It’s easier to give a hungry man a fish than to teach him to fish.
It’s far simpler to superficially impress someone than to engage them by putting in some time and the hard yards.
Politically, the quick fix is more successful for one’s grasp of power than the blood, sweat and tears of inspiring long term vision.
The First Sunday in Lent sees Jesus being led by the Spirit into the desert to be tested by Satan over 40 days. See Matthew 4:1-11. It is one of the most dramatised and mystified events of the gospels.
At one level the struggle of Jesus in the wilderness is of cosmic proportions. It typifies an eon-long struggle between what is good and what is not as good because ultimately, it is inadequate. This is a more subtle battle than what is often portrayed as the struggle between good and evil, where choices are sharper and easier to take. Such duality has been strong in the popular imagination. To not feed the hungry when one can, to not attract followers with the best PR techniques one can muster, to eschew the ways of kings and emperors to bring about change – speaks of some higher and more beneficial end.
Jesus displays astute and sharp awareness as he answers each of these temptations.
This brings us to the ordinary day to day level. Jesus’ struggle in the wilderness oriented him to his task henceforth as he engaged what would be his life work one day to the next. Clear focus forged during the wilderness experience at the beginning of his public ministry kept him on track without distraction.
Similarly, we are called to clear focus as we live out our life’s purpose. To what extent are my goals, aspirations, projects, and relationships cultivated by a larger cosmic vision? Is it the same vision that inspired Jesus, the one that grounded the realm of shalom – the reign of wholesome other-centred relationship with self, neighbour, environment, universe and Creator? And are we prepared to pay the costs of exercising such vision?