of the Bible.

Knowing that Christ came for the forgiveness of sin does not mean that temptation shouldn’t be taken seriously. It (whatever “it” might be) may not be a sin, but it is a tool of the devil who, Scripture tells us, is “prowling around like a roaring lion seeking someone to devour” (1 Peter 5:8, ESV). And if Satan can lure you in through subtle temptation or an overt call to blatant sin, he’ll do it. Again, just look at Jesus. If the devil is bold enough to try to fool the Son of God, he surely isn’t intimidated by you and me.

Now temptation, like street food, comes in countless forms. But no matter how it manifests for you, Satan’s goal is always the same: to pull us away from a life that gives glory to God in exchange for a life of gratifying ourselves. This is the tactic he tried with Jesus. “Hey, J.C., forget about following the plans of your Father. Feed your stomach instead. Stop submitting as a son. Instead, bow to me and grab some glory for yourself. Why do you trust all God’s plans in the first place? Jump from these heights and see if he has your best interest at heart.”

The goal of temptation, just like with Jesus, is to pull you off the mission of living a life that’s obedient to God and one that gives glory to God. Instead, Satan wants you to walk through life scratching every sinful itch and just gratifying yourself.
 
So, what do we do about temptation? Well, the antidote to temptation is not to assert more willpower, as if we have it within us to resist every single sin if only we try hard enough. Some would argue that the best defense is to barricade your life from as many evil influences as possible. Cancel the cable. Pull the plug on the PC. Homeschool the kids and start making your own clothes. Pull away from society, and you’ll stay far from temptation.
 
The only trouble is that Satan can permeate our perfect world. He followed Jesus into the desert; he’ll follow you, too. Besides, there’s this whole issue of our depravity living within us that can warp almost anything. Seriously, what do we do?

We fight temptation with truth. If we look back to Luke, we see that Jesus decides to fight temptation in a very specific way. He didn’t assert his power, although he could have. He didn’t flee, although it was an option. Instead, Jesus fought temptation with truth. He fought temptation with the truth of God’s word.
 
With each offer (temptation) Satan made, Jesus answered by pointing him to the promises and standards of the one true God. As temptation tries to pull us from God, the greatest antidote we have — our lifeline — is the truth of God.
 
When temptation shades our eyes and clouds our minds, God’s “word is a lamp to [our] feet and a light to [our] path” (Psalm 119:105). We can’t truly live by feeding our hunger, by devouring the bread or by savoring the joy of street food alone. We truly live only when we feast on the things of God.

Know the Truth. It makes sense, doesn’t it? How can we fight temptation or even know that we’re being tempted if we don’t know God’s expectations? How might we know that this choice, or that option, is less than God’s best if we’ve never been inspired to strive for God’s ideal? How will we spot the lies of Satan and self if we don’t know the truth of God?
 
This is one reason the study of Scripture is so essential to the life of a disciple. It isn’t just so we all become Bible nerds. It’s so we can see the lies, hold to the truth, stay on mission and steer away from sin. In this section of Scripture, Jesus is fighting temptation the way we should fight it, too — with God’s word.


Louis Pasteur said, “When the time to perform arrives, the time to prepare is past. Chance favors only the mind that is prepared.” Maybe one of the best ways to overcome temptation, then, is to prepare ahead of time. If we can identify the things that tempt us, we can avoid the places where we may find them. And in the case when temptation surprises us, we can have an exit plan in place.
 
There’s something else here, though, that’s even greater — something incredibly important for us to understand. During his time under the pressure of temptation, Jesus didn’t budge. He didn’t sway. He endured. He did it not only to stay on task, but he did it all for you. We give in to temptation all the time. Jesus never gave in once. But where we have fallen down, Jesus succeeded.

Scholars tell us that during his time in the wilderness, Jesus was replaying the struggles of Israel and being the faithful child of God that they weren’t, so that through him, they might be restored to God. During his time in the wilderness, Jesus was also “reliving” the struggles and temptations of you and me and being faithful in our place so we, too, might be counted as righteous in the Father’s sight.
 
Therefore, when you fall to temptation and prove yourself unfaithful, you have the ability to hold on to the faithfulness of Jesus. You can cry out to God, saying, “I have fallen, but your Son is strong. I am rebellious, but he is obedient. Forgive me for his sake, and set me again on his path.” And as sure as there are amazing tacos on the streets of Mexico City, there is forgiveness, there is mercy and there is grace abundant for you.

Temptation, like street food, comes in countless forms. And it can look and smell incredible! But just because we’re hungry for it, doesn’t mean we need it. Sometimes a thing can be a “good thing” but not the “best thing,” or the “right thing,” for what God has in mind for us. That’s why we endeavor to be alert, to listen, and to discern what might be the right thing at any particular moment. Tuning in to God’s Spirit, and having knowledge of God’s Word (Scripture) is the Great Physician’s prescription to navigate around temptations and into the rest of a clear conscience and God’s peace. 
 
May we model the strength of Jesus. May we run to the truth like Jesus. But most of all, when we fall, may we feast on the forgiveness found in Jesus.

Let us pray: “Gracious God, we understand that temptation is unavoidable. We ask that you would grant us eyes to spot the lies and a heart full of truth. Give us the strength to choose real, lasting, life-giving food found in your word. Thank you most of all for giving us your Son, our Savior, and our only hope, Jesus Christ. Thank you for his obedience on our behalf. Amen.”



Rev. Rosemary Stelz

 
 
 





[1] Ward, Terry. “The eight best cities for street food. Utne Reader, June 2009. Retrieved from utne.com.
 
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