“If” Is A Dangerous Word


Lent 1A “If” Is A Dangerous Word

Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7

Matthew 4:1-11

March 5, 2017


In Genesis, the serpent says to Eve,

“If you eat the fruit you will be like God,”

and both she and Adam take the bait.

Suddenly it isn’t enough that they live in Paradise,

they want more.


“If” can be a dangerous word.

It can be a word which entices – tempts.


All of us struggle with our own ‘ifs’:

If I won the lottery.

If I had a different job.

If I were retired.

If I had a partner.

My favorite of late: If I lived on the beach….


If just that one thing would happen,

then I would be happy;

then I would be grateful;

then I would be satisfied;

then I promise I wouldn’t ask for anything more;

then life would be good.


Of course while we wait for any of those things to happen…

while we place conditions on whether or not we will be content,

we miss the fact that (as the tee shirt says) life IS good.

Very good.

There are other “ifs” though that are even more dangerous, more insidious;

That strike at the heart of who we are;

That question our identity.


In the gospel of Matthew, Satan tests Jesus with 3 things:

He tests him with power –

If you are the Son of God – change this stone to bread;

Surely the Son of God would be able to do that one little thing!

Can you?


He tests him with pride –

If you are the Son of God –  throw yourself down from the top of the temple;

Surely God would not allow his son to be hurt!

Would he?


He tests him with possessions –

Bow to me and I will give you all that you see!

Surely if you are the Son of God you would deserve all this!

Wouldn’t you?


“If you are the Son of God…”

You could do this, you would have this.

“If you are the Son of God,” that is.


And maybe Jesus hesitates.

Maybe for a moment he asks himself,

“Am I?”

“Am I really?”


What makes you hesitate?

What makes you wonder if you really are a child of God?


For many many people, there are forces from either within or outside of ourselves

which tell us we’re not good enough, not worthy enough;

that tell us there’s something wrong with us;

that we’re the wrong skin color;

that we love the wrong person;

or aren’t loveable ourselves.


Call it Satan, call it evil, or call it sin…

Anything that puts an “If” in our minds…

If you are a child of God…”

then somehow you’d be different…

is not of God.


Putting a condition on God’s love and purpose for him,

is what Satan tried to do with Jesus.


I appreciate a phrase in the order of Confession we used during the Epiphany season:

It said: We confess to you that we have thought more about ourselves than others;

And we have thought less of ourselves than we ought.


Just as it’s a sin to think too highly of ourselves,

It’s a sin to think less ourselves than we ought.

And it’s this sin that Satan uses to test Jesus…

“If you are the Son of God….”

then do this.


Last night I watched this year’s Oscar winning movie “Moonlight.”

It tells the story of Chiron,

A young black boy in Miami who’s gay.

He’s bullied and beaten by classmates,

and one day while running and hiding from a group of kids,

he’s discovered by a man named Juan.


Juan takes him home for dinner with his partner Theresa,

And together as one reviewer said,

They make this young gay boy know that he is noticed;

that “he counts;”

that he matters.[i]

There’s no “if” you were someone different,

then you’d matter more.


In one poignant scene,

Juan takes Chiron to the beach,

And he holds him in his arms as Chiron learns to float.

For the first time, Chiron learns safety and trust

as he lets go and allows the water to hold him…in the moonlight.


There’s no ‘if” you were someone different,

then you’d matter more.

That’s Satan. That’s evil. That’s sin.

“If” is a dangerous word.


It’s said that when Martin Luther was filled with doubt, fear, or insecurity,

he would sometimes shout out in defiance, echoing Jesus’ words today,

“Away with you Satan! I am baptized!”


You are baptized.

You are a child of God.

Away with you Satan with all your “ifs!”




[i] http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/10/24/moonlight-undoes-our-expectations


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