When the Devil tempts Jesus, he saves his best play for last. In Matthew 4:8-10:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” Then Jesus said to him “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.”
Why did Satan save this temptation for last? Because the nations, the kingdoms of the world, are exactly what Jesus came for. He wanted the nations. He desired them. That’s part of what the definition of a temptation is. You have to want the thing being offered. And here the Devil is offering something Jesus desires. The nations of the world. But with a shortcut. A presumption. Here would be another Adam eating of yet another forbidden fruit. Another Fall.
But no. Jesus would not accept the nations as a gift from Satan. He would lay claim to them on the field of battle. He would only accept them by right of conquest.
Once upon a time, there was a house that had a sewage leak in the basement. The family had no idea where it was coming from, and as the mire got deeper by the minute, they made an emergency call to a plumber. The plumber came by, took a glance down the basement stairs, and turned to the husband and wife with his verdict. “First things first,” he said. “You need a water filter for your kitchen sink.”
The husband and wife, confused, asked how that would help with their basement situation.
The plumber shook his head and said. “It won’t, not directly. But it will make your water cleaner and help it taste better. You’ll be happier and healthier in no time. I guarantee it. I can install one tonight.”
The husband, getting a little angry now, and speaking a little slower, said “What does a filter have to do with sewage leaking into our basement?”
The plumber got a little indignant himself, and said “Nothing. But the quality of the water you drink is very important. Don’t you care about what your children are drinking? Trust me, I’m a professional.”
This plumber sounds absurd, but Christians should be careful about falling into the same trap. “All sins are equal in the eyes of the Lord” goes the mantra.
It sounds holy. And it sounds pious. It has a nice ring to it. But is it true? Is it actually Biblical?
Every sin is against a holy God, and against Him only do we sin (Psalm 51:4). We are all guilty and deserve death (Romans 6:23).
James 2:10-11 says that if you fail to keep the law in one point, you are accountable to the whole law. All of these together can sometimes tempt us to flatten all offenses and treat them all as equal, and to think that God treats them all as equal.
But we’re going to deconstruct this notion. And we’re going to start with everyone’s favorite punching bag: the Pharisees.
Jesus and the Pharisees
One of the warnings given against any kind of hierarchy of sin is that it will tempt us toward pride, to act like the Pharisee who looks over at the sinner, and thanks God that he is not like him (Luke 18:9-14). It would allow us to look down at the murderer when we are sinners ourselves.
But our pride is creative. It usually doesn’t need any help to inflate. While the sin and temptation to act like a Pharisee is perennial, we often are blind to what the sins of the Pharisees actually were, even though Jesus spells it out time and again.
What were some of his actual criticisms of the Pharisees?
Even Jesus, who enjoyed such an intimate relationship and oneness with the Father, where it seemed prayer would be superfluous – still prayed continuously. Ever vigilant in prayer.
We need prayer, but its not just a responsibility and a need. Because if it were, it easily becomes the last resort of the desperate, Instead of being looked on as the high privilege of being a child of the king.
It easily becomes the ritual before each meal, and not looked on as of being able to enter the throne room of the creator of heaven and earth.
Last night before your dinner, you probably said a prayer, and thanked God for the food you were about to eat. And that is good and proper. It is God that provides all of our needs. Psalm 136:25 says that he gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures forever. We are told by Jesus in Matthew chapter 6 that it is God who provides for the birds of the air, even though they do not sow or harvest. How much more so will he take care of us? And in the model prayer Jesus provides just before that, he says that we should ask for our daily bread. Because our daily bread comes from God.
And yet….how did God feed us? He didn’t
He provided it with common means and circumstances. It was the farmer who reaped a harvest and sold the grain. The baker who actually made the bread. The truck driver who drove it across the country to your chosen grocery store. The third-shift worker who stocked the shelves at 3:00 AM in the morning, so you could easily find what you were looking for.
All of these things conspired to give you your daily bread yesterday. All of these things are everyday jobs of normal people, some would say mundane jobs. And yet it was actually God working through them to care for you and your family. There is a very real sense that when the farmer puts his hand to the plow, God is putting his hand to the plow.
This has some staggering implications, some of which we will be talking about today, but the first one is the importance of the work of men’s hands. Even mundane work. Maybe even ESPECIALLY.
That’s what we are going to be talking about today. And we are going to start at the very beginning. Literally, the very beginning.