Matthew 4:5 Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. 6 “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written: “‘He will command his angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’” 7 Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test."
How often has someone said to you, "If you were really _____, you would ______"? This can often be a way of shaming someone, or trying to get someone them to do something you want them to do. Oftentimes misguided parents may use this as a way to change their child's behavior.
The devil seems to use this strategy in tempting Jesus for the second time in the wilderness. He appeals to Jesus' pride by telling him to jump off the temple. It would be an amazing miracle for the people to see in the place they gathered to worship. We even see Satan misquoting Scripture in His temptation. This reveals two things. One, the devil knows scripture. Two, he tries to use it to confuse us. But Jesus doesn't buy into the argument. In fact, he uses another scripture to point out the devil's error. He realizes that although God promises to deliver us in the time of trial, we are not to put him to the test by putting ourselves into a precarious position.
How do we put The Lord to the test? The devil may not tempt us to jump off the top of the church, but what other strategy might he employ? I think we might put the Lord to the test whenever we use God's name to justify something we want to do. This is actually breaking the 2nd commandment, "Do not take The Lord's name in vain." One of the ways I sometimes hear God's name misused is when someone says, "The Lord told me..." While I believe God does speak to us, this can easily fall into "putting The Lord to the test"! Or, sometimes we can use scripture to justify our own bad behavior. After all, "I'm forgiven so why not?" Even in St. Paul's day people were using bible verses to rationalize bad behavior. They were quoting scripture and saying, "Since God's grace abounds, why don't we sin more, so His grace will abound even more." Paul hears this bad application of the bible and says, "May it never be!"
Where are you being tempted today? God can use temptation to make you stronger, as you rely on God's Word to discern truth from lies. It is no accident that right after He is baptized, Jesus is led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And with each temptation he says, "It is written". Rather than putting God to the test, Jesus puts the scripture to the test. So when you are tempted to prove yourself, don't use it to test The Lord. Instead rely on God's Word so you can stand up to anything!