We blame Satan for a lot of stuff. When things go wrong, we blame him. When we are tempted, we blame him. When we get sick, when we suffer…we blame him. I hear it all the time, “Satan is sure beating me up this week. He is really after me.” Why do we blame Satan and, more importantly what is the end result of blaming him?
It may seem a little strange, but let’s lay a foundation for discussing Satan with the story of Joseph. When Joseph reveals himself to his brothers in Egypt, he knows they must be afraid of retribution, so he assures them with these words, “So it was not you who sent me here, but God. He has made me a father to Pharaoh, and lord of all his house and ruler over all the land of Egypt.” (1)
When do you think Joseph started thinking this way? When everything was right in his world? After twenty-two years, when he was free of slavery and was released from prison and became the ruler of Egypt? No, his belief that God was in charge of his life began in the empty cistern his brothers threw him into for three terrifying days. It continued on his path in chains to an unknown, unfamiliar land. It solidified in the dank, cold prison where he was unjustly thrown. Joseph didn’t blame his brothers. He didn’t blame the devil. He gave God glory even when he couldn’t possibly understand that his path would eventually lead him to be the savior of the world.
We need to back up even a little further into Joseph’s story to understand exactly where the blame for his story lays… and it’s not at the devil’s feet. When Joseph was sent by his father to find his brothers, they were not to be found. A man, whom some think may have been an angel, found Joseph wandering about and led him in the right direction, which was the direction that began Joseph’s rejection and enslavement. (2)
Now I can just picture us in a similar situation. We might begin to think things like, “The devil is after me. Man, I must be doing something right because he just won’t leave me alone.” But, who, in fact, sent the man to Joseph to tell him where his jealous, conniving brothers were? God. Who had the bigger picture in view? God. Who sees everything and meets out rewards and punishments? God. Whose ways are higher than ours (and, by the way, sometimes seemingly confusing)? God’s.
So, “Why do we blame the devil, and what is the end result?” One reason we blame the devil is because it’s easier to blame someone else than ourselves. (That’s an old one!) One result is that it excuses us from accepting responsibility for our own thoughts, actions and reactions. Because we view “it” as Satan’s doing, we ignore what God is trying to do in our lives or what He is trying to teach us.
Imagine if Joseph had simply blamed his adversary for his circumstances. Would we see him acting righteously when tempted by Potiphar’s gorgeous wife, or would we see him morally fall because, after all, he deserved a little pleasure in exchange for his rotten life? Would we see him taking leadership and responsibility in the jail cell, or would we see him mired in self-pity wondering why on earth God had forgotten him?
Secondly, blaming the devil robs us of hope. I mean, who can expect anything good from the devil? Who can have feelings of trust in the devil? If you give the devil credit, is it even possible to have a hopeful expectation that it won’t always be this way and better things are around the corner? Where does that leave my dreams? My desires? My optimistic assurance for the future? When we blame the devil, hopelessness begins to control our thoughts before we even realize it. Because he chose not to blame the devil, Joseph was able to maintain hope in horrific circumstances.
Thirdly, blaming the devil ends in idolatry. Idolatry is pretty serious stuff. When we choose to give praise to the devil instead of attributing to God what is rightfully His, we become idolators.
Of course, I can only think this if I believe in the sovereignty of God (which I do). Sovereignty means that God has the full right and power to govern the world without any interference from outside sources, i.e. the devil. If I have a habit of blaming Satan, it will lead me to distrust God a little bit because I don’t really view God as supreme and sovereign.
When we blame Satan, thereby giving him credit, we tend to ignore God’s role in our lives. I believe God is the supreme ruler of the universe possessing ultimate power. Satan does not have equal status with God, not even close, and yet, we treat him like he does…. as if the devil has the authority on his own to harass us. Even a cursory reading of Job 1:6-12 conveys a message we need to hear: Satan is not the boss. God sent Satan out to test Job’s righteousness. Just like with Joseph, it was not the devil who sent him to those places; it was God.
“Idol worship is the perception that there are many forces with various powers over mankind and perhaps even over God. It’s as if God’s power were vested in a gun He holds in His hand. The idolater thinks that if could only wrest the gun from God, then he’d wield that power.” (3) Let us be careful that we don’t find ourselves in the same position as Satan, who thinks he can wrest God’s power away from him, or an idolator, who gives glory to someone/thing other than the Creator of the Universe. There is nothing with more or equal power than God.
The Scriptures teach us that Satan is a roaring lion, and we are told to resist the devil, but we get so caught up in these few words, imagining how we might defeat this mighty, roaring lion in some glorious battle that we ignore Peter’s specific instructions in how to resist the devil, “…firm in your faith, knowing that the same kinds of suffering are being experienced by your brotherhood throughout the world. And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him be the dominion forever and ever.” (4) We don’t resist the devil by blaming him. We resist him by standing firm in our faith, knowing that we do suffer and that God will restore us because He is sovereign… forever.
For years now, I’ve made it a point to stop blaming Satan, to stop giving him any credit for anything and to stop glorifying him in any way, shape or form. It has changed the way I think and therefore the way I act.
Let’s be honest, it’s super hard to take responsibility, but I think that is what God expects me to do. It can seem almost impossible to maintain hope in the face of adversity and rotten circumstances, but sometimes that is exactly what God is watching for. It is counter-intuitive to give God glory and praise and bless His name when He takes away, and yet, that is what God calls me to. I choose not to blame Satan because Satan doesn’t give and take away.
God gives. And, God takes away. Blessed be the Name of the Lord! I can just picture Joseph in the pit, in the prison, and yes, in the royal palace saying that. Can’t you?