Shortly after Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, Jesus was “led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil” (Matthew 4:1). While it may be hard for us to imagine the sinless Jesus experiencing temptation, there were certain attitudes and inclinations that even He had to set aside before He could begin His three-year earthly ministry. During His time in the wilderness, Jesus practiced the discipline of subtraction.
The first temptation that Jesus was met with was to turn stones into bread. On the surface, this temptation may seem like a simple case of gluttony, one of the Seven Deadly Sins (Proverbs 6:16-19), as the devil tried to get Jesus to break His 40 day fast early. But the real temptation was whether Jesus would use his divine power for selfish endeavors, or whether he would save His miracles to help others. Jesus resisted, and when he eventually did multiply bread, it was for the sake of hungry crowds that had gathered to hear Him preach (Matthew 6:41-43).
Subtraction during Lent is not only about a physical fast, but also about letting go of those selfish inclinations that hold us back from the full life that Christ desires. When we are met with the chance to engorge ourselves or share with others, how will we respond? This Lent, consider how we might be able to practice subtracting selfishness from our lives.