What if two demons got together and share…
Incubus: How did it go?
Baal: (snarls) Mind your own business and get back to work!
Incubus: (trembles) Yes...Sir.
Baal: ...but wait, if you must know...
Incubus: (turns back) Yes...yes I must know.
Baal: ...he promoted me.
Incubus: Oh my Goryness, this calls for a celebration! I knew it was coming. Your 4th temptation was the clincher right? It was?
Baal: (nods) How perceptive. It indeed was.
Incubus: So now you are...
Baal: ... (cringes in delight) Commander of the 37th dominion!
Incubus: Wow...that's a great leap! Amazing.
Baal: Mm...I guess I've you to thank then...
Incubus: (quiet)... erm.
Baal: Thank you for the 4th temptation?
Incubus: Well, you inspired me actually (pause). By the way, did you mention my small part in it?
Baal: (smirks) Now...now, your time will come. Do not covet.
Incubus: Yes sir...yes sir...
Baal: But don't worry...I will give you due credit when the time is right. But first, I want an update on the 4th temptation. Is it going as planned?
Incubus: It most certainly is sir. The world is embracing it.
Baal: The believers?
Incubus: They are lapping it up. It's the new sermon of the mount!
Baal: Mm...(smug) Remind me again how it works?
Incubus: Sure my Lord. As you are aware, the 4th temptation seeks not to turn stone to bread or test him or offers worldly riches in return for one’s worship.
Baal: ...but it seeks to distract nevertheless?
Incubus: Yes...how wise. It is a combination of all three temptations and more. A potent and wicked mix of distraction I say.
Baal: So, it tells them to live on His word and no other?
Baal: Shush...I am not done yet. It also tells them to trust him and not test him?
Incubus: (nods excitedly)...
Baal: And to worship him?
Incubus: Yes...but the beauty of it...(catches a glimpse of disapproval)...sorry.
Baal: ...and the beauty of it is that all that sounds so righteous or eloquent in words but not in deeds?
Incubus: Yes, yes, the point is to make righteousness look so good that it becomes an irresistible decoy.
Baal: So, if you can't beat him join him?
Incubus: Well, that was the strategy yes. But there's more about this righteousness thing.
Baal: Mm...haven't we used this before with the Pharisees millennia ago? It's hypocrisy all over again right?
Incubus: Yes...yes...that was hypocrisy in legalism attire and his son exposed it remember?
Baal: (squints) Ok...what's the difference now?
Incubus: Well, the 4th temptation is still about hypocrisy no doubt but it is one that goes to the other extreme of legalism. It is now about letting God do everything for the believers. Avoid the works. Ignore the laws. They are liberated from all that. It’s the post-Calvary gospel. The ultimate new creation. That's the big difference!
Baal: So, now the creator is their personal genie in the lamp?
Incubus: Yes...oh wise one. And didn't his son came to die for them? Imagine that...what love would even do that? We just need to string together a few scriptures along the lines of asking big and they will be receiving big because their God loves them and came to die for them. Now that's unconditional love. The focus is all about the breezy side of the faith. Nothing about hell, judgment and eternal condemnation. Then, when it's all set up, we just sit back and watch the whole drama unravel, thread by thread...regardless of denomination…cotton, fabric, silk.
Baal: (glees) So, the 4th temptation is about being a modern day Pharisee but without the rules? Righteousness without the law?
Incubus: That's a good spin to it yes.
Baal: Mm...more like licentiousness in righteousness.
Incubus: (nods)...yes, yes, oh enlightened one.
Baal: Now, my concern is, will it backfire?
Incubus: Nooo...it shouldn't. It ought not to. The timing couldn't be more perfect. You see, they are living in the age of the perfect storm of media-technology, consumerism and unbelievable wealth. All thanks to Gutenberg, the industrial revolution and unregulated capitalism of course. A literal biblical laissez faire.
Incubus: Oh, sorry...and the promise of unconditional love from an unlimited God means that they don't need to lift a finger in their belief. The altar call repentance is all they need to do. After that, their religion becomes a piled up promise of prosperity and longevity.
Baal: You mean health and wealth?
Incubus: Yes. That's the bait that hides the hook.
Baal: And what has the media and consumerism got to do with it?
Incubus: The media works in our favor. It helps to spread the message like a fire-belly of locusts. And consumerism is the icing on the cake. It works to deepen greed into a bottomless pit of insatiable desires or better still, personal entitlement. It is never enough, never. The houses, the investment and the cars, they become indispensable to the faith. They become symbols of the belief.
Baal: So, like the 3rd temptation, we mess up for them the in-the-world and of-the-world bit?
Incubus: Yes...so wise my Lord. And it's also about one stone and two falling birds. We heap up promises of worldly wealth under the covers of righteousness as part of the carrot. So the believer gets to think that they are worshipping their God when in fact what they are going down on their knees for are the lures of the promises and not the one who made those promises.
Baal: ...like going for the gift and not the giver... (musing)
Incubus: Yes...yes precisely.
Baal: ...and it is better to be vaguely Christ-like than to be openly Christ-less?
Incubus: Spot on my Lord! That's why it is called the 4th temptation. And it's foolproof. Imagine it this way, "if you bow down and worship God, all these riches will be added unto you." Now who wouldn't buy that? The wicked twist here is that we let the riches do all the conversion and leave the creator out of the whole faith equation. Sooner or later, when tough times come, most will give up the faith because suffering for them was never part of the bargain.
Baal: But some will still hold on and seek the giver right?
Incubus: Yes...that's a small price to pay. But most of them, that is, those blinded by covetousness, those whose faith are predicated on the promises of material wealth, will fall by the wayside. And trust me, when that day comes, many will fall. The net result is definitely rigged in our favor.
Baal: Very well. You have done good. Be sure to remind me the next time I see him to tell him about your contribution to the 4th temptation.
Incubus: I will. I will.
Baal: Now go and find a bed and do your work.