Matthew 4: How to Handle Temptation

Matthew 4:1-11

Matthew 4 deals with the conflict between Satan and the Savior.  A great question to ask in the beginning of class is, “How can I be strong when temptation comes?”

After some time to reflect and write their responses, (hopefully) a class discussion will result.  I had students write a response in their journals.  This seemed to get them thinking and increased the likelihood that they would participate in a discussion.

Each class was different in how they responded to written questions.  Some students had great advice for their peers.  I have found that when I can get young people talking, that they give credence to the voice of other young people their age facing similar circumstances.

Some points made in the text

1.  Realize what temptations are

Every person is tempted when a couple of things are put into place.  James 1:14 states, “every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust, and enticed.”  In other words, drawn away of his own lust indicates a natural hunger within man, and enticed means that a lure is in place.  Temptation strikes when I am hungry (in some fashion) and when there is a lure that looks like it will meet my needs.

The question arises: is it wrong to be hungry?  No, the hungers we are given come from the God who made us.  We all have God given hungers – but when we grab the lure, the imitation, this is sin.

Jesus realized he was hungry.  He must have known that following the adversary in his suggestion would not bring him what he needed.  It is good to remind youth that oftentimes that their hungers are natural.  It is in fulfilling them the Lord’s way that will bring them the greatest happiness.

The following quote teaches this idea:

Jesus saw sin as wrong but also was able to see sin as springing from deep and unmet needs on the part of the sinner. This permitted him to condemn the sin without condemning the individual. We can show forth our love for others even when we are called upon to correct them. We need to be able to look deeply enough into the lives of others to see the basic causes for their failures and shortcomings. 1

2.  Stay off the pinnacle

Jesus is on the pinnacle of the temple.  According to the Joseph Smith Translation, it is the Spirit that placed Jesus in this location.  It is at this moment when Satan approaches with his specific temptation.  By being aware of our environment and our specific weaknesses, we can avoid temptation, or at least lessen its effect in our lives.

Matthew 26:75

We see this with the dialogue between Jesus and Peter on the night Jesus went into Gethsemane.  In Matthew 26:33-34: “Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.  Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice.”

The question I ask is, “do you think Peter believed him?”  If I was told this and I really believed Jesus, I would probably go home and lock myself in a room until the next day.  Now we do not know for certain what Peter thought after Jesus told the disciples that they would be embarrassed or ashamed to know Him, but we can suppose that Peter probably thought to himself, “there is no way that I would ever deny knowing the Savior!”  We can make this assumption because Peter himself makes this statement to Jesus in Matthew 26:33.  Peter felt that he could handle any situation that the world could throw at him.

In this lies a great lesson for young people.  Trust those who have been down the road a bit.  They know the pitfalls, the dangers of youth.  They have experience.  Prophets have put warnings and commandments in place for a reason.  Following their direction will help youth to “stay off the pinnacle”.

Sometimes staying off the pinnacle just isn’t enough.  Keeping as far away from the pinnacle as we can is sometimes more advisable.  We are all different and we each have different weaknesses.  Knowing what our tendencies are will help us to avoid particularly the dangerous pinnacles of our lives.

Elder Hartman Rector, Jr. taught an important principle for avoiding pinnacles:

Elder Hartman Rector Jr. was a US Navy pilot for 26 years

“In my experience, I have found that it is very, very dangerous to fly just high enough to miss the treetops. I spent twenty-six years flying the navy’s airplanes. It was very exciting to see how close I could fly to the trees … , and it is extremely dangerous. When you are flying just high enough to miss the trees and your engine coughs once, you are in the trees.

“Now let’s pretend that the navy had a commandment—‘Thou shalt not fly thy airplane in the trees.’ As a matter of fact, they did have such a commandment. In order to really be free of the commandment, it becomes necessary for me to add a commandment of my own to the navy’s commandment, such as ‘Thou shalt not fly thy airplane closer than 5,000 feet to the trees.’ When you do this, you make the navy’s commandment of not flying in the trees easy to live, and the safety factor is tremendously increased” 2

What are some examples of flying at 5,000 feet that apply to youth?

3. Decide ahead of time what you will do

Prior to his confrontation with the devil, Jesus had prepared himself.  He knew the scriptures.  He knew what he would do under certain circumstances, and had answers ready when temptation came.  He is a perfect model of preparation.

President Spencer W. Kimball stated:

“When I was a little boy … I heard my teachers tell me over and over: ‘We do not drink; we do not smoke; we do not drink tea or coffee; the Lord has proscribed that.’ …

“Then as I was out alone, milking the cows, or putting up the hay, I had time to think. I mulled it over in my mind and made this decision: ‘I, Spencer Kimball, will never taste any form of liquor. I, Spencer Kimball, will never touch tobacco. I will never drink coffee, nor will I ever touch tea—not because I can explain why I shouldn’t, except that the Lord said not to.’ … I made up my mind.

“That’s the point I am trying to make. I made up my mind then, as a little boy: ‘I will never touch those things.’ And so, having made up my mind, it was easy to follow it, and I did not yield. There were many temptations that came along, but I did not even analyze it; I did not stop and measure it and say, ‘Well, shall I or shall I not?’ I always said to myself: ‘But I made up my mind I would not. Therefore, I do not’” 3

Check out this video: Chastity: What are the limits? 


1. President Spencer W. Kimball, Ensign, August 1979 pp. 5‑7.

2. Elder Hartman Rector Jr., in Conference Report, Oct. 1972, p. 172; or Ensign, Jan. 1973, p. 131).

3. Spencer W. Kimball, in Conference Report, Stockholm Sweden Area Conference 1974, p. 86.

About LDS Scripture Teachings

I write about ways scripture applies in our lives:
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