The Devil’s Most Effective Temptation (Matthew 4:1-11)

Have you ever wondered why Satan tempted Jesus to make the stones into bread? Take a look at Matthew 4:1-11, paying special attention to the first temptation (vv.1-4). Of course, Satan knew Jesus was hungry. Our Lord hadn’t eaten for 40 days (v. 2). Therefore, it’s easy to see that the Devil was striking at Jesus’s weakness. But this doesn’t get to the heart of the temptation.

What is the Devil Doing?

Some have speculated that Satan was trying to get Jesus to use His power as God’s Son for His own personal benefit. Remember, Jesus set aside His divine rights (Philippians 2:6). He humbled Himself in becoming exactly like us, yet without sin. Yet, I still don’t think that gets to the core of the issue. It wouldn’t have been sinful for Jesus to make the stones into bread. He had that right. Eating isn’t sinful. Bread isn’t sinful. So, what is Satan up to?

The Trickery of Distraction

The Devil was using a tactic he has tricked mankind with since the dawn of creation—distraction! Satan will expose our weaknesses to distract our attention away from God. Jesus was fasting, which means He was spending alone time with God. The Tempter, however, wanted to break Jesus’s focus from His Heavenly Father to food.

Here’s why Satan’s Temptation is so crafty and effective (except with Jesus). He distracts us with good things. Satan will divert your attention away from God by distracting you with things that are not inherently sinful. Bread isn’t sinful. Bread is good. God gave us bread as a gift of His love. It tastes good. It’s filling. It’s nutritious. No one would say bread is bad. And that’s exactly why Satan used it.

When we’re distracted with “good” things we don’t realize that we are being tricked by Satan. We’ve conditioned our minds to believe that Satan only wants to entice us to commit horrible sins such as murder, adultery, lying, cheating, stealing etc. No doubt, he does cause all of those things. But let’s not forget Satan’s main goal. He desires to see you perish apart from Christ. That’s why he keeps unbelievers blinded (2 Corinthians 4:4). If you are a believer, he wants to keep your attention off of Christ so you will produce no fruit for His kingdom. Satan hates God and will do everything he can to hinder the work of God, and one of the ways he does this is by distraction.

Principle in Play

Think about it! How many Christians have no time for church because of sports? Are sports sinful? No. Sports can be good. However, Satan will use sports as a distraction. He’ll say something like this, “It’s okay if you miss church or if your kids miss youth group. They’re young. This is the only time in their lives they can play this game. Plus, they love it. You love it. Sports are fun.” Before you know it, your families’ attention is taken away from God.

And it’s not only sports. It’s anything he can use to take your focus off of Christ. Again, it doesn’t have to be inherently sinful. It just has to be effective.

So, what distracts you from Jesus? Food? Politics? Money? Materialism? Work? They’re all good things if used properly, but they can also become “good” distractions. We all have weaknesses, and Satan will use them to divert us away from our Lord. This is why we’re told to “Stay alert! Watch out for your great enemy, the devil. He prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. Stand firm against him, and be strong in your faith” (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Reflection Questions:

  • What are the “good” things in your life that distract you from Jesus?
  • How does awareness of the devil’s tactics help you in overcoming temptation?

This devotional was written by EBG Contributing Writer Brandon Sutton. He serves as the Lead Pastor of Blue Ridge Christian Union Church in Shelbyville, Indiana. He is currently a Master of Divinity student at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He is the grateful husband of Sherrie and the proud father of Emma.

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