The Bible’s Viewpoint
Should We Blame Satan for Our Sins?
THE first human sin was blamed on Satan. “The serpent—it deceived me and so I ate,” said Eve. (Genesis 3:13) Since then, “the original serpent, the one called Devil and Satan” has continued on the rampage against humankind, ‘blinding the minds’ of people and “misleading the entire inhabited earth.” (Revelation 12:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4) No human can escape his pressure, but does this mean that we cannot resist his influence? And when we sin, is it always his fault?
The Bible explains that Satan did, in fact, deceive Eve. (1 Timothy 2:14) She was deceived into thinking that by violating God’s command, she could attain godlike insight and independence. (Genesis 3:4, 5) Under that assumption, she sinned. Still, God held her responsible and sentenced her to die. Why? Because although Satan lied, she remained fully aware of God’s command. She was never forced to disobey; rather, she remained in control of her actions, fully capable of resisting Satan’s influence.
Resist the Devil
It is possible for us humans to resist the Devil. At Ephesians 6:12, we are told that “we have a wrestling” against “wicked spirit forces in the heavenly places.” Evidently, then, God expects us to fight Satan’s influence. But how can a human be a match for the superhuman power of Satan and his demons? Are we being asked to fight an unequal battle, one that we are sure to lose? No, because God is not telling us to combat the Devil in our own strength. Jehovah gives us various means by which we can resist the Devil’s enticements and come out victorious. The Bible tells us who the Devil is, how he operates, and how we can protect ourselves.—John 8:44; 2 Corinthians 2:11; 11:14.
How to “Oppose the Devil”
The Scriptures recommend a two-step approach to resisting the Devil. We are admonished: “Subject yourselves, therefore, to God; but oppose the Devil, and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7) The first step in subjecting ourselves to God involves obedience to his commands. Our being constantly aware of God’s existence, his goodness, his awesome power and authority, and his lofty principles will give us strength to oppose Satan. Persistent prayer to God is also vital.—Ephesians 6:18.
Consider the occasion when Jesus was tempted by the Devil. Calling to mind and quoting various commands from God surely helped Jesus to resist. Failing to entice Jesus into sin, Satan left him. After that ordeal, Jehovah, by means of his angels, further strengthened Jesus. (Matthew 4:1-11) Thus, Jesus could confidently encourage his disciples to ask God to ‘deliver them from the wicked one.’—Matthew 6:13.
God’s delivering us does not mean that he puts a protective shield around us. Instead, he tells us to pursue godly qualities, such as truth, righteousness, peace, and faith. These qualities act as a “suit of armor,” enabling us to “stand firm against the machinations of the Devil.” (Ephesians 6:11, 13-18) So with God’s help it is possible to thwart the Devil’s temptations.
The second step recommended at James 4:7 is to “oppose the Devil.” This involves assertive action, fleeing from his harmful influence. One must avoid exposure to his deceitful power and reject the materialistic and immoral philosophies that are so prevalent in the world today. Such opposition to the Devil in combination with a life dedicated to pleasing God is invaluable in our fight against Satan. But are all sins a direct result of the Devil’s influence?
Our Fight From Within
The Bible writer James explains: “Each one is tried by being drawn out and enticed by his own desire. Then the desire, when it has become fertile, gives birth to sin.” (James 1:14, 15) Unfortunately, we cannot entirely overcome inherent weakness and imperfection. (Romans 5:12) “There is no man righteous in the earth that keeps doing good and does not sin,” says the Bible.—Ecclesiastes 7:20.
This does not mean that all sins are totally beyond our control. In some instances, by our wrong choices, we bring temptations upon ourselves. So although a wrong desire may be due to our own imperfection or Satan’s influence, whether we nurture or reject it is totally up to us. Appropriately, the apostle Paul wrote: “Whatever a man is sowing, this he will also reap.”—Galatians 6:7.
Often it is difficult for humans to acknowledge their own weaknesses, failures, shortcomings—yes, sins. (Psalm 36:2) One thing that can help us to accept responsibility for our sins is the knowledge that God does not now require that we be perfect. “He has not done to us even according to our sins; nor according to our errors has he brought upon us what we deserve,” declared the psalmist David. (Psalm 103:10) While God is forgiving, he still expects us to fight hard, to discipline ourselves, against the Devil’s enticements and our own inclinations to sin.—1 Corinthians 9:27.
We must understand that while God acknowledges that the Devil can sway our actions and bears a large measure of responsibility for mankind’s sinful condition, this does not relieve us of our own personal accountability. Thus, Romans 14:12 says: “Each of us will render an account for himself to God.”
However, if we “abhor what is wicked” and “cling to what is good,” we can achieve victory over evil. (Romans 12:9, 21) The first woman, Eve, failed to do that and was punished for her disobedience; she could have resisted and obeyed God. (Genesis 3:16) However, God did not ignore the role the Devil played in deceiving her. The Devil was cursed and condemned to eventual annihilation. (Genesis 3:14, 15; Romans 16:20; Hebrews 2:14) Soon we will no longer have to contend with his evil influence.—Revelation 20:1-3, 10.
[Picture Credit Line on page 26]
Erich Lessing/Art Resource, NY