“If” or “Since”?

It’s Lent! I’m sort of excited – which is weird. I like Lent because we tear away all the trappings and focus on the necessities of faith. There aren’t a lot of decorations (though I do love a good Chrismon Tree and lots of candles at Christmas). There’s just me, my sin, and God. It’s a three-way “Battle Royale” for my heart! Who will win?

We always start the season with Ash Wednesday. Read the latest blog from Seedbed to see what that means. The scripture we turn to first is traditionally the “temptation story.” Matthew 4:1-11 is the version I read this morning. In the Common English Bible, verses 3 and 6 contain the phrase, “Since you are the Son of God . . .” In other translations (NIV and NRSV, for example) it is translated as “If you are the Son of God . . .” Little words. BIG difference! 

Using “if” means that Jesus’ awareness was in question. In other words, the devil was saying, “You want to figure out if you really are the Son of God? Then turn these stones to bread, or jump off the temple. Then we’ll see!”

Using “since” means that Jesus’ identity was never in question, but his witness was; “We all know you’re the Son of God, but what kind of Son of God will you be? How are you going to act since you are the Messiah?” Would Jesus use his status to fill his own bodily needs? (Turn stones to bread.) Would he be a manipulative Son? (Jump! God won’t let you get hurt!)  Would he seek earthly power? (It’s all yours if you worship me.)

Of course, Jesus’ answer to all three showed his dependence on God, his trust in God, and his humility in the face of God’s authority. 

We face the same temptations. We are tempted to deny our identity as a Child of God. We are tempted to display another sort of loyalty and damage our witness to the world. It’s either an “If” temptation or a “Since” temptation. 

The only question is how we’ll answer.

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