bread, temptation, and characterTurning stone to bread is impossible for us, but it illustrates an important point about character.

What’s wrong with turning a stone to bread?

Because Satan Wanted Him To Do It?

I’ve heard this question from others and have asked it myself. All kinds of answers have been given. Maybe the most popular one is simply, “It was wrong to do because Satan wanted Jesus to do it.” I think it’s good advice to ignore anything Satan wants us to do, but this account tells us more than that. It’s about character.

Because Jesus Wanted To Do It?

Another explanation is that it was tempting, and that’s what made it sin. It’s difficult to accept that. I’m sometimes “tempted” to do good things. Just because I want to do something does not make it wrong. Here is what James 1:14 says that confuses some people:

“But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.”

Some people have mistakenly thought that all desire is evil. Most of the desires we have are natural and helpful to us. Even desires for evil are usually just misdirected good desires. Greed is misdirected ambition or love, for example. No one should defend greed; it is sin. But the point is that not all desire is evil. So just because Jesus desired food did not make it sinful for Him to eat it.

Because It Would Abuse The Purpose Of Miracles?

There is merit to this point. People performed miracles to prove their message (Mark 16:20). Jesus did the same thing (John 10:38). No one was near Jesus to see a miracle from Him, so it would not have been done with the right purpose.

But there could be more to it. Being the Son of God, He could do what He wanted, couldn’t He? Not necessarily, and this drives at the main reason Jesus could not turn stone to bread. It’s an issue of character.

Consider The Context

Look at the context of the quotation from Jesus. He did not quote this verse because it sounded good. In fact, it’s taken perfectly in its original context and teaches us a great lesson. (The temptations can be found in Matthew 4:1-11.)

Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE, BUT BY EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD.’ “
(Matthew 4:3-4)

I used to think that Jesus quoted Scripture as a kind of deterrent. That is, He did it to take His mind off the situation. I gathered from sermons I heard that if I would memorize Bible verses and quote them over and over during times of temptation I would overcome. I doubt anyone actually SAID that would happen. My youthful ears probably just surmised it. Or maybe I picked up the idea from the way religious people are portrayed on television. Wherever I got the idea, it didn’t work.

Coming To A Better Understanding

Years later I decided to study this more thoroughly. To do that, I went to the source of what Jesus quoted. You’ll note that Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3. Read that chapter and see the context of the quotation. This was the “Second Book” of the Law–the final retelling of the Law by Moses to a new generation about to enter the Promised Land. And he recounted their younger years as children wandering in the wilderness because of the sins of their parents.

He told them how God fed them and protected them, and how He caused them to walk in the wilderness so that they would learn a lesson. And what was that lesson He wanted them to learn? That “Man shall not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD” (Deuteronomy 8:3).

And that’s exactly what Jesus was saying to Satan (and perhaps as a reminder to himself). Even in such a minor action, Jesus trusted God to provide for Him.

How Tempting It Would Be!

If your life depended on it, you would be tempted to do just about anything to survive. How about telling a small lie? Or a big one? What about stealing a piece of bread? Or cheating on your taxes?

What about misusing something given for a specific purpose so that you can feed yourself?

What about speeding to get yourself to a hospital while dying?

That may be “going too far”, but I am illustrating the degree of danger compared to the relative “smallness” of the sin He was tempted to engage in. And that is sobering.

We tend to excuse sin if we have a reason to do it that we deem “good enough”. I’m sure Jesus felt the same pull.

If I die here, how will I die for humanity on the cross?

It’s JUST a piece of bread. My Father does want Me to eat!

I’m so glad He never said those things! In fact, that gets to a great principle here. The things we tell ourselves during temptation will determine our character. Jesus said exactly what He should have said. “I’m going to trust My Father to provide for Me, just like He said He wants me to do.”

Character counts even in the lesser things.

Overcome temptation by learning to tell yourself the right things. (Consider this while reading James 3 for further insights!)

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