My friend once said, "When the devil wants to lead Christians astray, he blesses them." I know this is not original but it sure got my attention. The irony in that statement is compelling. I guess there is nothing new here because this is the essence of the third temptation of Jesus. Of course, the devil made it plain to Jesus when he laid down the condition for inherited windfall in no uncertain terms. He said, "if only you bow down and worship me."
But my friend's observation adds a twist to the third temptation by hiding the hook with the prosperity bait. And in our day and age, this bait is rather irresistible. The diabolical modus operandi goes like this. The devil blesses us and then with this so-called blessing (of irony), he stands by one side with relish and watches eagerly as we self-unravel. He actually doesn't need to do much except to let our insatiable passion for more do all the heavy lifting. Of course, not all will bite the bait but most will. The truth is, many of us in this modern society of instant fame, easy money and unimaginable wealth would find the devil’s blessings difficult to resist.
This actually ties in with the famous Maslow's hierarchy of needs (with a little tweak of course). I would think that the late psychologist was rather prophetic from a religious angle. This hierarchy of human needs is represented by a pyramid. And the entire human success story (or human motivation) is neatly delineated there, in the slow but steady steps up the pyramid of conquered needs/wants.
As we ascend up, overcoming one need after another, from basic physiological need of survival to other immediately relevant needs of safety/security, love/belonging and esteem, we arrive at the sweet spot of self achievement. This is the goldilocks zone of self enthronement. With an unabashed religious spin, when we have conquered the summit of this pyramid, we come full circle at the feet of the devil; which is reminiscent of that exact moment when he first offered Jesus all the riches and wealth in the world.
This time, the devil has already gotten us in his hook as the bait of prosperity gradually transforms itself into an offer we will find almost impossible to resist. By this time, it is no longer a quid pro quo of worshipping the devil for self-enrichment as it is more about worshipping self in pursuit of material wealth. To the tempter, the distinction is inconsequential. Both ways end up his way.
Now the caveat here is that not everyone will be corrupted by this prosperity self-entrapment. I know of many who are prosperous and at the same time godly and god-fearing. The corruption however comes when the material blessing becomes indistinguishable from our core identity and our life's primary goals.
I believe there will come a time when our greed, which was once loftily and conveniently labeled as ambition, aspiration and even industry, will enslave us with the illusion of self-mastery. At this point, we unwittingly start the process of misattribution by believing in our own invincibility and invulnerability. It is most unfortunate that when we reach this stage, everything we do will be instrumental to the acquisition of personal wealth and the preservation of our life to enjoy it all.
Religion, philanthropy and humanitarian works will therefore become a means to that end. If much will have more, then nothing is ever enough and this is how we unravel. The tempter doesn't need to interfere much because it is the same gift that God has bestowed on us that he is exploiting to his greatest advantage. And that gift is the gift of free will; without which there will be no tree, no sin, no fall, no cross, no overcoming and no end. And in this case, no self-destruction.
So my friend has put it well when he said that the devil's blessings is the start of our fall. And with that, it may very well be the end of our freedom because at first we choose the sin. Before long, the sin chooses us. Cheerz.