The Devil’s Wiles

Sin and temptation are human realities. Temptation is a desire to engage in short-term urges for enjoyment that threatens long-term goals. If life is a journey, our destination is towards the house of our heavenly Father. Temptation diverts us from this goal. Often, the temptation comes from the devil, but sometimes we just freely decide to turn away from God. In fact, sin is not committed by anyone else but ourselves misusing of our freedom. Even Jesus was tempted but he fought the devil’s wiles. Daily we are seduced to be selfish, greedy or lazy. Yet we always have a choice.

Cardinal Josef Spidlik, a Jesuit theologian said: “everyone possesses his or her own paradise; it is the heart created by God, the heart in a peaceful state. Every person also experiences the snake which in the form of an evil thought enters into the heart in order to lure us.” How does temptation work? It begins with a seemingly innocent suggestion. If we don’t ignore it, it becomes insistent. Once entertained, the snake finds a window to show us something more irresistible. How much time and energy we spend giving it a space in our lives! Like Eve, we make a long conversation with the snake and find his arguments convincing. Finally, sin is committed. The battle is lost. We freely choose to do the evil we abhor and lose paradise. As a result, like Adam and Eve, we realize we are naked and feel ashamed. This shame reflects the loss of union with God.

We cannot fight the devil. He is just too strong for us. Only Jesus can tame him. The writer Mark Twain wrote: “there are several good protections against temptation, but the safest is cowardice.” The Book of Sirach further says: “flee from sin as from a serpent that will bite you if you go near it. Its teeth are lion’s teeth destroying the souls of men.”

Temptation to sin is a given. It should not surprise us thus we need to be prepared for it. In order to resist it, first of all, we need to accept our human frailty. The devil can easily dupe us. The only way out is to escape, to run. Finally, we need to believe in God’s unconditional love and never doubt it. We need to trust deeply in the Lord.

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