Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Tempted by life, liberty, & the pursuit of happiness

Hebrews 4:15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin.

I'm a total geek when it comes to both religion and civics. So last night, I'm teaching at Vacation Bible School on Matthew 4:1-11, when Satan tempts Jesus in the desert and it hits me. Christ was tempted in every way we are- with the very inalienable rights that Jefferson claimed that He (God, therefore Jesus) endowed us with.

Stay with me.

So Jefferson derived his "Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness" from the writings of royal pediatrician and British natural rights philosopher, John Locke. Part of what Lock believed made us all the same and therefore all "created equal," were what he called natural rights. He believed that he had observed that everyone is driven toward certain things, life, liberty, and property.

Locke isn't the only great thinker to think this. Thomas Hobbes believed that we're all in a constant state of conflict and competition for power and resources. Theologians might call that our state of original sin.

Sigmund Freud felt that we are all driven by the basic survival urges of pleasure and pain, or sex and death.

Abraham Maslow had his hierarchy of needs, including everything from food, clothing, and shelter (the teen equivalent of life, liberty,and property) all the way up to self-actualization.

I try to help eighth grade Civics students understand their common need for civility, reasonable classroom behavior, and Locke & Jefferson's rational of natural rights by discussing psychologist William Glasser's theory that we're all driven by five basic and genetically-driven needs; survival, love, competence, autonomy, and learning.

Before you start thinking I'm on a hopeless tangent, let me bring you back to Matthew 4 in the desert.
After Jesus is baptized by His cousin John in the Jordan, the Bible says that the Spirit led Him into the desert where He fasted for 40 days and then was tempted by the Devil.

First, Satan challenged Him to turn stones into bread... Jesus had a right to LIFE after all. Jesus let Satan know that God's Word, nourishment for the soul is more important than mere food for the body (Deut. 8:3).

Second, Satan led Jesus up to the highest part of the temple and told Him to jump off- why not, God promised that you won't get hurt... take advantage of your LIBERTY. Jesus pointed out in resisting this temptation, that just because God promises to protect us doesn't mean we should push our luck (so to speak, see also Deut. 6:16 & Exodus 17:7).

Finally, Satan offers Jesus the world. Literally. All the power, wealth, and fame He could want (PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS/PROPERTY), if He's just forsake God the Father and bow down to Satan, acknowledge who really ran the show. To which Jesus cited Deuteronomy 6:13 "You shall Fear the Lord your God, serve him only..."

So you see, Jesus knows what we need and He knows what it's like to not only need these things, but to desire more of them than we need. Hoarding any of these things, that is ruthlessly pursuing our own "rights" at the expense of detriment of others- that is selfishness, that is greed, that is sin, THAT is tyranny!

No comments:

Post a Comment