Apparently, many people believe that Satan (aka the Devil) tempts them to sin. This belief may result from a lack of understanding about what the Bible indicates about Satan’s abilities. However, a lot of people may be looking for someone other than themselves to blame for their sinful actions, because they are reluctant to admit that they, like every other human, are inherently sinful and, therefore, they want to believe that Satan causes them to sin.
In the discussion that follows, we will consider whether or not Satan and/or his angels (demons) should be blamed for all the sins that people, including Christians, commit.
Because the Holy Spirit indwells all genuine Christians (see Romans 8:9, 1 Corinthians 3:16, and 2 Corinthians 1:21-22), Satan cannot indwell a genuine Christian (i.e., he cannot inhabit a Christian’s body and/or mind) to tempt them. Thus, the only way that Satan can tempt a genuine Christian is to do so externally in their immediate presence, such as when Satan (in the form of a serpent) tempted Adam’s wife Eve and, many years later,
Furthermore, Satan is a finite being (i.e., he is not omnipresent), so he can be at only one place at a time and, therefore, he generally can tempt only one person at a time. Because of this limitation, Satan lacks the time to be able to tempt most people, even during the course of an entire year. Thus, it is likely that Satan focuses on tempting people who can have the most influence on causing other people to do what he wants them to do. [For a discussion of the reasons to believe that Satan is not omnipresent, click on “Who Is Satan and Is He Omnipresent?”]
But, doesn’t Satan utilize his angels (demons) to tempt people? The answer is that there does not seem to be a biblical basis for believing that Satan uses demons to tempt anyone. The Bible cites no instance in which a person was tempted by a demon.
What about demon possessions? Matthew 8:28-33; 9:32-33; 12:22; 17:14-18; Mark 5:1-8; and Luke 4:33-35; 8:27-30; 9:37-42 are scriptures that pertain to demon possession (i.e., indwelling) of specific individuals. Don’t such occurrences indicate that demons tempt people?
Neither these scriptures nor any others indicate that people are tempted by demons. Because the people that demons possess are under the control of the demons, these people have essentially no freedom of choice as to what they do or don’t do and, therefore, tempting is not involved.
So, what does the Bible say about who causes the sins committed by most people? [Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible.]
James 1:14-15 states, [Each person] “is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”
This scripture indicates that the inclination of people to sin is a result of their inability to keep themselves from trying to satisfy their innate human desires in unrighteous ways. In other words, most sin by humans is not a result of their being tempted by Satan. [For a more thorough explanation of the reasons for believing that every person has a disposition to sin, click on “Is Every Person Innately Evil?”]
People ought not assume that Satan should be blamed for their inclination to sin and that, therefore, they are not responsible for their sins. Every person is responsible for the sins they commit, regardless of whether Satan tempted them to sin or they yielded to their inherent human nature to sin. And, the Bible makes it sufficiently clear that God will hold each person accountable for their sins (see Romans 3:23 and 6:23). This includes genuine Christians who do not genuinely confess their sins (see 1 John 1:9), although they will not lose their eternal salvation if they fail to confess all their sins.
Christians in particular should take responsibility to resist their human propensity to sin. They should have a holier nature than they had before they became a Christian and, therefore, they should have a strong desire to live in accordance with God’s will rather than yielding to temptations. [For a discussion of holiness for Christians, click on “Can Anyone Except God Be Holy?”]