If you scroll through your Facebook timeline or your Twitter feed, you’ll find something interesting. Among the selfies and humble brags, the complaining posts and pictures of people’s dinner is something very sneaky. Most of the time I don’t even notice, but they’re there.
That’s right, ads. And not just any ads, but advertisements that are directed directly at you. They’re called “tailored ads“, because companies are able to gather information through websites you’ve visited or by matching emails in order to match your greatest interests with their products or services.
Kinda makes you feel violated the first time you hear about it. Because it feels like your private interests are being twisting for someone else’s gain.
Which makes me think about temptation.
Temptation is something we’d rather keep to ourselves. We don’t like to expose our weaknesses for others to see. But in our Lent readings this week, something stands out regarding the ways we are tempted:
There is a fine line between our God-given desires and the temptation to use them in ways that are selfish or harmful.
Just look at the way Jesus was tempted in Matthew 4. Jesus is at the center of the Jewish world in Jerusalem. To throw himself off and have angels save his life would be a glorious miracle. And Jesus used miracles often in his ministry. No doubt he would have gained many followers from such an act.
But Jesus’ miracles brought glory to God. This would be about glorifying himself. About seeking adoration and worship. About being a hero rather than a servant. About cutting corners in his ministry.
It’s a subtle manipulation of a righteous desire.
Or look at the scene in the garden from Genesis 2. Eve had a desire for knowledge and wisdom. Who among us doesn’t want to be wise? Our desire for knowledge has fueled exploration and pushed forward scientific advances. We need curiosity and a thirst for knowledge to progress as people and a culture.
But the serpent twisted it. He played on her curious nature and nurtured distrust in her relationship with God. And her actions fractured relationships.
Temptation is simply a gentle twisting of our God-given desires. Things like love and curiosity and connection and justice and peace. But when these desires become about ourselves, we find ourselves hurting each other rather than blessing. It’s a simple but brilliant tool of the enemy.
Just like those tailored ads gently manipulate your wants and interests, he can take truth and twist it into selfish temptation.
Lent is a season that steps right in the middle of this battle. Lent asks me to sacrifice some of my desires — things I thirst and hunger for that can even be blessings in my life. But the sacrifice has a purpose:
By giving up some things I desire for a short time, I am able to step back to get a better view. I can see that many of these things are not vital. That they are not more important than my relationship with others.
Lent helps me see where the truth in my life can be twisted into temptation.
So today may the Lord forgive me because I often allow my godly desires to be twisted into selfish ambitions. May his grace overcome my weakness. May the truth protect me from the lies of the evil one.
And may we all see the thin line between truth and temptation and choose to follow the path of Jesus.