It’s almost Christmas, so let’s talk about the big J.
Or rather the two big J’s, Joseph Campbell and Jesus Christ.
(Both have the same initials, whoa!)
Campbell was known for his work with myths and legends. In his magnum opus, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, he points out that the same stories appear over and over again throughout all cultures, tribes and time periods. The stories tell us about the nature of being human and what we can expect during our life’s journey. One such story is the “temptation tale.” This tale shows up in hundreds of thousands of works. The Buddha was tempted, Luke Skywalker was tempted, you will be tempted. To that end, let’s dig into one story found in the book of Mathew about the big J’s temptation in the wilderness.
For those of you who are allergic to religion, I promise I will give you a healthy dose of a secular antidote if you stick with me.
TEMPTATION 1 – PHYSICAL COMFORTS, MONEY
Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.
i.e. you are “called” to do something hard, painful, mystical, scary.
And after He had fasted forty days and forty nights, He then became hungry.
i.e. after a time of work, you notice lack. You lack time, money, attention, payoff.
And the tempter came and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”
i.e. You, your spouse, your tribe, your culture begs you to “Give up your silly dream and get a real job!” You must endure nagging thoughts such as, “Maybe this is all childish and I should be normal and go finish my engineering degree, like my parents want me to!”
But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”
i.e. You stand up for yourself, telling your spouse, your tribe, your culture, “I must follow my heart and work on my dream. Money isn’t the only thing I care about.”
TEMPTATION 2 – EGO VALIDATION, BRAGGING RIGHTS, SHOWING OFF
Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘He will command his angels concerning you and on their hands they will bear you up, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.”
i.e. You say to yourself, “I am special and the rules don’t apply to me! I shouldn’t have to work hard, fight for my place or cultivate talent!”
Jesus said, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.”
i.e. You realize the moment your ego enters the picture, the Muse/God/the world/whatever gets angry and retaliates. You don’t get what you want. You MUST put in the work, get better and pay close attention to your craft.
TEMPTATION 3 – SOCIAL STANDING, BEING “LOOKED WELL UPON”
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 things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me.”
i.e. We understand that if we give up our dream, we will be “looked well upon” by a society that favors the standard, the midline, the top of the bell curve. Our parents will be pleased that we finally “found the way.”
Then Jesus said to him, “Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘You Shall Worship the Lord your God and serve him only.”
i.e. You realize that to serve your calling, you must risk social rejection, humiliation, fear and expulsion from the tribe in order to achieve interesting things that will ultimately benefit others.
These stories of temptation pop up again and again in movies, books, religious texts because they really do happen. They happen every day to ordinary people.
Every one of us who attempts to do something hard will undergo the above temptations many times, to many varying degrees. Sometimes several will strike in one day. We will work hard to overcome them, then they will strike with new force the next day. Sometimes they will beat us for years or even decades. Some, as Oliver Holmes states, “Die with their music still in them.”
At these times of suffering and want, it helps to remember the stories. Jesus was born in humble circumstances. You will start at the bottom.
Jesus followed his calling, was tempted and eventually crucified. You will follow your calling, experience thousands of trials and your old self will have to “die.”
Jesus was resurrected. You will be reborn into a different kind of person than you were before. You will rise above your old self, and possibly the mundane world of turmoil and drama.
Merry Christmas, faithful blog readers!!
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