Temptation of Jesus, Part 3: The Lust of the Eyes

The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World (from left to right, top to bottom): Great Pyramid of GizaHanging Gardens of BabylonTemple of ArtemisStatue of Zeus at OlympiaMausoleum at HalicarnassusColossus of Rhodes, and the Lighthouse of Alexandria, Public Domain

Looks are not everything.

A beautiful young woman walks in a bar with her boyfriend and says to him, “You sure are lucky to be with me. I am a Maserati in a world of Kia’s.” Bemused the man replies, “What? You mean overpriced, unreliable and will lose half of your value in 5 years?”

True story: I was in the Army during the Reagan-Bush era. The years leading up to the Gulf War were lean ones in the military, and those in charge were in the beginning stages of shrinking down the Army. We had a lot of deadlined equipment, but they would cover it up with paper and would sometimes take the equipment off deadline whether it worked or not. In fact, it was so bad that we had one truck that was on deadline for six months because the gas gauge did not work. When it ran out of fuel during a field exercise, there were threats of getting disciplinary action, but we produced week after week of inspection reports with the non-working gauge on it. During the annual IG inspection, we washed, we painted, we did dress right dress of equipment, but much of it did not work. We started saying, “It doesn’t work, but it sure does look good!”

Looks are not everything, but the world is always seeking the good looking, the shiny, the attractive, and so on. Mr Sargent mentioned a while back his mom, before coming into the Church, had a tendency to vote for whomever was most good-looking, and I can tell you that I actually had someone tell me that once. To me it is most bizarre, but there really are people who worry more about looks than functionality, competency, viability, or any of the other qualities that I would value far more.

This is a reminder of the three main ways Satan tries to get us to stumble.

16 For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world.

~1Jn 2:16 (NKJV)

Now, there is nothing wrong with a thing or a person that/who is good-looking. Art is often based upon looks, and that is often, albeit not always, one of the main purposes to add to the atmosphere by providing something pleasing to the eye. You look at a beautiful blue sky, the majestic mountains, a flower or a rainbow, and I think you can understand that God also values beauty. However, beauty has its limits, doesn’t it? We need to keep in mind what is important, and we need to measure our priorities by God’s priorities. To use an analogy, mankind’s values are something like hanging up a Rembrandt in a run-down shack with a leaky roof. It’s backwards.

Anything but God’s priorities is idolatry. I find it ironic that we call movie and rock stars “idols”. There even is a TV show called “American Idol”. I find it ludicrous that just because someone is good looking, can sing a note or two or say a line or two, that people care about their opinions on important life matters. Their political, and sometimes their religious views, become “news-worthy”. God does not value outward appearance as mankind does.

But the Lord said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”

~1Sa 16:7 (ESV)

Am I exaggerating the notion that appearances can lead to idolatry? Satan did not think so when he tempted Eve. He also did not think so when he tempted Jesus in the wilderness.

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, “I will give You all these things if You will fall down and worship me.”[a]

10 Then Jesus told him, “Go away,[b] Satan! For it is written:

Worship the Lord your God,
and serve only Him.”[c]

~Mt 4:8-10 (HCSB)

There are two obvious appeals Satan was making here. Firstly, the notion that there was an easier way. In effect, he was offering a shortcut to Jesus. Why do it the hard way? Why suffer and die, when you can have it now?

Second, notice the devil showed Jesus “their splendor”. I’ll paraphrase his likely remarks, “Look how beautiful and wonderful all these things are! Look at the architecture, the arts, the theater and all the beautiful things of this world! It can all be yours.” This is an appeal to the lust of the eyes. He expected this lust to be the final ingredient to lure Jesus into committing idolatry.

Satan’s promise was, even assuming the best, a hollow promise. Even if Satan did stood by his word (which is questionable to begin with) and give those kingdoms to Jesus, what then? Jesus would have lived His life and eventually died, and Satan would have maintained control. However, many fall for this tactic all the time because sometimes the right thing just seems too hard, doesn’t it?

That’s not all, though. Mankind would have still been missing the one ingredient they would need to actually fix the world’s problems. Without the Holy Spirit, wars would have continued, sin would still be prevalent, and mankind would still be doomed. Not only that, but Jesus would probably not have the power to stop any of it. It would have been like ancient Israel wandering the wilderness all over again, but with a human leader instead of a supernatural leader.

I have mentioned before that as the western world becomes more secular, politics has replaced the vacuum and become a form of religion itself. Not only is it a form of idolatry, but think about how ancient civilizations, including Rome where Jesus lived, treated their rulers like gods. We can forget that emperor worship was a very real thing, and it will be again one day.

Jesus knew better. He knew His Kingdom is not of this world, and He rejected the world’s values, the world’s governments and the world’s politics. Seriously, given this recent election, can anyone look at the politics of this world and say any of it is godly? All of the strife, confusion and animosity will not be a part of God’s government in the Kingdom of God.

Mr Franks mentioned in the latest In Accord that we are not to become involved in the disputes of this world, but rather we are to prioritize the coming Kingdom of God. He mentioned that if our mission changes depending upon an election, then that indicates we don’t have the right mission.

Are we in the Church immune to idolatry? Careful how you answer. Paul wrote in 1Co 10:7 to the church in Corinth to not be idolaters as the ancient Israelites were. Two of the churches in Revelation are warned to not eat things offered to idols. Then, there is 1Jn 5:21.

21 Little children, keep yourselves from idols. Amen.

~1Jn 5:21 (NKJV)

There are many ways we can set up idols within our hearts. Obviously, these things must sound good, look good or promise us something we desire. The lust of the eyes is a major way that idols can enter our hearts and minds. We must be on guard against Satan’s tactics and fight the allure of the ways of this world. We must hold dear the values that God holds, for those will be the lasting values in the Kingdom of God.

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