I don’t talk about Satan very much; in fact, I don’t really give the devil much thought at all, but lately some comments from an acquaintance have put him in my mind, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on Jesus’ chief enemy.
The comments shared by my acquaintance are of the “Satan’s running rampant” genre. According to him, people are falling to the devil’s temptations left, right and centre, which is why the world is the way it is. Well, I disagree, totally and completely. The reason things are the way they are have nothing to do with Satan and everything to do with us. That’s it, that’s all. We humans are the only ones responsible for the current state of affairs, good or bad.
Sure, Satan appears in the Bible, so there is some justification for blaming him for bad things. But here’s the thing: the Israelites didn’t grumble against Moses when they were wandering in the desert because of Satan. That was completely on them. Nor did David do the stupid things he did in order to get Bathsheba for himself thanks to Satan’s suggestion. David came up with his foul plan all on himself. Ok, Jesus exorcised demons that caused people grief, but that grief did not consist of those unfortunate people doing bad things; the demonic influence threw them into fits and convulsions, not into acts of disobedience or fulfilling their lustful desires.
But Satan tempted Jesus, you say, and he caused Job great pain. Yes, and yes. But notice that Satan only tempted Jesus and did not force our Saviour to do anything bad. And as far as poor Job was concerned, again, Satan caused great suffering but he did not cause Job do evil things. Then, once he turned Job’s life upside down, we never hear from Satan again, nor is he ever mentioned again. In fact, the book of Job doesn’t fit easily into the greater history of God, Israel and Jesus. So, taking it as a good source of information about Satan’s work and influence is the wrong way to read it. Job is really a story about character rather than how the devil works.
The bottom line regarding Satan’s influence? The world as it is today is not due to angels or demons; it’s all on us. Our pain is caused by our ignorance and hatred. Our joy and good things are thanks to God’s provision for Creation; God made the world good and beautiful. We humans contribute to that beauty by honouring God and living the way Jesus taught us to. When we choose our own way over God’s, things go sour. When we live together in love, the world is a beautiful place. It’s that simple.