For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. [Romans 3:23-24 (NLT)]
Many stories, novels, operas, musicals, and movies have been based on the theme of selling one’s soul to the devil. In Christopher Marlowe’s 1592 play, The Tragical History of Doctor Faustus, a brilliant scholar who’s sure he’s learned all there is to know by conventional means turns to magic and ends up summoning the devil Mephistopheles. The two agree that, after Faustus has enjoyed twenty-four years of absolute power (with Mephistopheles as his servant), his soul will belong to Lucifer. When the handsome Dorian sells his soul so that he will never age in The Picture of Dorian Gray, he enters into a lifestyle of debauchery. While Dorian remains handsome, his picture changes to reflect the immoral and sinful life he’s led. In the 1968 horror movie Rosemary’s Baby, the naïve Rosemary discovers that her husband sold both his soul and her womb to Satan for riches and career success. As expected, none of those tales end well. The Devil and Daniel Webster, however, does but only because of the eloquence of the famed lawyer and statesman Daniel Webster.
While it was Daniel Webster’s persuasive arguments that saved the soul of Jabez Stone from the clutches of the devil, it is Jesus who saves ours! Before we came to Christ, we all were in bondage to sin and condemned to death. Satan may have authority over those who aren’t Christ followers, but he doesn’t over us. Just as Jesus set the demoniac free, he sets us free, as well.
While stories of selling one’s soul are morality tales that vividly illustrate the wages of sin, they are fiction and the concept of making a deal with Satan is not Biblical. Nevertheless, let us not forget that Satan is a deceiver and tempter who is committed to opposing God and all who follow Him. While Jesus has freed us from condemnation, He has not freed us from temptation.
Satan tempts us with things like power, riches, or status every day, just not as blatantly as he did in those fictional accounts. Rather than offering us a contract to be signed in blood, he subtly offers a seemingly trivial compromise one day followed by a minor concession or false rationale the next. Dangling some reward in front of us, he whispers that everyone else is doing it, we deserve whatever it is, no one will ever know, or that we’ve got to look out for ourselves since no one else will! With each concession, we surrender a little bit of ourselves in the false belief that what we’ll gain is more valuable than what we lose.
Temptation is an inevitable part of living in this fallen world but we have not been left defenseless. We won’t need Daniel Webster’s skillful courtroom arguments because we have prayer, self-discipline, and God’s armor. We wear the belt of truth and the breast-plate of righteousness and have the Gospel of peace for shoes. We carry the shield of faith, place the helmet of salvation on our heads, and fight with the sword of the Spirit and God’s Word. Our souls are not for sale!
As the most dangerous winds may enter at little openings, so the devil never enters more dangerously than by little unobserved incidents, which seem to be nothing, yet insensibly open the heart to great temptations. [John Wesley]