When in doubt, just say “No”.
Go away, Satan! The scripture says, ‘Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!’
This is the third and final temptation in the desert, and Jesus once again uses scripture as a weapon against the enemy. The devil makes Jesus one last offer: Then the Devil took Jesus to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world in all their greatness. “All this I will give you,” the Devil said, “if you kneel down and worship me.”
First, Jesus repels the Devil. He shuts him down. In self-defense courses, they often train you to instinctively yell, “NO!” when approached by an attacker. This both empowers you and surprises your attacker. When you say, ‘NO’ you cut off the conversation. Jesus’ issues this firm command, “Go away Satan!” When confronted with temptation the best way to shut the devil down is to (in the famous words of Nancy Reagan), “Just say ‘No’”, rather than letting him live in your head and harass you. Send him packing!
James 4:7 says ‘Resist the devil and he will flee.’ I always remember a sermon I once heard about Samson and Delilah. Why did he keep talking to that evil woman? Why did he keep going back to her? Why did he keep the dialogue going? We do that when we keep entertaining thoughts that can tempt us to do something wrong. We need to get Satan out of our heads by cutting off the conversation. Say “NO” when bad thoughts pop up. Say “NO” and he flees.
Then, Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:13: “Worship the Lord your God and serve only him!” Satan tempts Jesus three times, and every time Jesus replies with quotes from the Book of Deuteronomy, the book where Moses shares all of the laws that God handed down to the ancient Hebrews. During this time of temptation in the desert Jesus demonstrates that he has memorized these laws. Would he have been able to fight off the devil if he had not bothered to learn these scriptures? The temptation of Jesus in the desert reminds us that it’s good to have an arsenal of faith-building scriptures and life-affirming statements that we can use when the devil attacks us. Personally, I like scripture songs because they are easier for me to memorize.
So the devil says that he will give Jesus the whole world if he will bow down and worship him. How crazy is that? The devil doesn’t own this world that God created! It’s not his to give!! It’s like the old saying says – the devil is a liar. Like the old joke about the guy who tries to sell you the Brooklyn Bridge.
Of course Jesus doesn’t reject Satan’s offer simply because it’s a scam. He rejects the devil himself. What is it to worship the devil? It’s to covet the things of the earth in this example. It’s to embrace carnality. Jesus is rejecting greed and materialism and competition and self-aggrandizement and luxury and comfort and superficiality and control. He is rejecting the proposition of spending his time and energy on accumulating material possessions and exercising power over other people. Jesus didn’t care about things. He cared about God. He cared about people. He had his priorities straight. His priorities are God’s priorities.
Ultimately we all have to reject the devil and choose to love God, not things. Unfortunately it’s not a “once and for all” decision. We have to choose a million times, over and over again, with every little thought and action and decision. Choosing God over the devil is a process and a continual challenge. It’s a game of whack-a-mole that never really ends. We have to continually discern when we are falling prey to idols, false paradigms, addictions, compulsions, materialism, selfishness, fear, anger, unforgiveness. We always need to remember these words – “Go away Satan!” We need to remember to “Just say ‘No’.”
What does this scripture say to you?