The work of art on the left by British artist, Briton Rivière, is entitled “Temptation in the Wilderness.”

Research indicated that the artist composed the painting as an experiment of color and light, but I think there is more going on over and above the academic explanation and the artist’s experiment.

Three of the synoptic gospels share the story of Christ’s temptation in the wilderness, yet the Rivière painting leaves the viewer wondering: is this the moment after the temptation, or maybe before? Trusting in the namesake of the painting, might the artist be suggesting that he has captured the moment when the temptation(s) are taking place?

All of us at some point must deal with various forms of temptation, and to the best of my knowledge and experience, many times temptations happen within the expansive confines of our mind and may not necessarily grow from our physical environment.

Notice the tension in the shoulders of the Christ figure almost as if he has been caught in some sort of inner struggle. This physical tension captured in the painting might show that the Christ is having a difficult time possibly suggesting his choice might go either way. If temptation is real one must first be capable of being drawn into its deception. Is this the moment captured in the painting? Does this picture depict the moments when the Christ could have been lured into a false sense of security?

It is possible to read the temptation account from a parabolic perspective. When this is done it is possible to get into the heart of the passage which brings forth three intrinsic temptations (in the order presented in the passage):

  • Hedonism – which says that pleasure and happiness is that which rules a person’s life. No matter what ethics we are taught, choices made are ruled by our own quest for pleasure and satisfaction.
  • Egoism – the notion that the self comes first, beyond anyone else, or a group having nothing to do with an ethical/moral choice as the “I” comes before all things.
  • Materialism – a system of personal and public honor based upon what one owns, or can acquire without regard for what happens to others in the process. Materialism places higher value on material goods over and above the intrinsic quality of life.

By stripping away Biblical language contained within the temptations, it is easy to accept the notion that these three temptations are still with us, and continue to be problematic for humankind, contributing to many forms of evil.

Reading the Temptation Passage as a parable shifts the focus away from Jesus overcoming temptations thereby allowing the reader the opportunity to be confronted with the distinct possibility that Hedonism, Egoism, and Materialism have played an important role in our lives.

This parabolic passage may also ask if we, as a people, might have given authority to elected officials, organizations, or business leaders who have succumbed to the temptation of Hedonism, Egoism and Materialism. This passage can be placed not only upon individuals, and organizations, but address a nation as well.

Clearly, Hedonism, Egoism and Materialism are with us, and continue to hold power over our lives, and will continue to do so until we can muster the strength, and wisdom to say to not only recognized them for what they are: an evil to be avoided, and not raised to the level of human competence. But…at least the artist offers his own insertion of hope (scroll up and view the Rivière detail)….as the Christ is seated on the rock, in the middle of his struggle, above his head you may have noticed the morning star. This star can represent a new dawn as well as a new hope….let us pray it can be so.

 

This is a second in a series of reflections based upon random pictures friends have posted on Facebook