Making a Deal with the Devil

“Get out of here, Satan,” Jesus told him. “For the Scriptures say,  ‘You must worship the Lord your God and serve only him.’” (Matthew 4:10)

When wars become prolonged, thousands of lives have been sacrificed, and it seems as though there is no rational conclusion to an otherwise endless conflict over ideologies – there are those who would claim that sometimes a deal with the devil is better than no deal at all. When you make those kinds of deals, you’d better be certain the expectations are clear and you have the upper hand. Personally, I have heard it said that when it comes to selecting the lesser of two evils that “it’s better to deal with the devil you know that the one you don’t know.”  This phrase is often utilized when it seems wiser to side with someone you dislike, but with whom you are familiar, over someone you don’t know at all who could be far worse.  This might apply along the entire gamut of tough decision-making, from considering between job offers to concluding who to vote for in an upcoming election. We must recognize that logical determinations do not always occur when emotions are high or a sense-of-urgency comes into play.

Take the case of Aunt Freda who found herself on the wrong end of what appeared to be a concerning situation.  One day when she answered the phone, she was told by a man that he was a law enforcement officer in Canada. He went on to relate that he had her nephew Bill in custody who could be released and returned to the United States if he could find payment of a $5000 fine. In the background, she could hear someone who sounded like Bill, pleading – “Please send the money, Aunt Freda, and I will pay you back just as soon as I can.” Sickened by the thought of her nephew being held in a jail cell, she wrote down the details and agreed to wire the money within the next few hours. Shortly thereafter, she found herself at a Western Union money transfer location. Appearing somewhat distraught, she shared her nephew’s situation with the clerk who asked her one very important question – “Have you attempted to call your nephew today?”  Freda indicated she had not, and the clerk urged her to do so. When she dialed the number, Bill answered the phone and assured Aunt Freda that he was okay. She was about to make a deal with the devil, by becoming a victim of a well-rehearsed scam on a lady who was up in years.

The idea of ‘bargaining with the devil’ is much more cultural than it is biblical. There are times in scripture, however, when Satan attempts to strike a deal with God. In the Book of Job, for instance, Satan proposes that if God would allow him to bring great suffering to Job, whom God had described as “the finest man in all the earth” (Job 1:8), that Job would surely curse God to His face (Job 1:9-11). Satan argues that Job was only faithful because he was blessed with a family and wealth and, later, that he only served Him because he had good health. God allows this to play out through conversations Job has with three friends who offer him false comfort. Job’s response: “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him; I will surely defend my ways to his face” (Job 13:15). God finally rebukes Job’s friends who accuse him of having sinned. In the end, Job has considerably more than when he began his suffering.  In the New Testament, the devil proposes bargaining with Jesus at the end of His forty days of fasting in the wilderness: “If you are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread” (Luke 4:3). In other words, “Why are you hungry if you are God’s Son?” After showing Jesus “all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor” (Matthew 4:8), Satan offers them to Jesus if He will merely bow down and worship him. Jesus sends Satan away with His own rebuke from God’s Holy Word (see Matthew 4:10, above).

Someone has said that most of us don’t have to make a deal with the devil, because he’s already got us. Satan pretends that he’s far away, but he is a lot closer than you might think. The story is told of a hunter who went out into the forest to shoot a bear, out of which he planned to make a warm coat. Eventually he saw a bear coming toward him, raised his gun and took aim. “Wait,” said the bear, “why do you want to shoot me?” “Because I am cold,” said the hunter. “But I am hungry,” the bear replied, “so maybe we can strike up a deal.” Ultimately, the hunter was well-wrapped in the bear’s fur and the bear had a good dinner. We always lose out when we compromise with the devil. He will consume us in the end. Revise your course of action, and be prepared to simply say . . . “Get away from me, Satan.”

REFLECTION: In what kinds of situations have you found yourself where you have or been tempted to compromise your faith in God?  How can you learn to trust Him more, even in suffering and death?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.