“For the second test he led him up and spread out all the kingdoms of the earth on display at once. Then the devil said, “They’re yours in all their splendor to serve your pleasure. I’m in charge of them all and can turn them over to whomever I wish. Worship me and they’re yours, the whole works.”
Jesus refused, again backing his refusal with Deuteronomy: “Worship the Lord your God and only the Lord your God. Serve him with absolute single-heartedness.”
Luke 4:7-8 (Msg)
In this wilderness temptation lies the implication that all earthly power is given by Satan. I think it’s notable that Jesus doesn’t argue with Satan about ownership. All of the misery here on earth is proof enough for me of Satan’s power and authority. Of course, this is power and authority allowed by God. As in the story of Job, God allows Satan to torment him, but Satan does not have the power of life and death–he isn’t allowed to kill Job–nor is he allowed to kill us. Thankfully, Satan’s dominion is limited.
But he will sure as hell will make us miserable and often thru things which on the surface appear to be blessings. Consider the “blessing” of power. In one way or another most of us strive for power because of the implication that given enough power we can control our lives (and obtw those around us). And if we have control, we have safety, and if we’re safe, guess Who we don’t need in our lives? Anyway, the single biggest corrupter of relationships is the conscious and unconscious striving for power/control. In my not so humble opinion when that striving for power is unconscious it’s more easily forgivable. However, when the power and control exerted is conscious and intentional it is evil personified and I personally struggle with forgiveness in those instances.
Power is an idol–and probably the most vicious, misery-generating idol that I can think of. We see it in captains of industry, politicians, media stars, celebrities, clergy, professors, control-freak bosses, teachers, parents, etc. It is the evil impulse underlying religious cults, child-abuse, abortion, racism, sexism and all types of oppression of the stronger over the weaker. I remain perpetually fascinated and repulsed watching the machinations of those seeking power/control from the international level on down to the low-level clowns whose paths I cross–like clerks who make you wait simply because they can. The section on the temptation of power is the longest in my book Jesus v. satan: The Message of the Wilderness Temptations
Power is an idol. And what does the Lord do with idols?–if we’re lucky and beloved by Him, He smashes them–blasts them to smithereens because he will have no other Gods before Him. That’s called grace, but is painful as heck while it’s happening. Think about all the powerful celebrity pastors who have gotten in trouble–Jim Bakker on down to Ted Haggard. And poor Pat Robertson, every time he opens his mouth he shoots himself in the foot, causing his credibility to wane considerably. And what about Robert Schuller and his monument to himself: The Crystal Cathedral filing chapter 11 and being bought by a developer? And at the local level leaders of flocks of just a few hundred are disgraced daily. Some of them repent and are restored but some of them never get it and keep frantically searching for another flock to have power over. I suspect that most men go into the ministry for good motives–love and service, etc.–but Satan never rests and he will use the seductive allure of their power over others to corrupt and bring them down. Those famous pastors were living and breathing idols in the lives of many.
Consider the folks with power in your life–from the President on down to your doctor, your pastor, your boss or your spouse. And then think about the folks you have power over. And then think about the answer Jesus gives Satan about worshipping the Lord your God only and to “serve him with absolute single-heartedness.” For me this is the only legitimate justification for the power of one person over another–serving the Lord with an unswerving love and focus. Those are the ones you can trust–and they’re as scarce as hen’s teeth.