The Temptations—or is it “Just My Imagination”?

How fun is it to sing along to “My Girl”? We all have those songs that when they come on the radio we can’t help but roll down the windows, crank up the volume, and jam out; and I have to admit, The Temptations’ hits definitely make that list for me 🙂

This Sunday’s scripture is Luke 4:1-13, all about the temptation of Jesus:

Jesus returned from the Jordan River full of the Holy Spirit, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness. There he was tempted for forty days by the devil. He ate nothing during those days and afterward Jesus was starving. The devil said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, command this stone to become a loaf of bread.”

Jesus replied, “It’s written, People won’t live only by bread.”

Next the devil led him to a high place and showed him in a single instant all the kingdoms of the world. The devil said, “I will give you this whole domain and the glory of all these kingdoms. It’s been entrusted to me and I can give it to anyone I want. Therefore, if you will worship me, it will all be yours.”

Jesus answered, “It’s written, You will worship the Lord your God and serve only him.”

The devil brought him into Jerusalem and stood him at the highest point of the temple. He said to him, “Since you are God’s Son, throw yourself down from here; for it’s written: He will command his angels concerning you, to protect you and they will take you up in their hands so that you won’t hit your foot on a stone.”

Jesus answered, “It’s been said, Don’t test the Lord your God.” After finishing every temptation, the devil departed from him until the next opportunity.

As we study this scripture passage this week, this Sunday’s sermon focus will be centered around the exploration of our personal temptation points. What are our priorities? Where do we spend our resources, our time– what demands our allegiance: pride, self-worth, envy, ambition?

I don’t know if we usually consider music as having much to do with temptation. Maybe it’s because it’s not tangible: we can be tempted by a jelly donut, and if we give in, eventually we won’t fit into our jeans. But if we’re tempted by music that glorifies things we know aren’t in line with our faith, can we see the consequences in the same way? A steady diet of that won’t make our jeans fit differently… but it might make our faith fit a bit differently.

The danger lies in music that’s catchy, singable, and popular, but that venerates things like superficiality, greed, lust, materialism, vanity, cynicism, not to mention alcohol abuse. I found myself tempted last year by the popular and catchy song “Take Me to Church” by Hoosier. It’s so easy to sing along to, but the song idolizes casual relationships to the point that it literally worships youth and the human body. And we know those aren’t the words that Jesus wants coming out of our mouths, or out of our hearts.

Many listen to Christian radio because it guarantees some level of appropriateness, especially with little ears listening. But not all popular music is the same: Andy Grammer’s pop hit “Honey I’m Good” from last year is a catchy and heartening ode to faithfulness in relationships, and its music video is filled with dozens of couples holding up signs with the number of years they’ve been together. It is a fun and meaningful tribute to making the right decision and choosing to prioritize a committed relationship over the temptation of fleeting pleasures. That message is definitely one that I hope was listened to and internalized by the young people who heard the song– plus, it’s so much fun to sing along with such a catchy melody that also has such solid lyrics!

What it seems to boil down to is this: as Christians living in the world, whatever kind of music we listen to, whichever radio station we turn to, are we aware of the content of what we’re hearing and singing? Is our music tempting but spiritually bereft, or will it bolster our faith and bring us closer to God?

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