The Greatest Trick of All

The Greatest Trick of All

The greatest trick the devil ever pulled isn't getting you to believe he doesn't exist, but making you think you're doing God's will.

How do you consider yourself a good person if your day job is to promote a product that you know undermines a person's health? Do you tell yourself that people should have the freedom to choose to be poisoned? Do you lobby politicians to make laws in your company's favor, but know deep in your heart that your position is fundamentally wrong? Do you seek to discredit the opposition by calling into question their methods, their professionalism, even their sanity? Now, how do you cope with this, what really is morally repugnant? You tell yourself that it's okay, and that God will forgive you because you go to church.

Your job is to make sure that oversee that voting in your state works as flawlessly as possible. But you don't want Candidate A to win, so you make things difficult for his supporters and go through great lengths, under the guise of legality, to make that happen. Are you a good person? Are you someone that should be recognized for his integrity and character? Do you tell yourself that what goes on here on the temporal level has nothing to do with the state of your immortal soul and God will forgive you? Do you honestly believe there's a fundamental difference between being opposed to abortion and preventing people from voting under dubious and bad-intentioned rules? Apples and oranges, say the offended. But are you sure?

How do the overly righteous know they are right? They can cite chapter and verse, but are they absolutely sure they could never be tricked into doing the wrong thing under the premise that they are "defending" God, or performing what he wants? The person who claims he can never be fooled, or can spot a con from a mile away is actually the first person who will be the victim of a grift. Everyone is susceptible to deceit, especially the overly righteous.

The very religious among us like to think God is planning something specific for them, and because they are so full of faith, everything is a test. So if one of them is in a position of authority to pass a law that prevents a black man from marrying a white woman, is he a good man? He thinks he is. Put another way, consider the scene in Little Rock, Arkansas, when the first black students started their long walk into school, surrounded on both sides by walls of hate. Catcalls of "nigger" and other despicable epithets. Do you believe that any of those angry white students and their parents stopped themselves in mid-slur and repented of their anger? Of course not. These were churchgoing people, folks who were convinced they were good and decent because they believed in God and country. Not one of them would have considered that perhaps their uncontrolled hate against any of the Little Rock Nine could have been a trick by the devil himself, goading them into unleashing such vile thoughts and feelings against their fellow man. Not one of them thought for a moment that perhaps they were being tested by God to see if they would love their enemies as themselves. No, people like to think the Supreme Being is testing them when they think they already know the outcome, not when it's a situation completely out of their control.

The ones who claim to know the mind of God are the worst at this. Self-righteousness and self-deceit go hand in hand, but people pretend otherwise since like I said, everyone believes himself to be too smart to be taken in. No one is willing to concede they can be tricked into doing something that harms someone else because they clutch a Bible or a Quran. And everyone is willing to shield themselves behind an invisible, cloud-dwelling person to mask their own worst prejudices. But be tricked? By the alleged Master Trickster of all? Certainly not! They know this is impossible because, well, they just know. And since they have a system of forgiveness all worked out—or rather, handed already to them—they can excuse all of their behavior as a part of their faith. No one thinks that a sin could possibly be following God's word with the evil intention of harming someone else. People don't allow themselves the idea that maybe they're being tested in a small mundane way. Instead, people like to assume it's Big Things that we're tested on. So they'll pat themselves on the back thinking it's only large things that demand their faith, when it's always the smaller things that are the true tests of our character. And because no one wants to believe that, it's impossible to conceive that our failure to act on the small, private level could be the biggest victory for the devil. Remember, "Satan" is the Hebrew word for "adversary," in a legal sense of the word, someone who accuses you and lays out the case against you. It would be foolish to think it's only the Big Stuff that makes the docket.

Again, I ask you: are you a good person? How are you sure that your zeal to selectively apply God's word against people you don't like isn't exactly what the Devil wants you to do?