The reason why Satan wants to tempt us may not be the reason you are thinking; the consequences may be unimaginably worse.
And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life. (2 Peter 2:20-21)
The Bible gives many names to Satan. One designation the Bible gives to Satan is the tempter. Enticing disobedience to God is one of Satan’s main strategies in his ongoing defiance of God, so it makes sense that this would be encapsulated in his identity.
If Satan can entice us into succumbing to temptation and sinning, he wins. But what does He win?
Like any intelligent chess player, Satan focuses on the moves coming in the game, not just the move immediately in front of him. Sometimes we focus only on the immediate consequences. Grave as the immediate consequences are, there is a main reason why Satan wants to tempt us. And it may not be what we think it is.
How Does Satan Tempt Us
We’ve all heard the phrase “the devil made me do it”. But the reality is, we are responsible for our own actions as it comes to succumbing to sin. Satan cannot make us sin. All he can do is tempt us into sinning.
So how does Satan tempt us? He uses the most effective means at his disposal. He finds our weakest areas and simply presents opportunity. For each of us, some behaviors will be so detestable to us that we won’t even think about doing them, ever. They are avenues we will never find desirable. It’s possible this will be presented as a temptation from time to time, but as it proves ineffective, Satan will likely move to other strategies.
Then there are the temptations that we know we are susceptible to. Those are the temptations that we will feel most ready to battle on our own strength. And since ultimately apart from Jesus we can do nothing (John 15:5), if we try to combat these temptations on our own power we will eventually fail, and wrestle with the guilt and shame of failing. Even worse, we may succeed in our own strength, and like the rich young ruler, believe we have achieved righteousness, becoming blind to where we don’t measure up (Mark 10:17-27).
And finally, the most insidious of all, there are the temptations that we don’t think will entice us. In our pride, we may think that partaking in something that doesn’t really interest us will be “harmless”, so we think we can try it and walk away.
Maybe we give into peer pressure in the moment, or our curiosity or anger gets the best of us. But then we discover it is pleasurable. In many cases, giving in to these temptations are an attempt to ease pain or stress, which makes them especially difficult to cope with going forward – these are the temptations that can easily become addictions.
Additionally, there is the pride of today’s post-modernism, where many think God loves us just as we are, with no consequences for how we live. Or in a world where we all live “our truth”, sin isn’t even relevant. Honestly, if this is your position, a post dealing with handling temptation may not even make sense. But there is a problem with taking such a position.
How Does Satan Know What Tempts Us?
How does Satan know what tempts us? The answer is, Satan may not know at first. He may throw all sorts of temptations our way, until he finds one that will give us pause.
Because what Satan does know is that there are general areas of desire that all people deal with. What we can sense, what we can see, and what we can have (1 John 2:16). You have probably heard this stated as the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life. And if we were to examine what do the 3 temptations of Jesus symbolize, we will find each of these represented (Luke 4:1-13).
Once Satan has found a temptation that works with you, like a masterful fisherman, he won’t wind his reel all the way in the second he has us nibbling. He will let those nibbles lead to the time we take it, as the phrase goes, hook, line, and sinker.
But even then, he is only providing the temptation. Where temptation starts is out of our own desires, which then leads to sin, and ultimately, death (James 1:13-14). Sin is progressive in this way. If we find ourselves far along a particular road of sin, we will look back and see that what would once have been considered detestable to us doesn’t even satisfy us anymore. Every avenue of sin eventually leads to an “overdose” that is fatal.
Once we have succumbed to temptation, Satan starts to work himself out of a job. There will be times that, if we aren’t walking in holiness, we will quit wrestling with sin, and invite the temptation we already know we will surrender to. That’s why it is so important to walk in holiness before God, so we will be better equipped to treat sin as a defeated enemy.
So far, we’ve talked a lot about the how, but we still haven’t cemented the reason why Satan wants to tempt us. Let’s look at that now.
Why Satan Wants to Tempt Us
There are a few popular answers in our modern Christian culture today as to why Satan wants to tempt us. If we think about these answers for a minute, they really don’t get to the root, so much as they are speaking to the secondary consequences of giving into temptation. The popular answers, while there is some truth to them, don’t completely align with the long game that Satan is playing. They are more “us” focused.
Does Satan Want to Rob Us of Joy?
One of the popular answers to the question why Satan wants to tempt us is that if Satan can’t take away our salvation, then he will try to rob us of our joy.
If we give into temptation by sinning, then our joy will certainly be taken from us. It is painful for those who are following Christ to realize when they have failed Him. And true repentance usually comes at the cost of great inner turmoil and angst. God’s forgiveness is available to us even when we fall away, but it can be a painful journey.
However, that’s not Satan’s ultimate goal when He is tempting us. He is happy to see anyone who is attempting to follow Christ suffer. But it is a secondary consequence. The real consequence is even greater.
Does Satan Want to Damage our Witness?
Another popular answer is that Satan wants to do anything he can to damage our witness.
It’s certainly true that if we’re caught in the snare of sin, this will result in less people trusting us spiritually or opening the door to being called a hypocrite. This too is a secondary consequence. However, it is closer to the real reason why Satan wants to tempt us.
The Reason Why Satan Wants to Tempt Us
As one of God’s first created angels, Lucifer is likely to have a better understanding of God’s word than even the most devout Christian. And he probably has a better grasp on the prophecies in the Bible better than any of us will.
Therefore, Satan knows how his story is supposed to end. Perhaps he is hopeful that he will be able to make something change at the end, I’m not sure. But the maxim “misery loves company” probably is at play as it comes to Satan’s ultimate destiny more so than in any other context.
If Satan is destined for the lake of fire, he wants to make sure he takes as many of God’s beloved humans with him as he possibly can. Satan will do anything to keep souls out of Heaven.
As we said earlier, sin, if fully embraced leads to death – as in spiritual death. If you embrace sin in your life, acting as if it holds no consequences for you because you “believe in Jesus”, then you are making the most catastrophic mistake possible. There will be many who say they followed Jesus, only to find out at the end that they weren’t (Matthew 7:22-23). And you certainly won’t be fulfilling the great commission if you aren’t truly following Christ.
You could cost yourself your own soul – and you are costing the souls of those who you can and should be sharing the gospel with if you were truly dedicated to following Christ. The gospel is meaningless unless sin is real, and a real problem. If we live like sin has no meaning, we run counter to the gospel we supposedly accept.
Or just as devastating, if you are succumbing to sin, you may be sharing a false gospel, thinking you are sharing the true gospel. Again, if we remove sin from the equation, the gospel is neutered. A “God is love” gospel is a permissive gospel. God loves us, and He is the truest embodiment of love, but the gospel is about mercy in the face of sure judgement.
Nothing makes Satan happier than knowing that by tempting you, and you sinning as a response, that you are literally putting your and others’ eternal destiny on the line.
Since we now understand the extreme consequences of giving into temptation, how do we guard against temptation?
How to Guard Against Temptation
So, I purposely phrased this question this way, because we often ask ourselves this question, but it’s actually the wrong question.
Temptations will always be present in our lives. It is important to acknowledge this undeniable fact. It is not possible to eliminate temptations from our lives. That’s because our very world is marred by the curse of sin. Had we not been renewed by acknowledging Christ as Lord and giving our lives over to Him, this might not even feel bothersome to us. But followers of Christ are already living under the promise of heavenly citizenship. That’s why it’s important we don’t succumb to temptation (Philippians 3:17-21).
One of Satan’s biggest tricks is to get you to equate temptation with sin in your mind. If Satan can make you confused, so that you are ashamed of being tempted, then you might begin to treat temptation and sin as equal. Which will make it easier for you to go on and actually sin.
Read this carefully: you have only succumbed to temptation if you go on to sin as a response to the temptation. If we are tempted, and we resist, this is actually something to rejoice in because we will be rewarded for it (James 1:12).
The Answer for When Satan Wants to Tempt Us
So, if we are truly followers of Christ, we don’t need to guard against temptation. We need to have the right answer to temptation, which is to not fall into sin. And the only hope we have to achieve that is if we take an active role in our faith by abiding with Christ.
When we are following the abiding disciplines of Bible study, prayer, and fellowshipping with other believers, we are strengthening our resolve in the face of temptation. Not because we are building “spiritual muscles”, but because we are placing ourselves deep within our Shepherd’s fenced gates, where we can rely on His empowerment and protection.
Jesus modeled this for us in the way He lived. He studied the scriptures from His youth, so that he amazed spiritual leaders with his knowledge. The gospels are filled with references to Jesus taking the time to pray. And he surrounded himself with His disciples. As God, Jesus was self-sufficient, but His humanness was blessed through companionship.
Now that you understand the reason why Satan wants to tempt us, and the terrible consequences of allowing temptation to lead to sin, please do all you can to abide with Christ, and allow Him to grow and mature your faith and allegiance to Him. If you fear you have followed a false gospel, examine if you are following Christ. If you have fallen away, do the hard work of repentance and “go and sin no more”.
More Bible verses about why Satan wants to tempt us: