Hell of a Job


He replied, “I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven.” (Luke 10:18)

Satan is highly misunderstood. I’m not saying you should have sympathy for the devil, but that you might want to consider the constraints under which he has to do his job—to give the devil his due, so to speak.

First, the devil grapples with significant rejection issues. He was evicted from his first neighborhood because of a pride issue. But before you pass judgment, remember that pride had not yet been listed as one of the seven deadly sins. There was not yet written a law against it or a warning about a fall pride cometh before. It could be argued that the devil should have known better than to stage a rebellion against an established monarch, but this is hindsight. The United States was born in just such a rebellion and now is the world’s biggest consumer of fossil fuels. Had the devil succeeded, we might be reading a different Bible today.

This decisive rejection (by many of his former “friends,” by the way) has plagued the devil’s self-image for eons. Like a stigma, he wears a bruised ego and is always leery of exposure. Like the late Michael Jackson, the devil skirts furtively from place to place, nearly always masked. Rarely does he rise to a semblance of his former glory except when he’s performing, and even then it’s more nostalgic than anything. As a result, the devil usually haunts the darker side of things, keeping low and out of the spotlight (which, it is said, hurts his eyes). Most of the time he spends his time brooding over lost opportunities and the second-hand trophies of minor contests.

Popular culture has been very unkind to the devil. Caricatures of the devil with horns, a pointy tail, hooves, and bright red skin abound. And the more Gothic treatments, with their darker visage and menacing appearance, are no better. They no more reveal the devil than Folgers reveals coffee. Probably the closest culture has come to catching the spirit of the devil is American Idol; it’s entertaining, pretentious, and shallow—though it’s unlikely the devil would make the first cut.  (Simon would have crucified him.)

The devil has a name, of course, though Satan is more of a title than anything. It means “accuser” and describes the only useful thing he can do these days. Satan is appointed by the heavenly court as the prosecuting attorney. His job is to level charges at everybody. This gets very old after a while, especially since those he’s supposed to accuse are “saints” and already acquitted. A few thousand years of this and you’re pretty much crazy with the futility of it all.

The result, as you might expect, is that the devil is really, really pissed off. He’s looking for a little satisfaction and will take somebody’s head on a platter if he can get it. The devil knows beggars can’t be choosers so he’s not particularly particular. The Bible says he prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Like, duh. You would be on the prowl too if you had a dead-end job with no retirement benefits.

There have been a few bright spots for the devil over the years (the Crusades, the genocide in Rwanda, the Rolling Stones), but for the most part it’s been a dismal ride for the former seraph. Property manager for the infernal depths, scapegoat for Christian stupidity, arch-villain of all goodness—the old boy’s caught between the devil and the deep blue sea. All this and destined for the lake of fire to boot. No wonder he’s a bit touchy.

Sympathy? No way. He bought it so he has to wear it. Still, I kind of admire they guy’s tenacity, even for a lost cause.


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