It’s Always the Devil

Now let us apply this to ourselves.

But we will peradventure say, the Devil never made us any such offer: and therefore what needs any admonishment in this behalf? But I answer, though the Devil come not in person to us, as he did to Christ, yet he comes by his instruments.

When Balak sent to Balaam, to come and curse the Israelites, and promised him great rewards, Num. 22. 17[1] it was not Balaak’s messengers that spoke, but the Devil used them as instruments to speak.

So, when Simon Magus would have bought the Holy Ghost with money: the Devil therein tempted the apostles with simony[2], Simon was but the trunk, through which the Devil spoke, Act. 8[3].

We will fall for less

Again, there be some that will say, they were never tempted with kingdoms: it may well be, for it needs not, when less will serve. It was Christ only, that was thus tempted: in him lay a heroical mind, that could not be allured with small matters.

But with us it is nothing so, we esteem far more basely of ourselves: we set our wares at a very easy price[4], he may buy us even dagger cheap, as we say: he need never carry us so high as the mount, the pinnacle is high enough, yea, the lowest steeple[5] in all the town would serve the turn. Or let him but carry us to the lead or gutters of our own houses, nay, let us but stand in our window, or in our doors: if he will give vs but so much as we can there see, he will tempt us thoroughly, we will accept it, and thank him too. He shall not need to come to us with kingdoms, one kingdom is too much, what say ye to half a one? Mar, 6. 23[6]. No, will the Devil say, I will give you half of one? If he would come to us but with thirty pence, Mat. 26. 15. I am afraid many of vs would play Judas.[7] Nay, less than so would buy a great sort, even handfuls of barley, and pieces of bread, Ezk 13. 19.[8] and Proverb. 28. 21[9]. Yea, some will not stick to buy and sell the poor for a pair of shoes[10], as Micah in his eight chapter and six verse speaks.[11]

When he comes then to tempt us, he may abate a great deal of this that he offers Christ: he may strike out Omnia [Latin, all, every], and Haec [Latin, these] too, and instead thereof put in Hoc [Latin, this] and say; Hold, you shall have this to worship me, I will give ye no more.[12] I fear me we will make short work, and take it, Hoc aliquid[13], a matter of half a crown or ten groats, a pair of shoes, or some such trifle, will bring us on our knees to the Devil.[14]

Is there a pretty commodity to be had? It makes no matter for breaking faith and promise.[15] This is that that makes the Devil so good a husband and thrifty[16], and to go near hand: what need he give more, when so little will serve? whereas, if we will stand hucking [haggling] with him, we might get a great deal more.


14 So the princes of Moab rose and went to Balak and said, “Balaam refuses to come with us.”

15 Once again Balak sent princes, more in number and more honorable than these. 16 And they came to Balaam and said to him, “Thus says Balak the son of Zippor: ‘Let nothing hinder you from coming to me, 17 for I will surely do you great honor, and whatever you say to me I will do. Come, curse this people for me.’ ” 18 But Balaam answered and said to the servants of Balak, “Though Balak were to give me his house full of silver and gold, I could not go beyond the command of the Lord my God to do less or more. 19 So you, too, please stay here tonight, that I may know what more the Lord will say to me.” 20 And God came to Balaam at night and said to him, “If the men have come to call you, rise, go with them; but only do what I tell you.” 21 So Balaam rose in the morning and saddled his donkey and went with the princes of Moab.

Numbers 22:14–21 (ESV)

[2] “simony. The practice of buying or selling ecclesiastical favor or sacred prerogatives. The term is derived from Simon Magus, who attempted to purchase the ability to bestow the Holy Spirit through the act of laying on of hands, and thus sought to buy spiritual prerogatives or perhaps apostolic authority with money (Acts 8:9–13, 18–24).” Stanley J. Grenz and Jay T. Smith, Pocket Dictionary of Ethics, The IVP Pocket Reference Series (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 108.


18 Now when Simon saw that the Spirit was given through the laying on of the apostles’ hands, he offered them money, 19 saying, “Give me this power also, so that anyone on whom I lay my hands may receive the Holy Spirit.” 20 But Peter said to him, “May your silver perish with you, because you thought you could obtain the gift of God with money! 21 You have neither part nor lot in this matter, for your heart is not right before God. 22 Repent, therefore, of this wickedness of yours, and pray to the Lord that, if possible, the intent of your heart may be forgiven you. 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.” 24 And Simon answered, “Pray for me to the Lord, that nothing of what you have said may come upon me.”

Acts 8:18–24 (ESV)

[4] We give up our soul for far less than kingdoms.

[5] A church steeple would be the highest point in any town at this time.

[6] Herod, in the place and as an instrument of the Devil, tempts his stepdaughter with half a kingdom. She asks for a murder.

21 But an opportunity came when Herod on his birthday gave a banquet for his nobles and military commanders and the leading men of Galilee. 22 For when Herodias’s daughter came in and danced, she pleased Herod and his guests. And the king said to the girl, “Ask me for whatever you wish, and I will give it to you.” 23 And he vowed to her, “Whatever you ask me, I will give you, up to half of my kingdom.” 24 And she went out and said to her mother, “For what should I ask?” And she said, “The head of John the Baptist.”

Mark 6:21–24 (ESV)

[7] Judas betrayed the Lord for 30 pieces of silver. That would be more than enough to tempt us.

[8] We will sin for a handful of food:

17 “And you, son of man, set your face against the daughters of your people, who prophesy out of their own hearts. Prophesy against them 18 and say, Thus says the Lord God: Woe to the women who sew magic bands upon all wrists, and make veils for the heads of persons of every stature, in the hunt for souls! Will you hunt down souls belonging to my people and keep your own souls alive? 19 You have profaned me among my people for handfuls of barley and for pieces of bread, putting to death souls who should not die and keeping alive souls who should not live, by your lying to my people, who listen to lies.

Ezekiel 13:17–19 (ESV)


To show partiality is not good,

but for a piece of bread a man will do wrong.

Proverbs 28:21 (ESV)

[10] We will oppress the poor for a pair of shoes. We may wonder what the prophet would think about modern industrial practice.


                                  Hear this, you who trample on the needy

and bring the poor of the land to an end,

                                  saying, “When will the new moon be over,

that we may sell grain?

                                    And the Sabbath,

that we may offer wheat for sale,

                                    that we may make the ephah small and the shekel great

and deal deceitfully with false balances,

                                  that we may buy the poor for silver

and the needy for a pair of sandals

and sell the chaff of the wheat?”

Amos 8:4–6 (ESV)

[12] The Devil would not not need to over us all these kingdoms, but a single “this” of just about anything is sufficient to get us to fall.

[13] Latin, this anything: any single trifle.

[14] We are so easily tempted, that anything at all is enough to get us to sin.

[15] We will lie and break our promise to obtain anything at all.

[16] To “husband” a resource is to protect it from waste, to care for it. The Devil can be careful with his resources. He will not overspend to obtain our compliance with his will.