Matthew 4:1-11

In almost every area of modern life there comes a moment when you have to take a test, an examination of some sort, and the results of that test determine whether or not you can continue along the path you are following. The challenge of taking tests starts rather early in life. At the 4th, 9th and 12th grades students must pass proficiency exams in school before they can proceed to higher levels of learning. There is an exam in every class you take. There is a test required for any profession or vocation you may want to pursue. Whether you want to be a plumber, a barber, a physician, a lawyer or a preacher there comes a moment when you must take and pass a test before you can proceed any further.

Many people are not doing what they really wanted to do in life because they failed one of these exams. They took the bar exam, but they did not pass. They took the SAT exam, but their grade was not high enough to allow them entry into the school they wanted to attend. They took a typing exam, but they were not fast enough. They wanted a certain job, but they could not pass the reading or writing exams. There are all kinds of exams that we have to take over the course of our lives, and if we do not pass them there are many things we are prevented and even prohibited from doing.

You cannot legally drive a car and get a driver’s license until you pass a written and a road test. You cannot participate in high school or college athletics unless you can pass a physical exam and a skills test. If you want to get a license to teach school, or cut hair, or be an electrician, or fly an airplane or sell stocks and bonds and other financial securities instruments you first have to take a test.

I know by personal experience about having to pass exams before you can proceed with your career goals. I had to pass a knowledge test before I could be ordained to the ministry. I had to pass language exams in Hebrew and Greek before I could receive my Master’s degree. I had to pass two field exams and an oral exam of my dissertation before I was awarded my Ph.D. degree. I even had to pass a kind of an exam when I went to meet Peggy’s parents for the first time; one wrong answer and I would have failed the acceptance exam. It does not matter what you do for a living or what you are aspiring to do some day, it is almost a certainty that there are some exams and tests you will have to pass before you can proceed down that road.

However, it is important to note that there are two different types of tests we will be called upon to pass as we move through this world. One of those tests is to measure the content of your knowledge; that is a head test. The other kind of test measures the content of our character; it is a test of the heart. Sometimes the tests we must face will have to do with knowledge and information, and other times they will have more to do with our character and our moral convictions. To put it another way, some exams are designed to find out what you know, but just as important are those exams that are designed to find out “who you are?”

Here at the church we have a job training and readiness program called Project Respect that assists people in getting ready to hold down a steady job. At the end of the training there is a graduation ceremony, and I have been able to address the group on a few of those occasions. I always talk to them about two words that sound almost alike but that test us in two different areas of life. One of those words is aptitude; which points to knowledge and what a person knows how to do. Aptitude is a skill of the hand or the head; it is a matter of ability.

The other word is attitude; which points, not to what you know, but to who you are as a person. Can you get along with other people? Can you be trusted to do your job without constant supervision? Will you be on time every day? In our program it even means asking them if they will be able to take and pass a random urine test to see if they are using drugs. Anybody who has ever held down a job for more than one-year knows that you are being tested every day in ways that are formal and informal about your aptitude (what you can do) and your attitude (who you are as a person).