Grace to you!
In the early and mid-1800s, American commercial life was booming. Yet the Feds discovered a critical problem affecting legitimate cash flow. Smart investigators were set in place to get to the root of the problem. The result was stunning. Many counterfeit currencies were circulating in the market. Con men were on the rise. They needed to act fast to stop the terrible practice. Hence, the Secret Service unit was born in 1865, with the specific task of fishing out and bringing to justice perpetrators of currency counterfeiting.
In Christian literature, beginning with the Scripture, we have many ideas describing temptation. The simplest being allurement or inclination to sin or acts against holiness and God's glory. Such descriptions fit the Biblical pictures in the stories of the fall of our first parents Adam and Eve (Genesis 3), and the temptations of our Lord Jesus (e.g., Matthew 4:1-11).
I focus on one identifier of temptation, namely deceit or counterfeit. Many times, people want to know how to discern the nature of temptation to avoid it. Seeing temptation as counterfeiting plots could be a way to nail it at the head.
Regarding temptations, sometimes people say, "Why didn't I see it coming?" It's because it's a temptation. Unless we pay attention and discern accurately, we will never see it coming.
The devil isn't dumb. It's crafty.
I recall an African parable about Prince Satan, who wanted to unleash his agents to the earth to make new disciples. He needed to be sure he sent the best of talents who would be well-skilled evangelizers of his cause. He would have to interview each to pick the smartest.
"What strategy are you going to use to seduce people on earth to follow me and not God?" Prince Satan asked the first interviewee.
He said he would tempt them with fame, pride and greed.
Prince Satan failed to send him. He explained that no matter how one sells such a message, there are firm believers who already know their faith is opposed to those vices. Hence, they wouldn't convert to become Prince Satan's disciples.
The second agent came and proposed a strategy that will promote immorality, lust, injustice, racism, murder, etc., as expressions of true freedom. Prince Satan objected to this strategy, saying, as he said in the first, many faithful people know those are sinful.
Then came the third agent. He proposed he will convince people that trying a little of anything and everything wouldn't hurt. A small sip, a little anger here and there, a little lustful affection, doesn't matter. It's merely part of the human sense of curiosity. It might do some good, he argued.
Prince Satan was thrilled by the third agent's wit because; "It doesn't matter" could be a selling point. Hence, he sent that agent to use the, "It doesn't matter" strategy to lead people into temptation.
It's doesn't matter is strengthened by yet another tactic. Namely, presenting a counterfeit, what seems good but is the very opposite of the good.
From the story of the first fall in Genesis 3, we see how the strategy of counterfeiting hit home to Eve and then to Adam. They saw the fruit; it looked desirable. They probably fantasized about the health it could bring. They fell for it. The devil used the same strategy of counterfeiting in the Lord's temptation (see Mt 4:1-11).
There would be no serious temptation if there were no perceived good in the tempting object. People don't generally get tempted in things they don't like. For instance, if you don't like sweets, how would chocolate or ice cream be a temptation? On the other hand, if you love publicity, fame could be a real temptation.
The good news is Christ won. Anyone who walks with God wins too. Christ is the true victory over sin and the devil. Embracing his ways is embracing victory.
Regarding dealing with the con master, the devil, I Peter 5:8 advises: "Be vigilant because your enemy is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour." Beware. Temptation is real. Fight on by the grace of God, which Christ is and gives.
I pray that you outsmart Satan. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[First Sunday of Lent: Readings: Gn 2:7-9; 3:1-7; Rom 5:12-19 or 5:12, 17-19; Mt 4:1-11]
Father Maurice Emelu, Ph.D., provides a daily blog of reflections for the season of Lent your individual spiritual edification. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations. .