What precisely is the meaning of the temptations in the desert to Jesus’s humanity? That would seem to be the meaning and application for us today. In short, I see the three temptations as the primal and universal temptations that all humans must face before they dare take on any kind of power—as Jesus is about to do. They are all temptations to the misuse of power for purposes less than God’s purpose. They are sequentially the misuse of practical everyday power, the misuse of religious power, and the misuse of political power. These are the constant tragedies that keep defeating humanity. Jesus passes all three tests, and thus “the devil left him” because he could not be used for lesser purposes. If you face such demons in yourself, God can and will use you mightily. Otherwise, you will, for sure, be used!
But let me point out something we almost always fail to notice. We can only be tempted to something that is good on some level, partially good, or good for some, or just good for us and not for others. Temptations are always about “good” things, or we could not be tempted: in these cases “bread,” “Scripture,” and “kingdoms in their magnificence.” Most people’s daily ethical choices are not between total good and total evil, but between various shades of good, a partial good that is wrongly perceived as an absolute good (because of the self as the central reference point), or even evil that disguises itself as good. These are what get us into trouble.
—from the book Wondrous Encounters: Scriptures for Lent
by Richard Rohr, OFM