Beware of Being Overreached
THOSE who become true Christians are said to have been ‘delivered from the authority of the darkness.’ (Col. 1:13) The ruler over this darkness is identified by the Bible’s words at Ephesians 2:2. There the apostle Paul says that, before becoming Christians, the members of the Ephesian congregation had “walked according to the system of things of this world, according to the ruler of the authority of the air, the spirit that now operates in the sons of disobedience.”
The apostle specifically named this powerful ruler when counseling these Christians to “put on the complete suit of armor from God that you may be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil.”—Eph. 6:11, 12.
The Christian, therefore, needs to exercise the greatest watchfulness and caution. He may be carrying out God’s requirements in many respects. Yet, if he relaxes his vigilance, he, too, may suddenly and inadvertently be brought into doing Satan’s will. The apostle Peter admonished: “Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone.”—1 Pet. 5:8.
Some Christians in the congregation at Ephesus evidently had not been watchful. They were being deflected from the truth. Paul wrote Timothy to instruct and help such ones, that “they may come back to their proper senses out from the snare of the Devil.” (2 Tim. 2:24-26) Now, a snare is not something that its victim walks into with open eyes. It is well hidden. Suddenly, without warning, the trap is sprung, and the unsuspecting victim is then too far into it to escape without help. So with Satan’s snare, the individual is caught unawares. More seriously, however, he may actually be caught in the snare and still not be aware of it. He may even unwittingly serve Satan’s purposes, being deceived into thinking he is doing right.
Some of Satan’s Snares
A case in point is an incident involving the apostle Peter. Jesus had told his disciples that he was going to suffer at the hands of the Jewish religious leaders and be put to death. This was the course his Father had set out for him. Jesus knew that for him even to entertain a thought of avoiding this sacrificial death would be a sin. But Peter, doubtless with good intent, drew Jesus aside, saying: “Be kind to yourself, Lord; you will not have this destiny at all.” Turning his back on Peter, Jesus replied: “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me, because you think, not God’s thoughts, but those of men.”—Matt. 16:21-23.
Here Peter fell into the snare of Satan, and was unwittingly himself a “satan” or “resister” of Jesus. His case emphasizes our need to listen to what God’s Word says, to have accurate knowledge of it, following it, not human sentimentality, emotion or reasoning.
Again, the Bible gives warning when it counsels married couples about giving each other the marriage due: “Do not be depriving each other of it, except by mutual consent for an. appointed time, that you may devote time to prayer and may come together again, that Satan may not keep tempting you for your lack of self-regulation.” (1 Cor. 7:5) Balance, good sense, must be observed, even when devoting time to some special service of God. Otherwise, as in the case of a married couple, their abstinence from giving the sexual due could give the Devil an opportunity to tempt one or both parties, through passion, to wrong thoughts or actions toward someone of the opposite sex.—Matt. 5:28; 1 Cor. 6:9, 18.
Snares for the Congregation
That an entire congregation, and particularly those responsible for its oversight, must guard against being overreached by Satan is illustrated in the case of the early Christian congregation in Corinth. One of its members had fallen into gross immorality. Instead of clearing out this wickedness, the congregation was falling into Satan’s snare, being puffed up rather than feeling sad about the case. The apostle Paul instructed the congregation to expel the wicked man.—1 Cor. 5:1-5, 13.
Later, the man repented and changed his course, after a period of being disfellowshiped. Now Paul wrote the congregation, exhorting them to forgive the man and receive him back, in order that, as he said, “we may not be overreached by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his designs.” Yes, Christians must not forget what Satan’s designs are. In the first instance, the congregation had been lax, not careful to maintain cleanness in the congregation. But now there was danger of swinging to the other extreme—becoming hard, harsh and unforgiving to the truly repentant one. This would have suited the Devil’s purpose equally well and cost them God’s favor.—2 Cor. 2:5-11; Matt. 6:14, 15; Jas. 2:13.
Wrong Desire and Pride
Wrong desire can be an insidious snare of Satan. Judas Iscariot is an example. When first chosen as an apostle of the Lord Jesus Christ, he manifested the qualifications for the office. But Judas became covetous, greedy. He began to steal from the fund that Christ and his apostles used for expenses. With this start, Satan was able to lead him farther and farther into the development of a wicked heart, until finally he betrayed the Lord. He lost everything, becoming “the son of destruction.”—John 12:3-6; 13:18-27; 17:12; 18:2-5.
Pride is also one of Satan’s most powerful instruments. It can ensnare even the righteous man into stumbling, and worse, can bring trouble upon others. Because he recognized pride as one of Satan’s devices, the apostle Paul specifically ruled out the appointment of a newly converted man to the position of overseer in a congregation, “for fear that he might get puffed up with pride [at being so suddenly elevated to an office of prominence and responsibility] and fall into the judgment passed upon the Devil.”—1 Tim. 3:2, 6.
The Devil’s unrelenting determination is to defame God’s name. Because the conduct of any man appointed to oversight in a congregation reflects on the entire congregation and upon Jehovah God himself, he is required to be a man having “a fine testimony from people on the outside.” He should be one who really lives up to the name of a Christian in morals, in business dealings, in family, in neighborliness, in hospitality and in loving-kindness. Otherwise, if appointed to office, he might “fall into reproach and a snare of the Devil.”—1 Tim. 3:7.
Yes, if a man open to accusation of unrighteous practices by persons outside the congregation should be placed prominently in the Christian congregation as a shepherd and teacher, what an opportunity this would give opposers to revile! (Compare 1 Timothy 5:14, 15.) Satan would delight in seeing such a snare succeed, to Jehovah’s reproach.
Therefore, let those serving Jehovah God put on the complete suit of armor from God. “Keep on the watch and praying, in order that you do not come into temptation.” Use “every form of prayer,” that is, supplication, thanksgiving and intercession. Also “keep awake with all constancy and with supplication in behalf of all the holy ones.” Depend on Jehovah and his ruling king Jesus Christ. Have genuine concern for one another, thus avoiding any extremes or the creeping in of wrong desire. This true Christians must continue to do, knowing that, because they stand for Jehovah’s name, they are Satan’s chief target. They are not ignorant of his ways, but they must keep alert so that they are not subtly overreached by that one who is the greatest enemy of God and of man.—Mark 14:38; Eph. 6:11, 13, 18; Luke 22:31; Rev. 12:9, 17.