The older I get and the more tread comes off my tires, the more my eyes are opened to my warped sense of identity and value. As I rewind the story of my career as an educator and educational leader, I witness far too many scenes where I have fallen prey to a defensiveness in the face of conflict and struggle that was centered in my need to claim the respect and admiration I had earned for my sacrifice, effort and achievement. After all, I was working more hours than expected, at a lower pay than most people who worked that hard and I had students who attributed much of their growth, and development to my investment in them. What right did anyone have to question my fruitfulness when I had obviously (at least to me) demonstrated so much faithfulness in serving so many? I suppose if we are honest, my story is not all that unique.
Luke 4:1-12 strikes a profound counter-balance to our self-righteousness and self-pity as our story is drawn into the early ministry of King Jesus, specifically his temptation in the wilderness. Illuminating the significance of what Jesus, fully God and fully man, faced in Satan’s confrontation is references to the failings of humanity that led to events like the flood and the wandering of Israel in the wilderness. In his temptation, King Jesus is truly experiencing our actual temptation and struggle. So what is it that Satan is tempting him with?
- His right to his physical needs being met. “If you are the son of God, command this stone to become bread.” (vs. 3)
- His right to authority and glory. “To you I will give all this authority and their glory.” (vs. 6)
- His right to safety and security. “If you are the son of God throw yourself down from here” (vs. 9)
For the full affect, stop for a minute and reread Luke’s account of Satan’s temptation of Christ. Why wouldn’t King Jesus have a right to all of those things? How is it possible that the only begotten Son of God wouldn’t have earned the right to feed himself after fasting for 40 days, to claim all authority and glory he had rightfully earned, and to demand the angels protect him in his greatest hour of need?
Because he understood it wasn’t about him but instead about the glory of His Father who sent Him.
Our desire to claim for ourselves what we believe we have earned a right to is rooted firmly in the reason the spotless Lamb of God had to be slain. We are created in the image of God, to serve and glorify him, but we have rejected our created glory and replaced it with an idol that craves the self-glory we believe we have earned. We have replaced our call to be Creator-centered with a deep hunger to be creature-centered.
Serving in Christian schooling requires much of us. We work hard, often for less earthly reward. Our efforts are frequently undervalued and misunderstood. As a result of this we often find ourselves in the place where we shout (or at least whisper) “but, I’ve earned the right to be provided for, to be recognized and honored, and to be safe and secure in my work.” It is true that the fruitful labors of legions of Christian educators over time have accomplished great things in the representation of Christ and his Kingdom through the students and families we serve. It is true that lives have been changed for the better as students reach their potential and grow in their relationship with Christ. It is true that students trained in Christian schools have had a positive influence for Christ in society and culture. The individual and collective efforts of Christian educators around the world are worthy of great praise.
But whose praise are we created to pursue? Jesus is more than our example in this regard, he is also our strength. The result of his perfect life, death and resurrection, coupled with the subsequent indwelling of the Holy Spirit in our lives, enables us to be effective laborers in Christian schooling for God’s perfect glory. We are equipped to worship our heavenly Father though our work in ways that help our students see much less of themselves (and us) and much more of him. We are remade to participate in God’s delight in restoring the full beauty and shalom of his creation.
You did not earn your right to be called children of God and to serve him with distinction. Jesus earned this right for you by “becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:8) What an undeserved privilege we have been granted! What an opportunity to be a living testimony that helps our students see beyond themselves and their personal rights to a fuller life, representing the glory and joy of Christ and His Kingdom in all areas of society and culture!
Imagine a world where Jesus had succumbed to temptation and claimed the rights he had earned. What a dark and hopeless world that would be! Now re-imagine a school where teachers and leaders humbly recommit together to a living testimony of Christ where personal rights are submitted more fully to the glory of God. What a beautiful and hope-filled learning community that would be!