Forum Summary: The Temptations of Leadership

Author: Ryan Price | Student, Living Education – Charlotte, 2021-22

Estimated Reading Time: 5 min.

For the last forum of the second semester, Mr. Jonathan McNair wanted to express that the next generation of God’s Church will need leaders, and the Living Education–Charlotte program has given the students the opportunity to fill that role.

God will give the ability to lead to those called to do so. However, Satan will also tempt them to use their abilities and reputation for selfish gain. Mr. McNair referred to the account of the temptation of Jesus Christ in Matthew 4 as a prime example of this. Noting that this trial immediately followed Christ’s baptism, he encouraged the students to consider that when one is successfully growing as a Christian, they should prepare for increased temptations. He then examined the three temptations that Christ faced, which we too will have to face throughout our lives.

Temptation 1: Pain and Pleasure

Mr. McNair defined maturity as the ability to delay pleasure and endure pain. The mark of immaturity is just the opposite. We live in a very immature culture that is driven by the immediate pleasures of sin and strives to avoid pain at any cost. Looking to Christ’s example, we can see in Matthew 4:2–4 that after forty days of fasting, He was incredibly hungry. There’s nothing wrong with being hungry, and Christ certainly had the power to make bread for Himself, but Satan was tempting Him to use His powers for selfish reasons. Paralleling this with our own lives, Mr. McNair explained that God did not give us our gifts and abilities for our benefit, but the benefit of others. He then asked the students to consider how they are using their abilities. Sometimes, to serve others, you must delay gratification, even going without it entirely. 

Mr. McNair then explained that another aspect of this temptation is self-reliance. We must look to God for our unmet needs because we will never be able to fully solve our problems without Him. As Matthew 6:25–39 tells us, God knows exactly what we need, so we should focus on growing as Christians and have faith that He will provide.

Temptation 2: Popularity and Praise

The second test is a test of integrity. Mr. McNair defined having integrity as being the same person in public and in private, having your beliefs match your actions. Success is a powerful measure of integrity because those who achieve it are put in the spotlight, and people will be watching them. If handled poorly, success can destroy people. However, it is possible to be a successful leader and maintain your integrity. 

Looking again to Christ’s example, we can see in Matthew 4:5–7 that He was taken by Satan to the temple. This is significant because the temple was one of the most public buildings in Jerusalem. In tempting Him to jump, Satan was goading Christ to prove Himself and show that He was the Messiah in a dramatic fashion. This was a temptation to use His abilities to draw attention to Himself. 

Mr. McNair then asked the students to consider whether they use their abilities to glorify God or glorify themselves. How we react when we receive praise and when others receive praise is a test of character. If we don’t concern ourselves with popularity and maintain an attitude of humility, we can keep praise from going to our heads.

Temptation 3: Prosperity and Possessions

This is a test of priority. As potential members of God’s family, we have the opportunity to attain great possessions and honor. But Mr. McNair warned that our goal should be to live such a life that we can serve with Christ in helping others, not so that we can attain riches. Christ is going to be King, but His goal was to redeem humanity and bring them into His family, not to attain the riches and glory that come with kingship. In verses 8–9 we can see that Satan was tempting Christ with compromising His purpose in life by worshiping him and avoiding the suffering He would have to go through to attain kingship. Mr. McNair prompted the students to consider how they will handle these things. 

The key to overcoming this temptation is to develop a generous heart and spirit. To illustrate this further, Mr. McNair referred to Matthew 16:24–26, explaining that the desire for success and riches can consume us, so we must be careful that we don’t get our priorities mixed up in life. How we use our blessings will reflect where our priorities are. Mr. McNair warned the students to not let their stuff become their world, but to generously use the things they have to impact others positively.

None of us are immune to temptation. Mr. McNair warned the students that as they begin the next phase of their lives, they may have to face challenges that will surprise them, and some of those challenges will revolve around leadership. Mr. McNair explained that we will only be able to serve as leaders if we can properly handle these temptations, as Christ only began His ministry after He overcame Satan. We will have to prove ourselves and practice dealing with these challenges. If we do, we will be able to lead effectively and successfully, just like our example, Jesus Christ.