Friday, September 26, 2008

No Immediate Bailout

I woke up this morning with the Temptation of Jesus on my mind. This is the story of Jesus being tempted by Satan after he had fasted for forty days and forty nights.

“After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry” (Matt.4:2, NIV).

The text then goes on to describe a tremendous struggle of wills between the Prince of Peace and the Prince of Darkness. It is peculiar to me that the struggle did not begin in earnest until Jesus had fasted for forty days and nights. The fasting had to be preparation for the coming struggle. Did Jesus draw strength from doing without food? How could he? How could the fasting from physical food be preparation for a spiritual struggle if he was not somehow getting renewed strength from the fasting?

The fasting was preparation for the coming struggle. All of Jesus went through the temptation: both his divine nature and his human will. They both had to stand the test. Jesus was strengthening the unused muscles of his human nature so that this nature would not fail at the temptations of Satan. The fasting built up his human nature and prepared that inner man for the coming struggle. This was necessary because the coming struggle had at least three parts:

First there was a test to be given by God. God wanted to know: “Will you go through the great and terrible wilderness were neither my face nor my hand will be seen? Will you rely on what you know about me when you can’t find me? Can you trust me beyond the apparent and the obvious?

Secondly, this struggle represents the temptations of Satan. Notice that all the temptations were based on things that appeal to the appetites and senses, a definition that aptly applies to “carnality.” First, there was a temptation that concerns food. Then one that concerns using divine power to do the spectacular for personal gain; and finally the temptation of power, position, and privilege.

Finally, this struggle also is a great personal trial for Jesus. He is tried in himself. Jesus gets to see what he is made of, what his limits are and how much he can bear. How can he be “tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin,” (Heb.4:15) if he does not go through this trial? The trial refines his motives, and distills his intentions, and focuses his energies.

Notice the preparation for the trial: “he was hungry.” Privation is preparation for the proving. Jesus was not ready to be tested, tempted, or tried until he was deprived, first of the heavenly dignities, and secondly of the earthly necessities (Phil. 2: 5-8). He was hungry!
Hunger does three things immediately to the human spirit:
1). It makes you humble;
2). It makes you teachable;
3). It makes you accepting.

Jesus was already all of these things, but “though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered” (Heb. 5: 8, KJV). When he was hungry he was further humbled and made even more open to the Spirit of God. His spirit was even more teachable and acceptable of God’s direction. It was good for him, but more importantly, it was a lesson for us.

Whether you are a nation or an individual, you won’t be tried until you are hungry. Testing and trials are about bringing out the best that is in you, and making you see what is real, when everything else is gone. A trial, with the necessities of life available at hand, is no trial at all. Deprivation and trials are twins.

Economic hunger and privation will drive this nation from its arrogance. When the rich and powerful loose their privilege and power, as well as their money, they become humble, teachable, and accepting of other people and of other worldviews.

This brings me to the Congressional attempts to bail out Wall Street. I have one message for Congress: Don’t bail them out, at least not in a hurry. They are not hungry. They are simply scared. Let them be hungry for a while. Then let’s see what they are made of.

I am saying this with full assurance that many of the people who will vote on the bail out are heavily invested in Wall Street and some of those failed markets. If it was alright to let millions of people loose their homes, farms, and small businesses in a “free market economy,” let it continue to be a “free market economy,” and let the fat cats loose also.

This is not vengeance; it is cleansing. To be truly hungry, in the sense that Jesus was hungry, is to desire food and NOT be able to satisfy the craving. Wall Street and America have been on a gluttonous rampage for over fifty years. We have slaked our appetites with everything imaginable from around the world. We have devoured whole nations in one all consuming gulp, and washed them down with rivers of oil, and oceans of other luxuries. Now is the time to pay. It’s time to be hungry.

We determined the budgets of nations and continents. For years we told the Afghans, and the Turks, and the people of India how much ground to cultivate for poppy plants depending on our need for morphine. Then we looked the other way when they sold what was left to the drug dealers for cocaine. What difference did it make? The U.S. government, Wall Street, the World Bank, and the International Monetary Fund were fattening themselves on every transaction. Gluttony at world expense! The feast is over!

Here is my question: If the innocent can be hungry, then why can’t the greedy? Remember that the Prodigal Son did not come to himself until he was arrested by Sheriff Hunger!

But there is Good News: If you go through the hunger, and the testing, tempting, and trail that comes after it, God will send deliverance when it’s over. “Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended to him” (Matt. 4: 11, NIV). God can make the devil leave. Adversity and the continual fear of financial collapse can be a thing of the past.

Neither a nation nor an individual has to exploit other people in order to get on top. Deliverance can be ours without sticking a knife in the backs of others. There is something good about the test, the temptation, and the trail. It is because of what comes after the hunger and the trial that I know they are not all bad: “angels came and attended to him.”

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