The Devil Delivers on His Promises
When the devil leads people to misery, they should never be surprised
Throughout my life, I learned that the prime temptation is what we see in Genesis: the devil’s promise to Eve that she and Adam would be like gods. Catholics understand Genesis as a prophecy and not as a mechanistic account of the creation of the world. Therefore, we see there is more to the first temptation than understanding it as nothing more than a scene God allows us to be privy to in all its colorful details. No, the scene is a prophecy, a divine teaching that tells us more than we can see if it was nothing more than the camera eye’s view of the events as they happen.
I wondered if, in fact, that first temptation is not a false promise but a curse.
I learned a long time ago that the devil speaks a certain kind of truth. Everything he says you will learn is true, it is just not what you expected when he promised it to you. Let me give you an example. Let us say that you sold your soul to the devil for you to become the richest person in the world. Indeed, within minutes some stock you purchased suddenly makes a meteoric rise and you become so rich that within months you invest the windfall and there you are as the devil promised the richest man in the world
You could buy countries or pay off their debt if you wanted. You don’t but you do buy a few islands. Some beautiful resorts become your private homes and soon you have everything you always wanted. You have yachts in ports around the world, mansions on islands and mountain retreats. You never have to work again and you are able to journey throughout the world at any moment’s notice. You have everything the devil promised you with one exception—you are miserable.
He sold you on the idea that you could be the richest man in the world and you thought that would make you happy. The exact opposite happens. He knew that is what would happen but he never told you. He just let you live off your assumptions. There you are so miserable, you are begging for the day you will die. In fact, you are so miserable you don’t care that your deal is for eternity in Hell if you want out of the deal. You just want to be gone from this miserable lifestyle.
You complain to the devil about this deal and he shows you how you received exactly what he promised you. Riches beyond your imagination. No billionaire is as rich as you. No one: not Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Carlos Slim, no one has the money you have. However, the devil shows you that you received exactly what he promised. You admit he is right. You are stuck being miserable and things will only get worse for the rest of eternity. The devil never lied to you once, he just promised you a poor bill of goods but it is still exactly what he promised you. His temptation became your curse for all eternity.
Now let’s go back to Adam and Eve. I have come to understand that similarly the promise that they would be like gods was less a promise and more a curse. Built on the same idea, he promises Eve, and through her, Adam, that they would become like gods.
Now I realize that humanity when it seeks an alternative to God goes on the search to become gods and this creates in our society our own Hell on Earth over and over again. Therefore, what we understand to be a promise really is a curse. It is the curse of choosing to be gods whenever we turn from God himself and seek alternatives.
The Twentieth Century is the master display of this principle. The horror of that century comes from a choice to believe that we are gods now, literally. Most of the destruction rises right out of a connection to Friedrich Nietzsche’s claim that God is dead and we are now gods. We see littered, through the years, human damage rooted in the philosophy that human beings could be like gods. This is where we seek what we decide we want and we do all we can to get it, the rest be damned.
If we add so many other names and faces to the list of people who put themselves in the ersatz pantheon of those who are like gods we see just a whole host of manipulators, narcissists and selfish people who will do anything to make their world the way it should be in their mind. They will never accept the world the way it is but the way they want it to be. It will be an eternal search for the perfect that will never come and will destroy lives on Earth. This will continue in Hell which is an eternity of people trying to create the world their way that cannot be done. Yet, they will try and try and try again for all eternity.
This is why I say that the first temptation is not a promise but a curse. It is the curse that humanity receives when it abandons god looking for the perfect world. Whenever humanity gives in to the temptation, it is destined to self-destruct because it will be filled with those seeking to create the world the way it should be but not the way it actually is.
Our world is filled with injustice and we can do all we can to live as people who do not contribute to it. However, there are others that will perpetrate it and we cannot change that. We can bring them to justice, we can try to teach them to change their ways but we cannot change the reality that there are unjust people in the world. We cannot change that there are unholy people in the world. We cannot change that people cheat, rob, murder and more. When we decide to build a world where that does not happen then we create a world that can only exist in our minds and the more we try to create it the worse it will be. This is where concentration camps and genocides come in.
For example, as I write this there is a story of a newly minted marine now in vocational training for his career who boasted online that he will kill Chinese people because he is blaming them for the virus. That is what genocide is. He chose to eliminate Chinese people because he feels they did him wrong.
Jesus makes an interesting teaching when he talks about the weeds in the wheat also known as the wheat and the tare. He explains that the just and unjust, the good and the evil must co-exist until the end of the world, which he calls the harvest, and then they will be separated, the good to Heaven and the bad to Hell.
He is teaching that the world will be filled with the good and the bad until the end. Why? Because that is the way it is. If we try to create the utopia now, we will destroy the bad but also the good and do more damage to humanity. It cannot be done successfully. Why? Because only God knows which is which and we are not God or gods.
This is the key lesson from Christ. There is a world the way it is and there is the world the way we would like it to be. We can try to do our part to make the world the way we want it to be but we cannot create the perfect world. That is just impossible.
This is the lesson throughout the history of humanity. No society has ever been perfect and no how much everyone tried, everyone failed.
The Egyptians, the Greeks, The Romans, The British, The Germans, The Russians, the Americans no one has been able to create the perfect society, no one. We can only seek to create a perfect society by being good people and good people lead others to be good people.
There is a line in the Old Testament book of Sirach chapter 2 which is part of my favorite passage. Go back and read it and it says that even when you are serving God you will suffer difficulty. Be patient for you are being formed into precious gold.
It just cannot be done.
I have tremendous respect for Mahatma Gandhi, however, I despise his quote: “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
I believe it is taken out of context. He was a good, holy Hindu man and holiness comes from living in wisdom. We may have disagreed greatly on theology but maybe we would agree on living as human beings.
I believe the quote actually means for us to be the good we want to see the world as it is and try to be the best we can be. I do not think he means our role is to change it to what we believe it should be.
If we want a just world, we must be just. We cannot force another to be just. We can only live in such a way that we demonstrate our desire to love and be just to others.
This is what I believe he meant. The more people try to be good, loving and just, the more the world grows and is full of love, justice and goodness. This is how you build a perfect society.
To have a good crop—to borrow Jesus’s farming motifs—each individual ear has to be good, at least if not every ear, a vast majority must be good. If you have seven acres of corn and one-third of one acre is bad, I assume, not being a farmer, that is a good crop. If out of the seven acres five are bad, I would assume that is a bad crop. The trick is then not to create a good crop but to ensure every ear gets what it needs to be good. The good crop will arrive at harvest, but I assume some ears will be bad.
If you want to build a good society, the more every person is good, the better the society. This is what we need to build. We need to help everyone come to understand that dynamic. We can do that by leading people to the source of all that is good which is the Holy Trinity through the Son who is Christ. We cannot force people to be good. We need instead to help people seek what is good and to be converted from the inside out.
This is what we must do.
The devil however wants to teach us to be like gods so that we define the world the way we want it. We define what is good, we define what is just, we define what is holy. This will not work.
It will not work because that is the deception of the devil. That is us believing we are like gods when we are not. It is when we stop and humbly stand before the Lord, when we hold up our hands in surrender and admit we are not capable to know immediately the deepest levels of being good, just, loving. We have surface knowledge but to be gods assumes we have the deepest knowledge that we can build a truly good society. We must humbly wait for the Lord to educate us in His wisdom so that we can learn how to be whom he created us to be. That is now not being gods, the deception of the devil, but humbly learning, humbly hearing and humbly discovering who God truly is. That is the key. It is to understand and know that Christ knows more than we do. We sit and listen to him and we understand. Those who think they are gods can never do that.
I truly believe Gandhi understood enough to realize that the words people attribute to him are misused. He understood to a deeper level than do those who use those words like a daily philosophy.
Indeed, we Christians know as I am sure he did as a Hindu, if we do not pray, we cannot build the world the way it should be. It is only through hearing and listening to God that we can accomplish anything. Jesus himself teaches us when we pray, we must listen, learn and then act from acquired divine wisdom. That is how we build a just society, as humans, because we are not gods. This wisdom comes from our relationship with God, it does not come from Harvard, Stanford or any other institution of higher learning.
I am not a Hindu and I believe firmly that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life. However, I am fully aware that Gandhi had wisdom as Hindu that also goes beyond a basic understanding of the world the way I want it regardless of whom “I” am. It is the world the way God created it. The more we appreciate that the more we understand who God is and who we are. The devil wants us to believe this world is our world. It is not, we are God’s creation in His world. It is never our world our way which is what gods demand. However, we are not gods.
This is an excerpt from the next book Encounter Christ in Your Humanity soon to be available as a Kindlebook.