Jesus was “driven” by the Spirit into the wilderness, as the Gospel writer Matthew describes in detail (Matt. 4:1ff).
That wasn’t by limousine either. But, as I pointed out in the first of this four-part post, life will take you, even if it has to drag you kicking and screaming, into whatever you need for the evolution of your spiritual consciousness. I learned this from my spiritual guide. I heard it beautifully articulated by Eckhart Tolle. And, I know it from my own experience as well.
This does not mean, however, I regard everything that happens to me, or everything that will happen in the future, as God’s will. There was a time in my life when I spoke regularly and definitively about “God’s will,” as many do still, as if I actually knew what it was. In recent years, however, I’ve decided it is presumptuous, even arrogant, to even remotely assume I, or anyone else, knows the will of God. Except perhaps in one place, where Saint Paul said, “Be thankful in all things…for this is the will of God” (1 Thess. 5:18). You’ll notice he did not say, “Be thankful FOR all things.” He said instead, “Be thankful IN all things.”
The most I will say, and I cannot say this with absolute certainty, is this: the great paradox of human existence is that God seems both inextricably interconnected to everything I experience and, at-one-and-the-same-time, not responsible for or connected to any of it. I do not try to explain this because there is nothing to explain. I simply make it my practice to look for the Presence of God in every life experience.
Therefore, if the first detour to avoid in your spiritual journey is the mistaken notion that you can live a trouble-free, problem-free life — that you can live life on a mythical “Easy Street” — the second detour to avoid is thinking there is an “Easy Path” to the life you imagine living — that you can achieve something or get something for nothing…that success without sacrifice is actually possible.
The Myth of “Easy Street”
The first temptation, or trial, of Jesus was at the point of his greatest strength. After fasting forty days and forty nights, he was spiritually strong, certainly in touch with himself and with Source itself.
But herein was the danger he faced.
While spiritually strong, he was physically hungry and weak. Having had no food or nourishment for more than a month, his extreme hunger made him extremely vulnerable. In that state of vulnerability, he looked at the smooth, round stones lying on the ground and was immediately reminded of the small, round balls of dough his mother would knead into loaves of bread. As he recalled this, it was as if he could smell the aroma of fresh, baked bread.
“You have the power,” whispered the devil, which was really his shadow self and the same shadow self inside your own head. “Why not use your power to turn these small stones into bread and satisfy your hunger.”
This was his danger.
It is our danger, too.
Jesus refused to use his personal power to circumvent the normal processes of bread making to satisfy his hunger. In other words, he refused to succumb to the temptation of seeking something for nothing. Therefore, he not only avoided the myth of EASY STREET, he avoided seeking an EASY PATH to satisfy his own hungers or desires.
I think about this every time I buy a lottery ticket. Which, thankfully, isn’t very often.
In fact, I only ever buy a Powerball ticket when the amounts get staggeringly high. And, “high” is relative and always changing. For example, “high” used to be $10 Million. Remember when Publisher’s Clearing House first got into full swing? Ten million seemed high, almost beyond imagine. With the Powerball Lottery sometimes reaching hundreds of millions of dollars, however, who bothers with Publisher’s Clearing House anymore?
Isn’t our state-sponsored lotteries only an attempt to get something for nothing?
Lawmakers know they can’t get elected by being honest enough to tell the voting public that we have to raise taxes to fund education, pave our highways, fund our public programs, etc. What public official ever got elected telling such truth? Or, trying to run a winning campaign by admitting, “A vote for me is a vote to raise taxes.”
What politicians have learned to do is play a foolish game of deception. Voters are complicit in this, too, because we help make the rules and then support it by buying lottery tickets.
Lawmakers, therefore, avoid the more honest approach and use the lottery proceeds to essentially raise tax revenues. However, it isn’t the well-off you see standing in long lines to buy lottery tickets in convenient stores, is it? I seldom see it, anyway. No, I suspect the real truth is, this method of raising taxes takes advantage of the poor. It actually preys on those whose resources are clearly limited.
We seek something for nothing.
Personally, we do this, too. I have often wondered, for example, what I would actually do if I ever did when the hundred million dollar Powerball. Oh, sure, I pretend like the best of them how generous I would be and how much of it I would give away.
When I am honest, however, and that’s only when I avoid the lure of buying a ticket, I know that all my imaginary generosity is only to appease the guilt I feel. Anybody who has ever stood in line to buy a lottery ticket will have to admit far too many of those standing with you should probably be spending what little discretionary income they have on something other than the promise of an Easy Path to the mythical Easy Street.
Here’s another example of the Easy Path people seek to recognition, success, power, position, whatever.
Have you ever noticed that almost every fundamentalist preacher in America who is anti-education, anti-scholarship – and that would be a great many of them – and yet, in spite of their vitriolic anti-education rhetoric, virtually all of them have “Dr” in front of their names?
Why? If the real truth were fully known, many of these want the prestige even they associate with education but they have neither the discipline nor the honesty to take the hard road…the road of sacrifice…to secure a real education. They want something for nothing, to change the stones into bread and enjoy the taste of recognition.
There Is No Easy Path
Here’s one other application for consideration. Those interested in spiritual things quickly discover there is no Easy Path to spiritual awareness…spiritual growth. There is no spiritual success with the discipline of study, reflection, meditation and prayer.
Jesus put it like this…straight from Deuteronomy 8:3…”You cannot live on bread alone.”
But that never stopped anyone from trying.
The real truth is: there is no way to live a truly sacred life on a purely material level.
There is no Easy Street anywhere.
There is no Easy Path to a life worth living.
What’s really priceless in your life always comes with a price.
And the price?
Your life itself.