Me Free 10: Is This Overkill?

Note: We encountered technical difficulties today - no audio or video - sorry!

We continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

The gist of this step is to remain mindful of our attitudes and behaviors in order to stay sober, conscious, and thus more able to live into our True Selves.

Just after Jesus was baptized, The Gospel of Matthew writes that he went on a camping trip to 40 days in the wilderness.  The writer of the Gospel was not giving us a mere biographical account.  Much more than that, each Gospel attempts to paint a deeper, richer picture of the Jesus each Gospel wants to portray.  It’s not just a story about a person, but also God, the world, humanity, cosmology, eschatology – and how everything works together.  Recalling that each Gospel drew from a variety of sources, and that writers of that time did not feel pressured to conform to our love of literalism, they used all the tools in their toolbox to communicate what they wanted about Jesus. 

The temptation story of Jesus is an example of such literary freedom.  Whether or not Jesus literally experienced such a weird encounter with the personification of evil called Satan, the account remains true…

Next Jesus was taken into the wild by the Spirit for the Test. The Devil was ready to give it. Jesus prepared for the Test by fasting forty days and forty nights. That left him, of course, in a state of extreme hunger, which the Devil took advantage of in the first test: "Since you are God's Son, speak the word that will turn these stones into loaves of bread."

Jesus answered by quoting Deuteronomy: "It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God's mouth."

For the second test the Devil took him to the Holy City. He sat him on top of the Temple and said, "Since you are God's Son, jump." The Devil goaded him by quoting Psalm 91: "He has placed you in the care of angels. They will catch you so that you won't so much as stub your toe on a stone."

Jesus countered with another citation from Deuteronomy: "Don't you dare test the Lord your God."

For the third test, the Devil took him on the peak of a huge mountain. He gestured expansively, pointing out all the earth's kingdoms, how glorious they all were. Then he said, "They're yours—lock, stock, and barrel. Just go down on your knees and worship me, and they're yours."

Jesus' refusal was curt: "Beat it, Satan!" He backed his rebuke with a third quotation from Deuteronomy: "Worship the Lord your God, and only him. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness."

The Test was over. The Devil left. And in his place, angels! Angels came and took care of Jesus' needs. – Matthew 4:1-11 (The Message)

There are some pretty cool things being communicated here – we’ll beyond the literal account.  The first thing worth pointing out is the word “since”.  The prosecuting attorney, Satan, is not querying into whether or not Jesus is the Son of God.  Most translations use the word “if”, but the better, more accurate translation is “since” as Eugene Peterson’s Message translation notes. Jesus’ identity as the anointed one is assumed.  The three temptations are given to help us understand some important ethical issues all related to identity.  Since the identity has to do with being “Son of God”, then the greater focus of this account really is Godself.  Let’s see what we see.

Turn Stones into Bread.  There were some Jews who believed that the coming messiah would bring with him an abundance of food to address widespread hunger.  Thus the temptation is to create more than one loaf, but loaves of bread.  We know Jesus refuses here.  But if you’ve seen the movie (spoiler alert), you know that later in Jesus’ ministry he actually does feed the multitude in miraculous fashion.  Did Jesus cave at that point?  What’s the big deal, anyway?  There’s certainly nothing wrong with feeding hungry people.  In fact, that’s a very good, CrossWalk thing to do, right?  Right!  It is good.  But at the beginning of Jesus’ ministry we are learning about what is most central to the anointing of God, and therefore, what is most central to God.  The capacity to provide endless food for people would bring tremendous political power.  Politics was not going to be the means by which God was going to usher in an alternative kingdom.  That’s kind of ironic, isn’t it?  Do you remember when Jesus fed the thousands?  He did it almost as an afterthought after he taught all day about what it means to live in the kingdom of God as a child of God.  Feeding is good, but it is secondary to keeping first things first: we feed and take our cue from God.

Base-Jumping the Temple.  Round two has Jesus being tempted to test God’s loyalty to him by taking a very theatrical risk.  A circus act, if you will, to showcase how much God cares for God’s anointed.  Once again, another spoiler…  Immediately after these temptations occur, angels do come and tend to Jesus.  And, on a number of occasions, Jesus Does give into some pretty theatrical displays proving God is truly with him.  So, what’s this about?  Once again, the issue is about what is core, what is the motive involved.  Is Jesus going to gain the allegiance through displays of power for the sake of power which lead to more displays of power, or is power not the means or the end?  Sorry to do this twice in one teaching, but, another spoiler: Jesus embraced powerlessness as the center of power.  Displays of power for its own sake was never the tone of what Jesus was about.

Pledging Allegiance.  The final temptation invites Jesus to view the whole world from a mountain top (just like Moses, which was undoubtedly noted) with the offer of gaining it all simply by bowing the knee to Satan.  Here is what is at play:

“The temptation is for Jesus to rule the kingdoms of the world—i.e., to assume the role presently played by the Roman emperor, and to do it by capitulating to the devil’s kingship. The devil’s command challenges Jesus to accept the status quo of the rebellious state of the world, to acknowledge that selfishness and practical atheism prevail, and to fit in with it.” – New Interpreter’s Bible Commentary

In other words, we are learning that God is not interested in changing the world through the means of a system that is corrupt from the word go, but through the offering of an entirely different option that can be embraced regardless of who or what political figure or system is in power.  Side note: I wonder if there is something to hear here given our current political realities, where, according to George Hunter in his book, To Change the World, conservative and progressive Christian organizations have become the useful idiots of the Republican and Democratic parties respectively, who really don’t resonate or care much about the faith tradition which is at the end of the day the same.  In fact, politics cannot be so devoted to the Way of Christ so long as being a true servant of all remains Christianity’s primary mission. 

Each temptation story gives us stuff to think about regarding God’s character, nature, and mission in the world.  Each temptation is an opportunity for Jesus to decide who he is and who he wants to remain.  He decision, again and again, is to remain first and foremost the son-child of God that he is.  The point of Step 10 is to remind us that we were given the same question: who are we and who do we desire to become?

Richard Rohr notes that there are times when we do not live out of this True Self Way of Christ:

“Whenever you do anything stupid, cruel, evil, or destructive to yourself or others, you are at that moment unconscious, and unconscious of your identity. If you were fully conscious, you would never do it. Loving people are always highly conscious people. To rely on any drug or substance [or alternative identity or personal happiness program] is to become unconscious.” 

The goal for us in this step is to live in conscious awareness.  Rohr continues, “Consciousness is not the seeing but that which sees me seeing. It is not the knower but that which knows that I am knowing. It is not the observer but that which underlies and observes me observing.” I believe Jesus mastered this kind of centered living.  He was a human being anointed by God, but had to choose to live into that anointing.  He chose to live aware, awake, consciously as a son of God.

How do we cultivate this step into our lives?  Rohr suggests the following: “Don’t judge, just look can be your motto – and now with the very eyes of God. That will awaken consciousness, and then things will usually take care of themselves, with even the least bit of honesty and change.”  When we fully embrace the reality that we are truly children of God – “since!” – we can enter the process with confidence that God will welcome us as we do, even helping us: “‘The Spirit will help you in your weakness’ (Roman’s 8:26). From this most positive and dignified position you can let go of, and easily ‘admit your wrongs.’ You’re being held so strongly and so deeply that you can stop holding onto, or defending, yourself. God forever sees and loves Christ in you; it is only we who doubt our divine identity as children of God.”

You have choices before you.  First, to believe the really Good News of Jesus that you are a child of God.  Deeply, unconditionally loved.  Second, to discover the Way of Christ which is within you, longing to be given the freedom to guide your life. Third, to become increasingly self-aware so that you can recognize when you’ve chosen the lesser way that doesn’t deliver the life God has empowered you to have.  Fourth, to truly strive to live out of and lean into your True Self, animated by the Christ within you shining through the incredibly beautiful kaleidoscope you uniquely are.  Integrating a daily practice such as The Daily Examen (below) helps us make Step 10 a normal part of our daily walk.

St. Ignatius of Loyola: The Daily Examen

1.       Prayer for enlightenment: “Help me to see and hear you more clearly, that I may respond more fully to your love and follow you more closely through the claims of your call upon my life. Help me to be aware of those times when I have been blind and deaf to your presence and to your gifts of love. Amen.”

2.       Reflective thanksgiving: “Thank you for all the ways you make yourself present to me – through nature, persons, events, situations. Thank you for accepting my love for you. O God, how great you are! Amen.”

3.       Personal examination of actions: “I really do love you, my Lord, in spite of the ways I have missed your presence and have not responded to your love and actions in my life. Help me in these moments to be conscious of the ways that I may become sensitive to your desires in all my ways. Amen.”

4.       Contrition and sorrow: “I’m sorry, God, for failing to respond to your love and for my failures. But I rejoice in your generosity and gladly receive your many gifts – and heartily eat at your table with joy and celebration. I’m not worthy of the many gifts you give me, through your constant love. Amen.”

5.       Hopeful resolution for the future: “Be with me, Lord, ever helping me to respond more authentically to your love. By your help I will see you more clearly, love you more dearly, and follow you more nearly, day by day, and serve you from this moment on. Amen.”


*This teaching summary is part of a series that dovetails the deep spiritual components of Twelve Steps and the rich insights of the time-tested Enneagram.  Understanding your Enneagram Type can provide helpful insight into how you “do life”.  There are several free tests that will surely narrow things down for you, but the Enneagram Test from the Enneagram Institute by far offers the best assessment and provides the richest feedback (look for the RHETI test).  In addition, we will be drawing insight from two books as we follow Jesus through these steps.  You can get Richard Rohr’s Breathing Under Water (and its companion journal) and Christopher Heuertz’ The Sacred Enneagram online and in digital formats.  CrossWalk will have a limited supply of the books on hand.  In addition, you may find songs for different types helpful in understanding what you’re working with, as well as the story behind the creation of the songs at the Sleeping At Last podcast (search for “Sleeping at Last” on your podcast app).  Also, search for the “EnneApp” for your phone – a great on-the-go option for your mobile devices.  Also, look through for tons of helpful resources from the recovery community.