to the world because of offenses!"
said the Lord, and added, "For offenses must come" (Matt.
18:7). "Must," evidently for our spiritual growth. The Lord
does not want us to be self-confident, unconcerned and weakened. He explained
the problem of temptations in the parable of the weeds. The Sower (the Lord)
sowed the wheat (goodness) in His field (among people), and His foe (the devil)
sowed tares (temptations) among the good seeds. When the servants (angels)
spotted the tares, they asked permission from the Master to weed them out. He
did not permit this, saying: "No, lest while you gather up the tares
you also uproot the the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the
harvest" (i.e., until the Judgment). Only then "will the
angels gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend and those who practice
lawlessness and will cast them into the furnace of fire" (Matt.
13:24-42). In other words, a premature estrangement from temptations will harm
the spiritual development of mankind.
Just as the fight for survival leads to the
development of more perfect and enduring types of fauna and flora in the
physical world, the same fight with temptations leads to the formation of more
steadfast and virtuous souls. Just as ores of precious metal are tested by
fire, and a student by examination, so in the same way the future citizen of
the Kingdom of Heaven undergoes temptations (1 Peter 1:7).
It follows then, that the limited activity of the
evil tempter enters into God's plans and is allowed by Him. However, God does
not allow him to rule. The devil cannot ruin anyone exept those who voluntarily
submit themselves to him.
The Apostles taught Christians not to despair
during their trials, but to see in them a positive side. The Apostle Paul wrote
thus: "Beloved, do not think it strange concerning the fiery trial
which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened to you; but rejoice
to the extent that you partake of Christ's sufferings, that when His glory is
revealed, you may also be glad with exceeding joy" (1 Peter 4:12-13).
In the same manner the Apostle James wrote: "Blessed is the man who
endures temptation; for when he has been proved, he will receive the crown of
life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him" (James 1:12).
In addition to which, God "will not allow you to be tempted beyond what
you are able to endure, but with the temptation will also make the way of
escape, that you will be able to bear it" (1 Cor. 10:13).
For what reason did the once pure angel close to
God begin to occupy himself with such an abasing and dirty deed as the
temptation of mankind? Some are of the opinion that it gives him sadistic
pleasure to torture and bring others to perdition. This is true, but there is
also another more important reason. Let us remember that the Daystar (the
devil) separated himself from God due to pride, wanting to be equal to the Creator in glory and power.
Having suffered defeat in Heaven, he now concentrated all his attention on
mankind, wanting to subject and enslave to himself the majority of mankind.
However, he cannot reach this goal as long as people carry within themselves a
single grain of goodness imparted to them by the Creator. Therefore, in order
to possess anyone, the devil must first of all mutilate and cripple him
morally. The devil attains this with the help of sin. By tempting mankind for some many thousands of years, the
devil has perfected himself in this art. Here are some of his main techniques:
In order for man to subject himself willingly to
temptation, it is necessary that he consider it as his own decision: then he
himself will eagerly strive to seek that which he considers important for his
happiness and prosperity. That is why it is imperative for the devil to hide his actions by giving the
impression that he does not exist. The devil carefully analyzes a person's
character, his inclinations and weaknesses, and adapts his temptations to external factors and circumstances.
The following tale from the book of the Acts of
the Apostles illustrates the method of temptation. The first Christians lived
jointly and harmoniously, so much so, that everything was communal. Those who
were well-to-do sold their holdings in order to help their needy colleagues.
Due to such a sincere brotherly love no one was needy, and Christians were
considered by strangers as an example for the whole community. A certain
Ananaias, being a wealthy man and fearing being called greedy, decided to sell
his holdings and offer the proceeds for communal needs. In order not to become
totally impoverished, he and his wife Sapphira agreed to give the Apostles only
a part of the proceeds, leaving the rest for "a rainy day." As a
matter of fact, it was their right to decide how to disperse their property.
The deceit consisted in the fact that they wanted to portray themselves as
being totally unselfish. When Ananaias gave the Apostle Peter a part of his
money while proudly exclaiming that he was donating all his possessions, the
Apostle, by revelation from above, learned that Ananaias was deceiving him and
said: "Ananaias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy
Spirit and keep back part of the price of the land for yourself?"
(Acts 5:1-11). Upon hearing these words, Ananaias was struck dead.
The above story illustrates how cleverly the devil
played upon Ananaias's cowardliness and vanity. Although Ananaias was attached
to his property, he was not against being known as a generous donor. So the
devil suggests to him a genial compromise, a way to save his property and at
the same time evoke a general gratitude. If Ananaias would have truthfully
admitted that he was donating only a part of his money, it would not have been
considered reprehensible. However, because of vanity, he lied. He could deceive
people but not God, because the Lord promised a great reward to those who will
disperse their property to the needy and will follow Him, taking up the cross
Gradualness is another tool which is successfully used by the temptor.
Sensing the natural distaste toward vice by the yet undefiled man, the devil
accustoms him to sin in small doses. At first, he suggests to a person to allow
"a little" indulgence to himself for the sake of some gain or
pleasure. And the devil calms the person with the thought that it is a single
deviation from the norm and that having received his wish he will remain an
honest and a virtuous man, as he had been. If the person succumbs to the
temptation, the devil will then offer him another similar but a more weighty
sin — again under the guise of a "small" deviation from the norm.
"You shall repent later," the seducer calms him. Thus, by degrees,
that man subjects himself to temptations; he sinks deeper and deeper in the
mire of sin. Finally, the sinner loses all his strength for confrontation and becomes
an unwilling slave to his passions and the products of the Prince of Darkness.
Let us illustrate this with the following example.
Let us surmise that unexpectedly a person finds a wallet lying in his path.
Opening it, he finds a sum of money together with the identity of the owner.
His first thought is to return it right away. But here the temptor nears his
ear and whispers that it is more logical to profit from the find:
"Providence has sent you this money in time of need. There is no theft
here because the money lay for all to see and another could have picked it
up." At this point conscience steps in and admonishes that to appropriate
another's property illegally is a sin and an effort must be made to find the
owner. Here the devil disputes the admonitions of conscience and
"logically" proves to the person that, to the contrary, everything is
as it should be: you did not pick his pocket, and what’s found is yours. Should
the person listen to his conscience and return what he found, he will experience
an inner satisfaction that he acted honorably and did not take advantage of
another's misfortune. Should he succumb to temptation, the devil will then push
him toward other more dishonorable acts, endeavoring to make him a deceiver,
thief, and extortionist.
The devil's method of progression can be
especially well seen in the example of Judas — one of the twelve Apostles.
Judas, having the position of treasurer, was in charge of the coffer into which
people placed alms for the needs of the Apostles and for distribution to the
poor. Dealing with money is always a motive for temptation, and as we see from
the Gospels, Judas succumbed to it. He began by "borrowing" a little
from the common coffer for personal needs. Having pity on the sinner, the Lord
tried delicately to enlighten Judas; however, without success. Imperceptibly to
himself, Judas became a thief. Finally the passion for gain so overwhelmed him
that for thirty pieces of silver he sold out his Teacher. In this manner the
devil mastered one of the closest disciples of Christ and led him to that
terrible sin and suicide.
Not having direct access to man's will, the devil
attempts to direct it through thoughts and feelings which in their own turn
depend on outward senses. That is why the devil strives very hard to present
something enticing to our attention and vision. The devil possesses man's will
and enslaves him at the same rate that man subjects himself to sinful thoughts
The devil checks our inconsistency. He knows that
in principle any man, even though he overcame temptation a thousand times
before, can always succumb to sin in a moment of weakness or imprudence. That
is why he pesters man to his dying day. Having sustained failure in successive
attempts at temptation, he stubbornly
awaits another opportunity in which he can again try to incline man to sin.
Being an experienced psychologist, the devil knows that man is vulnerable in
times of stress and sorrow. Sometimes he waits until man simply weakens and
becomes less vigilant and careful. At that moment the devil materializes and
suddenly crashes down on man, pushing him toward that sin to which he is most
It is due namely to the devil's perseverance that
he was able to tempt the greatest righteous man of Old Testament times, King
David. David, having surmounted many obstacles and trials in life, finally
ascended to the throne of Israel. His foes vanished, wars came to an end, there
ensued times of great prosperity, and David became weakened. And so, stepping
out one night on the rampart of his house, he saw in the neighboring house a
beautiful woman bathing in the fountain. He wanted to know who she was. It
turned out that she, Bathsheba, was the wife of one of the senior officers in
his army. The friendship with the beautiful neighbor turned into longing, and
the king sinned. Bathsheba became with child from that unlawful alliance which
according to Jewish law was punishable by stoning. Wishing to save her from a
scandalous and torturous death, David immediately recalled her husband from his
campaign in order to give him an opportunity to be with Bathsheba and thus give
him cause to think that she became with child by him. For some reason
Bathsheba's husband did not wish to stay with her and soon returned to his
unit, which was besieging some enemy town. The problem seemed unsolvable, and
so the devil imparted to David the following cunning plan: to send Uriah,
Bathsheba's husband, into the most dangerous situation of battle, in order to
have him slain by a foe’s hand. In fact, Uriah was soon killed in the fray, and
then David did in a short time marry his widow and hide in this way the sin of
adultery. Besides, the devil had so thoroughly clouded David's reason that the
latter lost all ability to understand the terror of his double crime. Only
later, when the Prophet Nathan by means of an allegory brought the king to
judge himself, did David understand what he had done. In agony he fell to his
knees and openly repented (2 Sam. 12). He could never forgive himself that sin
and repented it all his life, composing a prayer of deep penitence (Psalm 51),
which to this day troubles the hearts of repentant sinners. Thus the merciful
Lord rescued from the devil's nets his fallen righteous one.
By this and similar occurrences the Lord teaches
us not to be self-confident: "Therefore let him who thinks he stands
take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor. 10:12). If the devil in his boundless
impudence dared to tempt even the Saviour (Matt. 4: 3-10), then who is free
from his underhanded dealings? That is why in warning us the Lord teaches: "Watch
and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing but the
flesh is weak" (Matt. 26:41).
The devil's main method, which saturates all his
actions and essence, is lies —
everywhere and always lies — the most heinous and shameless, although often
capably directed toward grains of truth for greater plausibility. The Lord
characterized him thus: "for he is a liar and the father of it"
The devil tries to corrupt everything to such an extent that it becomes mind-
boggling. He presents the least failure as a major, irreparable tragedy, and a
meaningless pleasure or a temporary gain as being the most important, almost as
if it were the main aim in life. In pushing us to sin, he calms us with the
thought that it is a natural and forgivable weakness. And when a person does
sin, then the devil throws him into depression, and admonishes him that he has
angered the Creator forever and that therefore it is fruitless to repent. The
devil persuades any one who is devoted to some passion that they are too weak
to try to reform. And those leading a pious life the devil tries to incline
towards pride. He can even appear to a person in the guise of an angel of light
or as Christ Himself, so that the latter should think of himself as being
better than others: "And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms
himself into an angel of light" (2 Cor. 11:14). In the lives of the
saints one can find many tales in which with similar visions he tempted
With an unquenchable thirst for power, the devil
spares neither his time nor his effort to turn any natural weakness in man into
an untamable and revolting passion. He wants man to totally defile himself and
become baser than an animal. Only then, through sin, does the devil gain
control over man and make him his captive.
But thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ, this control
by the devil is not lasting, and his iron chains are weaker than a cobweb. It
is enough for the sinner to address God in his repentance, and all the control
of the devil over him falls apart as a house of cards. "For thus did
the Son of God come, to destroy the acts of the devil" (1 John 3:8).
The Lord is, namely, the All-powerful, who bound the strong one and plundered
his house (Matt. 12:29).
Therefore, let us hurry to our Saviour for help
and protection from the sly serpent. With a strong faith and a virtuous life we
shall rise up against the fallen soul, and he, as it was promised, will flee
from us! (James 4:7). Amen.
Return to the first page