The devil is real. He is not a metaphor. He is not a fictional character. He tempted Jesus and he tempts us.
The devil is real – but not necessarily the way we imagine him. He is not a cartoon bull with a pitchfork. He is not an angry, ugly monster. No one would be tempted by such a creature.
The devil is an angel. He was created by God to serve the human race, but refused. He is extremely intelligent and sneaky.
The devil is a scam artist. He pretends to help, but takes advantage of us. Unfortunately, I have been the victim of several scams. Once was during my first trip to New York City. New York streets are full of people. One moment, someone shouted to me, “Bro – where you from?” “Canada.” He slipped a CD into my hands. “I wanna share something with you, bro – my music – poetry, right from the heart. No swear words, no profanity. Promise you, bro. Just poetry-straight from the heart.” Being naïve, I thought it was a free sample, said thank you and kept walking. He shouted “Bro, aren’t you gonna give me a tip? Don’t worry, if you need to, I can make change. I had only one $20 bill left – when I gave it to him he changed his mind about making change. When I got in my car to drive home, I decided to try out the CD. The first word was a very bad word and this word was repeated many times.
The devil is a scam artist. He operates in a similar way. Satan acts as if he is your friend. In the Gospel, he acts as if he is concerned about Jesus’ hunger, he offers him kingdoms. Scam artists are smooth, friendly, and make you feel special in order to gain your trust. They act as if you are getting a deal and present the complete bill later on. In a moment of temptation, the devil acts as if he is on your side. That sin is going to give us pleasure, happiness and freedom. But the devil is not your friend. He is not trying to help you. Sin gives us sadness, pain and slavery.
The devil pretends to share the same values. In the Gospel, he quotes the scriptures. He pretends as if he is on the side of God. In my encounter, they promised no swear words. The devil knows we are trying to do good – so he presents sin as something good. Lust is called love. Gossip is “sharing the truth.” Euthanasia is compassionate. The men on the street knew I was not interested in rap music. So they called it poetry. Satan knows we are trying to be good – so he tells us evil is good.
The devil lies. There were swear words on the CD. Satan promises to Jesus all the kingdoms of the world – but Jesus already is the king of the world. Satan is the king of nothing. Satan tempts to buy more things. Having many things is supposed to make our lives easier, more enjoyable and interesting. Yet, how many people spend beyond their limits and become enslaved by debt? How many need to work more hours or seek a better job to maintain their lifestyle? Things do not make life easier or enjoyable. Consumerism is a lie – the devil is a liar.
Satan pressures us to make a decision quickly. On the busy streets of New York, I was blocking the sidewalk, my friends were ahead of me, I didn’t have time to think – If I had time, I would have given back the CD and said “Thank you, but I’m not interested.” Satan wants us to act impulsively. To say that insult as soon as it comes to our minds, before thinking of the consequences. To eat the second donut or have the fourth beer. To click on the shady link. Satan wants us to make a decision quickly before we realize that it is a bad decision to make.
After a scam, we feel really stupid. How could I have fallen for that? They say that many people do not report scams to the police because they are too embarrassed and this helps scam artists get away with it. This is the last trick of Satan. After we have sinned, he exaggerates the sin in our minds. He makes us feel guilty and embarrassed so that we are afraid to confess. While Jesus never sinned, Satan tries to question the Father’s love: “If God really loves you jump down, he will catch you.” Satan makes us doubt God’s love and mercy. To think we cannot be forgiven for what we have done. But the truth is that it is Satan who wants to condemn and God is always ready to forgive. Satan hates confession. Sin alone does not separate us from God. It is only un-repented sin. When we confess, everything Satan has worked for in tempting us to sin is wiped away in an instant. To conquer Satan, confess regularly.
The devil is not your friend. Sin is not a bargain. After falling victim several times to scams, I hope that I am starting to gain some street smarts. As Christians, we must have “street smarts” when it comes to temptation. We need to recognize the devil’s tricks and decline his offers. Today, Jesus fought with the devil and won. He gives us the example and the encouragement that we too can fight and overcome temptation.