The man said, “The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” Then the Lord God said to the woman, “What is this you have done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me, and I ate.” [Genesis 3:12-13 (NIV)]
When Satan presented himself to Eve, he was in the guise of a serpent. Remember, this was before God declared enmity between woman and the suborder Serpentes. The snake probably seemed as cute, innocent and harmless as a kitten to the naïve Eve. When Eve tempted Adam with that apple, he had no reason to suspect his wife. When Job’s wife told him to curse God and die, as miserable as he was, her suggestion must have been tempting. We know Sapphira consented to Ananias’ lie about the money he was giving to the church. Could his loving wife have been the one who tempted him to keep back some of it? When Peter told Jesus to refuse crucifixion, that temptation also came from someone loved and trusted. Unfortunately, temptation often comes from unlikely sources. If it really looked as threatening and evil as it is, we’d probably flee in terror before succumbing to it.
Indeed, temptation is seductive and rarely does our tempter appear to be the adversary he or she truly is. A colleague shows us how to pad the expense account, a supplier suggests a way to cut corners, a school friend suggests cheating on the test, a broker offers inside information, a customer proposes a shady side deal, tea and sympathy turn into an illicit affair, or a discussion in our small group turns into a gripe session or gossip fest. Talk to a recovering addict: that first snort of cocaine or heroin didn’t come from a wigged out junkie in a back alley; it came from a friend! Satan is no fool; if he arrived at our doorstep looking like the deceitful conniver he is, we’d never let him in. Instead, he finds ways to use people, often those we’d least suspect, even people we admire or love, to act as stumbling blocks to our faith.
Yesterday I wrote about not being a stumbling block to someone else’s faith. It’s not enough, however, not to be a tempter. We must learn how to recognize those stumbling blocks that ever so subtly lie in our path. Not every bad idea comes from someone we think of as “bad;” many come from our nearest and dearest. While Satan may skulk around like a hungry lion, he often looks a great deal like a cute innocent kitten.
We must not regard who speaks, so much as what is spoken; we should learn to know the devil’s voice when he speaks in a saint as well as when he speaks in a serpent. [Matthew Henry]