What Are You Hungry For? - Luke 4:1-13
What Are You Hungry For? - Luke 4:1-13
Once upon a time there was a painter. One day he made a deal to paint a woman’s house for her for $1000. But when got started and when realized how much time and effort it was going to take to paint the whole house, he decided that he needed to do something to increase his profit on the job. And so, since the woman didn’t really keep on eye on him when he painted, what he did was he began to mix thinner in with the paint. After all, he figured, paint was expensive. And by adding in thinner, he was able to make a can of paint go farther and thus lower his costs and increase his profit.
After a while, when he saw how much money he was saving, he kept adding in more and more thinner. By the time the house was finished, he was proud of himself. He had turned a tidy little profit for himself, and the woman would never know what he’d done. That is, until he was just starting to clean up and put his ladders away, and it started to rain. As the rain poured down, the paint, with all that thinner in it, began to wash off the woman’s house. Finally, when the rain stopped and the sun came out, a voice from the clouds boomed out and said, "Repaint, and thin no more!"
We’re now into the season of Lent. And as we’re well aware, Lent is a time for us to repent, to sin no more. But we’re also well aware that that’s easier said than done. That’s because, just like Jesus faced temptations in the wilderness, we face temptations in our lives.
One day the students at a certain seminary were going through the cafeteria line. At one point in the serving line there was a big bowl of apples with a sign posted next to it that said, "Take only one apple. God is watching you." Well, further on down the line, there was a tray of chocolate chip cookies. One of the students quickly scribbled a sign and left it there that said, "Take as many cookies as you want. God’s busy watching the apples."
The truth is that when we’re faced with some temptation, often how we decide whether we’ll give in to that temptation or not is whether we think someone’s watching us. Is God looking at us? Does someone around us have their eye on us? Is there a camera watching us?
And so we figure that if no one’s paying attention to what we’re doing, we’ll go ahead and give in to that temptation. And it’s not just people that do that. For example, some German researchers have shown that dogs behave very different when they know they’re not being watched as compared to when they know that they are being watched. In an experiment, they put snacks on the floor in front of six dogs, and their owners sternly told the dogs not to eat them. What they found was that when the dogs saw that they were being watched, they nearly always kept away from those forbidden treats. But as soon as their owners left the room, within five seconds, all the dogs wolfed them down.
Here we are in Lent, a time for us to do some early spring cleaning, to clear out the dirt and sin that we have in our lives. To clean out the temptations that we’ve given in to. But the thing is that just cleaning out the dirt, by itself, doesn’t do us any good. For instance, Jesus speaks of how when an evil spirit goes out from a person, it wanders around for a while. But then, when it comes back to that person and sees that everything is neat and tidy inside, but that it’s empty, then that evil spirit is going to go out and bring in seven other evil spirits to take up residence, and so the person ends up being worse off than when they began.
It’s like that basic scientific rule that says: nature abhors a vacuum. In other words, wherever there’s an empty space, sooner or later something is going to move in and take that spot. And it’s the same in our lives. We might try get rid of the bad stuff that’s inside us, but if we don’t replace it with something good, then we’re not going to be better off.
Probably you know somebody that has tried to give up smoking. But what’s a common problem that people have when they try to do that? Often people who give up cigarettes look for something else to fill that hole in their lives. Often they turn to chocolate or some other food, and they end up putting on all kinds of weight. And so, even though they succeed in getting rid of one bad habit, since they don’t have anything positive to put in its place, they let another bad habit move in.
As human beings, we’re always hungry for something. There’s always something that we’re looking to make a part of our lives. But the question is: what are we really hungry for? What is it that we’re trying to fill those empty spots in our lives with?
When the devil went up to Jesus out there in the wilderness, the very first temptation that the devil threw out was for Jesus to turn a rock into a piece of bread. But in answering the devil, Jesus knew that although bread can be a good thing, that was not where his greatest hunger was. No, Jesus answered the devil by quoting a verse from the Old Testament where it says, "You shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God." In other words, Jesus’ greatest desire wasn’t just to fill his stomach. Rather his greatest desire was to follow in the way of God.
During Lent many Christians fast in some way. Some choose a particular day each week and go without eating for a certain period of time. Or others fast by taking some favorite food, like chocolate, and giving it up for the weeks of Lent. And the idea behind fasting is this: it’s a way to get us to think about what it is that we’re most hungry for in our lives. Is pizza or chocolate or donuts all that we’re really looking for in life? Or are we looking for something more? Are we looking for God?
What are you hungry for? As we ponder that question, Jesus sets a table before us, a table filled with food and drink. A table that is able to satisfy our hungers in a way that nothing else can.
C. Edward Bowen
Crafton United Presbyterian Church