RS/MP Lesson 18: “ Stay on the Lord’s Side of the Line” (George Albert Smith Manual)
Posted by kirkcaudle on September 12, 2012
A link to the full lesson is here.
This lesson is about a choice. Yes, a choice. Actually, the choice. I do not believe that our choices in life are plural. We can sit around and talk about how much we sin or how many hours of church service that we put in every week, but in the end does that really matter? I don’t think so. However, those choices are easy for us to focuses on (for the better or the worse) because they only symptoms of the actual choice. The real choice arrives when it comes to choosing between either following Jesus Christ or following Satan. In a nutshell, will we choose to follow good or evil?
How do we know who we are following and how do we know whose side we are on? Well, President Smith says, “If you love your neighbor as yourself, you are on the Lord’s side of the line,” and whoever is “finding fault with the things that God has given to us for our guidance is not on the Lord’s side of the line” (192). These are both attitude based statements and commentaries on our true desires. It is not the choice of if we help our neighbor that is important. It is the choice to stop fighting the grace of God which then drives us to help our neighbor that is important.
Charitable acts alone are not a sign of choosing the Lord’s side. An individual that is on the Lord’s side and loves his neighbor will have true charity, which “envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own” (Moroni 7:45). Charitable acts are not enough and they can easily be done with the spirit of envy, strife, and self-serving purposes. This can be done with Church callings just as easily as they can be done in the workplace or elsewhere. Christ has told us to love one another, and yet we find fault with each other and invent reasons to not show love to each other. We desire to find fault more than we desire to love. Finding fault with the things of God is an offensive attack against the grace that God is trying to bestow upon us. Christ is giving us the answer to the test and all that we have to do is receive that answer.
In the additional scriptures portion of this it references Matthew 1:1-11. I will quote that at length here and then provide some brief thoughts on the passage.
1 Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.
2 And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred.
3 And when the tempter came to him, he said, If thou be the Son of God, command that these stones be made bread.
4 But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.
5 Then the devil taketh him up into the holy city, and setteth him on a pinnacle of the temple,
6 And saith unto him, If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down: for it is written, He shall give his angels charge concerning thee: and in their hands they shall bear thee up, lest at any time thou dash thy foot against a stone.
7 Jesus said unto him, It is written again, Thou shalt not tempt the Lord thy God.
8 Again, the devil taketh him up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them;
9 And saith unto him, All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.
10 Then saith Jesus unto him, Get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.
11 Then the devil leaveth him, and, behold, angels came and ministered unto him.
We often think of this as a story where Satan tempts Jesus. The problem with that reading is that in order to be “tempted” you must actually desire to “sin.” If one is “desiring” sin then that individual must have evil desires. I have evil desires. I do not think that Jesus had evil desires. I believe that this story is more about a test of faith than it is a story about temptation.
I bring this up because we can read this story in both ways for our personal benefit. At times I am actually tempted to do something because of my evil desires. At other times I am not tempted at all by a certain action but I decline to perform that action simply because God has asked me not to do so. Therefore, regardless of how we read the story (in other words, if you disagree with me) we can still apply the principles to our lives.
Let me provide two examples of how I see the difference between a story of temptation verse a story of faith. I can be critical of Church leaders. I will admit that at times I am probably to critical. I am tempted to sin by complaining about the human failings of my Church leaders when really it is not even that big of a deal. I must resist temptation. I do not think that this was the case with Jesus.
My next example would be me being offered a glass of wine at a dinner party. I personally see nothing wrong with a glass of wine one per month. It will not get you drunk and it is actually probably pretty healthy for you. However, God has asked me not to drink wine. I refuse the wine on the basis of faith. I have faith that God has asked me to not to drink wine even if the full purpose for that commandment is unknown to me at this time. I think Jesus was likely in a position similar to this one.
Next, notice that when Satan appears to Jesus the first thing that he does is try to comfort him with “things” (bread, cities, etc.).It is as if Satan believes that Jesus could be happy if he just had more stuff than everyone else. Satan acts like Jesus would be the happiest person in the world if he had an abundance of food, power, and influence. So often the things that get in the way of us making our choice are the things in the world that can be touched and/or bought. We love thinking that we can get ourselves out of any situation alone. We like to think that we are self-sufficient and autonomous. Satan showed Jesus that he could turn the stones into bread, but just because Jesus could do something did not mean that Jesus should do that thing. Aren’t we in the same position when it comes to choosing between God and Satan?
Satan said to Jesus, “all these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.” For Jesus, worshiping Satan meant doing what he could do rather than what he should do. We can go on fancy vacations, buy big houses, drive nice cars, and do all sorts of other things because I can. We made that money and we can use it how we want. But is that what we should do? When we spend our money on something it shows where our desires lie.
I could do many things with a ten dollar bill, I could give it to a homeless man, put it into a slot machine, or buy a new DVD. Those all say something my desires. The devil will give us our desires if we let him (or at least trick us into thinking that he will). If we make the choice to follow Satan it is very possible that we will gain the world. We will do more for ourselves and less for others. We will use our money to buy what we need, then to buy what we want, then to help others if anything is left over. This is because Satan thrives on the fact that he knows we cannot stand the feeling of deprivation. We want what we want and we want it now. Satan wants us to think that others do not deserve what we have.
Jesus came out on top, not because he made a series of choices, but because he made one choice. He chose to have faith, and according to that faith, he chose to follow God . He chose the Lord’s side. In the end, Jesus ended up getting everything that Satan offered and more. In verse 11 we read “that an angel came and ministered unto him.” The greek word there for ministered is diekonoun, which can be read as one who is a simple servant or an attendant. It can also refer to a person that waits on tables and offers food and drinks to guests at an event, such as a party. I am inclined to think that this angel came and filled Jesus with bread after this whole ordeal. Jesus could have had bread all along, but instead Jesus wanted until God gave him bread. Jesus knew that God had the answer, and rather than fight against it, he received that answer.
President Smith said, “All the happiness that has come to me and mine has been the result of trying to keep the commandments of God and of living to be worthy of the blessings that he has promised those who honor him and keep his commandments” (194). We should all be like Christ and do what we should do and not what we could do. We will know that we are on the Lord’s side when we are filled with love for other people and when we cease to find fault with being commanded to stop doing all of the things that we love doing.