The Devil's Due

The devil does deserve his due. He’s damnably creative. Hard to imagine a better trio of temptations than those he made Jesus. Of course a fasting Messiah wants, and needs, food. Life’s basic necessities make for powerful bargaining chips. And what Messiah, filled with foreboding for the coming mission, wouldn’t leap into arms offering escape? How many of us, knowing what we must do, aren’t sorely seduced by the promise of flight? And Messiahs aren’t alone in being allured by the idea of earth’s realms paying homage to the ego. We’re all tempted to believe that the world revolves around us.

Yes, give the devil his due. He’s never drained of devices. The New Testament has good reason to name him “The Father of Lies” (Jn 8:44). In this century, he’s produced two utterly bogus, but brilliant, claims about our own humanity. Both of them tempt us to forget, or deny, that we are creatures. 

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The first temptation isn’t new. Half the folk in the bible succumbed to it. It’s to think that we’re utterly unique. There is no realm of earth that, in time, will not be laid bare by our probing intellects. The mind of man stands at the apex of the world. It judges all and is judged by none. There is no God, because we have no room for a deity. In fact, there’s hardly room for a world, we make it so full of ourselves.

The second temptation is quite novel. It doesn’t come from science, though it loves to wear a lab coat as if it did. It’s to believe that there is nothing unique about our humanity. It’s simply the effluvia of evolution. We aren’t creatures who come forth from, and return to, a loving God. We’re nothing more than compounds of chemicals, generations of genetic sequences. So, don’t fret about your use of free will. It doesn’t exist. Forget about sin itself. There is no drama, no clash of good and evil at work in the world. We aren’t responsible to anyone, because we are nothing more than a concatenation of circumstance.

That the two temptations—exaltation and elimination—are completely contradictory little matters. They’re both comfortable claims, and that makes us eager to embrace them. One refuses to recognize what stands beyond us; the other denies what lies within. When we make ourselves the center of the world, there’s nothing left to love, and so we end by denying our own existence as lovers.

In Lent we verse ourselves again in the Gospel, remembering that we are creatures. It’s such an important word, because it evokes that other one, “creator.” To acknowledge ourselves as creatures is recognize that our origin and our destiny lie outside ourselves. The universe doesn’t revolve around us, but neither are we adrift in a bewildering world. 

Give the devil his due. What a novel addition to an ancient temptation. First we filled the world with ourselves and now we declare, with regret, that we never were.

Genesis 2: 7-9, 3:1-7 Romans 5: 12-19 Matthew 4: 1-11

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Bruce Snowden
3 years 7 months ago
The essay, “Give The Devil His Due” explaining the Three Temptations of Jesus, instigated by Satan, was very interestingly addressed, giving rise to the points of view posted below, linked by a kind of moral sinew. Yes, Satan’s a smart Dude! I don’t know where the following comes from, certainly not from Scripture, maybe somewhere in Tradition, but I was taught that his angelic name is Lucifer which means “Light Bearer” and he was the brightest of the angels in the angelic choirs. Yes, Satan is a smart Dude, clever, duplicitous and conniving. See how that Spirit of all evil duped the progenitors of the First Family of God, destined for fulfillment in the Church, Adam and Eve, our First Parents in the Original Family of God, singled out perhaps (I suggest) by God from the existing gene pool and lavishly graced. Satan tricked them into abandoning their singularly endowed Garden of Grace, (themselves?) leading into incalculable and calamitous outcomes. But the Holy Spirit of God, Mercy Personified, found the way to smack Satan down, turning that Original Sin into a “Felix Culpa” revelation, meriting in Jesus, so great a Redeemer! Satan because of his innate rotten disposition and confirmation into all that is evil, is still reeling from God’s rebuff, making him even more determined to coax humanity into sin, a fiendish ploy at which he has been very successful! Yes, give the Devil his due! But we know he can’t win, stupid fool that he essentially is! But this Father of Lies keeps trying to outsmart God! In our day he has convinced many that wrong is right, as in killing the unborn child called “a woman’s right to choose!” See also how he is destroying the traditional meaning of Christian marriage, which models Christ and his Church as St. Paul teaches, trying to turn morality on its head! And so very much more. Allow me to offer my “two cents regarding the Three Temptations endured by Jesus. I believe the First focused on human, carnality in all of its many forms if and when in violation of Divine intent. The Second relative to human emotive behavior however manifested. The Third concerning attempted human supremacy of the spiritual, of God, however threatened. From these root sources all human culpability and sin weighs us down. In carnality, Jesus was hungry after forty days of fasting and at that point most vulnerable in satisfying bodily promptings. Satan still does that – he tries to “get us” in our most vulnerable moments! Jesus rebuffed Satan saying that not by bodily need alone is life sustained. Satan then tried the emotional route. Jesus was tired resistance low and at that point Satan tempted him to give in to despair, (ever get that feeling?) - to simply give up, even to the point of killing himself as it were, by jumping to his death from the pinnacle of the Temple! Hypocritically Satan even quoted Scripture telling Jesus that nothing would happen to him if he jumped! Jesus responded weary as he was saying to that Liar not to dare to tempt God, Jesus identifying himself as God! Even then Jesus knew who he was as we should do in our temptations by recognizing who we are, “children of God .” In one last try Satan took Jesus to a high peak and showed him all the grandeur of worldly success, money, power, all the cravings manifest in the creation of false gods and idols, prestige, fame. But Jesus hammered Satan flat saying in effect, “Get lost! Only God is to be served!” This is obviously, a simple, non-erudite explanation. Satan limped away tail between his legs utterly defeated for the moment. The Evangelist says Satan left Jesus alone “for a while.” Yes, we have to give that slippery Snake, Satan, his due, fearlessly telling him when tempted, “Go to Hell!” Otherwise we’ll certainly get bruised, or worse, God forbid.

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