You may have read The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. In an attempt to make us more aware of the nature of the temptations we face every day, C. S. Lewis writes an imaginary series of letters between a fledgling demon who is learning the art of deception and his demon uncle who is giving the instruction. One of the benefits of reading these letters is that they open our eyes to things that we do not even recognize as a work of the devil.
While thinking about how to approach the topic I had in mind for an editorial, a dear niece forwarded a little piece that addressed the topic in a style similar to C. S. Lewis’. It said what I wanted to say, so I am going to borrow some of the ideas.
Satan called a worldwide convention of demons. In his opening address he said, “We can’t keep Christians from going to church. We can’t keep them from reading their Bibles and knowing the truth. Many of them don’t read much anymore anyway, but somehow they manage to hobble their way through life and God receives them to glory. Our power over them is broken once God puts within them the new heart of flesh. The new heart seeks out every opportunity to grow in covenant fellowship with God. It is impossible to change that heart and it would appear that after some six thousand years of work that it is impossible to smother that heart with the old sinful nature even if we do succeed in making their life miserable.
“But do not despair! Don’t ever give up! Keep up every last trick we have developed so far. Now it is time to introduce the straw that will break the church’s back. I have often noticed that the new heart thrives by having time with God. Without time, I am sure it will die or at least grow so weak that it will faint under all the other pressures. We must take away their time, and there is no better time in all of history to do it. Never before have there been so many ways to get their attention and use of their time with worthless activity.”
“How shall we do this!” his demons shouted.
“Keep them busy with things that are not essential for spiritual growth and invent innumerable schemes to occupy their minds,” he answered. “Tempt them to spend, spend, spend, and borrow, borrow, borrow. Convince them that wants are needs and multiply the things for them to want. Persuade the husbands that good work ethics have more to do with spending six 11-hour days than putting in a solid eight hours of honest work. You can even begin working on the very young children by starving them of time under the godly instruction of their own mothers. Persuade the wives to leave their homes and children in order to make the extra money they need to pay back the credit card bills. The standard ‘three pronged’ approach works just as well here as it always has. Don’t rely simply on the ‘money’ argument; make sure they feel a deep desire to get away from the children and make sure they are praised and admired for leaving the home for a second income. Convince them that what makes a man or woman of worth is being able to make and spend money. As their families fragment, they will lose the place where much of that spiritual growth time is spent.
“Over-stimulate their minds so they can’t hear their conscience. See to it that all stores and restaurants play non-biblical music constantly. Entice them to fill their cars and homes at least with meaningless mind-numbing diddies. If possible, sneak in some sugar coated heresy or blaspheme. Many have already become numb and insensitive and don’t even notice a full dose of straight humanism. Fill coffee tables with magazines and newspapers. Pound their minds with news 24 hours a day. Keep the television on as long as possible. Bombard their driving time with billboards. Flood their mail boxes with junk mail, mail order catalogs, sweepstakes, and every kind of newsletter and promotional offering free products, services and false hopes. By the time they think maybe they should pick up the Beacon Lights or Standard Bearer, they will be too tired to read much further.
“Even in their recreation, let them be excessive. Make abundant opportunity for the children to be involved in multiple sports after school. Convince them that it is essential for developing self-esteem, good sportsmanship, and lasting friendships. They will quickly forget the essentials for spiritual life. Parents who have already been suckered into thinking they need to work late will love it because it gives them more time before they need to get home. Excessive sports have the added bonus of destroying devotions during supper.
“When they try to find some time away from work, have them return from their recreation exhausted. Keep them too busy and entertainment minded to go out someplace quiet where they can meditate upon the handiwork of God’s creation. Send them to amusement parks, sporting events and concerts instead. Keep them busy, busy, busy! Wear them out so that when they gather for worship, their minds are still buzzing and their bodies want to sleep. Let anyone with time to spend in the study of God’s word and fellowship together with the family be branded as ‘lazy.’
“The best part of this plan to steal their time is that it works beautifully into the overall scheme to make what is good turn into evil. When they gather together for fellowship and time in which they can build each other up spiritually, let their conscience bother them so that they realize that they have fallen far short in spending time with God. They will try to make up for it by becoming involved in good causes. Soon they will crowd their lives with so many good causes that they will have little time for the really important things like spending time with God and their families. Make their fellowship suppers complicated and extravagant so that they begin to bicker and fight about details and forget the real purpose. Their schools and churches all need money, so make the gathering of that money complicated and time consuming as well. If it is allowed to be too simple, it will be very difficult to waste time and stir up some good old fashioned pride. It will work! It will work!”
It was quite a plan. The demons went eagerly to their assignments, causing Christians everywhere to have little time for their God and their families. I guess the question is, has the devil been successful at his scheme? You be the judge.