Beware of the Devil’s Snares!
“Come . . . out from the snare of the Devil.”—2 TIMOTHY 2:26.
HOW WOULD YOU ANSWER?
If you are always critical of others, what should you do?
What lessons can we learn from Pilate and Peter about not giving in to pressure and fear of man?
How can you avoid feeling too much guilt?
1, 2. What traps of the Devil will we discuss in this article?
THE Devil tries to catch Jehovah’s servants. But he is not always like a hunter who kills the animals he catches. What the Devil really wants to do when he catches someone is to make that person do what he wants.—Read 2 Timothy 2:24-26.
2 A trapper may use different snares, or traps, to catch an animal. He may start a fire to get the animal out of its hiding place so that it becomes easier to catch it. Or he may catch the animal by using a noose. He may also use a trap that he has hidden. The animal touches it and is crushed. The Devil also uses traps to catch God’s servants. If we do not want to get caught, we must be alert and pay attention to the warning signs that help us to know where Satan’s traps are. In this article, we will discuss how we can avoid three of the traps that the Devil has used to catch some of God’s people. These traps are (1) uncontrolled speech, (2) giving in to fear and pressure, and (3) feeling too much guilt. The next article will discuss two more traps of Satan.
PUT OUT THE FIRE OF UNCONTROLLED SPEECH
3, 4. What could happen if we do not control the way we speak? Give an example.
3 When animals are in the woods, they are safe. A hunter may set a part of the woods on fire so that the animals will come out of their hiding places as they try to run away. Then the hunter can catch them. In the Christian congregation, the brothers and sisters are safe. In a figurative way, the Devil would like to start a fire in the congregation so that the brothers and sisters will leave the congregation. Then the Devil can catch them. How could we without realizing it help him, which means that he has caught us in his trap?
4 The disciple James said that the tongue is like a fire. (Read James 3:6-8.) If we do not control our tongue, or the way we speak, we could start a figurative wildfire in the congregation. How might this happen? Imagine this situation: At a congregation meeting, a brother announces that a sister has been appointed as a regular pioneer. After the meeting, two publishers discuss the announcement. One says that it is good that the sister has started pioneering and hopes that she will be successful. The other one says that it is possible the sister is pioneering because she wants to be important in the congregation. Which of the two publishers would you like to have as your friend? It is easy to see which one could cause problems in the congregation by the way she speaks.
5. If we want to put out the fire of uncontrolled speech, what should we do?
5 How can we put out the fire of uncontrolled speech? Jesus said: “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” (Matthew 12:34) So the first step is to examine our own heart, or what we really feel. We should avoid having the kind of feelings that can make us say hurtful things about others. For example, when we hear that a brother is working hard to do more in the congregation, do we think he is doing it because he wants to make Jehovah happy? Or do we think he is doing it for selfish reasons? If we often think that our brothers serve Jehovah for selfish reasons, we should remember that the Devil said the same thing about God’s faithful servant Job. (Job 1:9-11) Instead of being suspicious of our brother, we should examine why we think badly of him. Do we really have good reason for having those thoughts? Or has the unloving attitude of the world influenced us during these last days?—2 Timothy 3:1-4.
6, 7. (a) What are some reasons why we might be critical of others? (b) What should we do if others insult us?
6 Think about some other reasons why we might be critical of others. One could be that we want the things we do to be more impressive to other people. By criticizing others, we may be trying to show that we are better than everybody else. Or we may be trying to make excuses for not doing something that we should have done. Whether we are critical of others because we are proud or jealous or because we do not have confidence in ourselves, being critical will cause great damage.
7 Maybe we feel that we have good reason to criticize others. Perhaps we have been hurt by something they said about us. Even if they have hurt us, hurting them the same way is not the right thing to do. It will only make the situation worse. It is what the Devil wants us to do, not what God wants. (2 Timothy 2:26) Instead, we should imitate Jesus. When people insulted him, “he did not go reviling in return” and insult them. He “kept on committing himself to the one who judges righteously.” (1 Peter 2:21-23) Jesus trusted that Jehovah would take care of the situation in the way He wanted and when He wanted. We should have the same trust in God. When we say kind things that encourage others, we help to keep the peace and unity in our congregation.—Read Ephesians 4:1-3.
ESCAPE THE NOOSE OF FEAR AND PRESSURE
8, 9. Why did Pilate sentence Jesus to death?
8 An animal that is caught in a trap no longer has freedom to move where it wants to. If someone gives in to fear and pressure, he loses at least some control over his life. (Read Proverbs 29:25.) Let us discuss the examples of two men who gave in to pressure and to fear of man. Then we can learn from their experience.
9 The Roman Governor Pontius Pilate knew that Jesus was an innocent man, so he did not want to harm him. Pilate even said that Jesus had done “nothing deserving of death.” But Pilate still sentenced him to death. Why did he do that? Because he gave in to pressure from the people. (Luke 23:15, 21-25) They tried to force Pilate to do what they wanted by shouting: “If you release this man, you are not a friend of Caesar”! (John 19:12) Pilate may have been scared that if he released Christ, he would lose his position as governor or even be killed. He gave in to pressure and did what the Devil wanted.
10. Why did Peter say that he did not know Christ?
10 The apostle Peter was one of Jesus’ closest friends. He was not afraid to tell others that Jesus was the Messiah. (Matthew 16:16) Peter remained loyal when some of the disciples did not understand something Jesus said and left him. (John 6:66-69) And when enemies came to arrest Jesus, Peter used a sword to protect him. (John 18:10, 11) But later Peter gave in to fear of man and denied that he even knew Jesus Christ. Fear of man is like a trap, and the apostle was caught in it for a short time. He lost the courage to do what was right and to be loyal to Jesus.—Matthew 26:74, 75.
11. Against what pressure may we have to fight?
11 All Christians need to fight against pressure to do things that do not please God. Employers or others may try to force us to be dishonest or to commit sexual immorality. Christians who go to school may meet other young people who try to force them to cheat on exams, to view pornography, to smoke, to use drugs, to drink alcohol, or to commit sexual immorality. Fear of man and pressure to do what does not please Jehovah is like a trap that can catch us. So, what can help us to escape from it?
12. What lessons can we learn from Pilate and Peter?
12 What lessons can we learn from the examples of Pilate and Peter? Pilate had little knowledge about Christ. But he knew that Jesus was innocent and that he was not an ordinary man. Pilate was not humble and did not love the true God. So it was easy for the Devil to make Pilate do what he wanted him to do. Peter had both accurate knowledge and love for God. But there were times when Peter was not modest, had fear of man, and gave in to pressure. Before Jesus was arrested, Peter bragged: “Even if all the others are stumbled, yet I will not be.” (Mark 14:29) If Peter had trusted in God like the psalmist did, he would have been more prepared for the tests that he would later have. That psalmist sang: “Jehovah is on my side; I shall not fear. What can earthling man do to me?” (Psalm 118:6) On the last night of his life on earth, Jesus took Peter and two other apostles with him to the garden of Gethsemane. Jesus asked them to stay awake, but Peter and the other apostles fell asleep. When Jesus woke them up, he said: “Men, keep on the watch and praying, in order that you do not come into temptation.” (Mark 14:38) But Peter fell asleep again and later gave in to pressure and fear of man.
13. How can we make sure that we do not give in to pressure to do something wrong?
13 The examples of Pilate and Peter can teach us another important lesson: We need knowledge, humility, modesty, love for God, and fear of Jehovah so that we do not give in to pressure or fear of man. If we have faith based on accurate knowledge, we will have courage to speak about our beliefs. This will help us not to give in to pressure or fear of man. We must never think that we are stronger than we really are. Instead, we should be humble and realize that we need God’s power if we do not want to give in to pressure. We need to ask Jehovah for his spirit. And our love for him should motivate us to follow God’s standards and to avoid doing things that will make people think badly of Jehovah. We also need to prepare for pressure before we are tested. For example, we need to pray with our children and prepare them so that they will know what to do when other children try to make them do something wrong.—2 Corinthians 13:7. * (See footnote.)
AVOID THE TRAP OF FEELING TOO MUCH GUILT
14. What would the Devil like us to believe about the mistakes we have made in the past?
14 Sometimes a trap is a heavy tree trunk or stone hanging over a path where animals often walk. The trapper stretches a wire across the path, and when the animal touches the wire, the tree trunk or stone falls and crushes the animal. If we feel too much guilt, we can feel as if we are being crushed by a tree trunk or by a stone. For example, when we think of a mistake that we have made, we may feel “crushed to an extreme degree.” (Read Psalm 38:3-5, 8.) Satan wants us to believe that we are too sinful for Jehovah to show us mercy and that we are not able to follow God’s standards.
15, 16. How can you avoid the trap of feeling too much guilt?
15 How can you avoid the trap of feeling too much guilt? If you have committed a serious sin, you must repair your relationship with Jehovah right away. Go to the elders, and ask them to help you. (James 5:14-16) Do everything you can to correct the wrong. (2 Corinthians 7:11) If you receive discipline, do not become discouraged. Discipline is a way that Jehovah shows that he loves you. (Hebrews 12:6) Be determined not to commit the sin again, and make sure you do not do any of the things that caused you to commit that sin. After you have repented and turned around, or started doing what pleases God again, you must have faith that he can forgive your sins through the ransom sacrifice of Jesus Christ.—1 John 4:9, 14.
16 Some people continue to feel guilt over sins for which they have been forgiven. If you are one of them, remember that Jehovah forgave Peter and the other apostles even though they left Jesus when he needed them the most. Jehovah even forgave a man who was disfellowshipped because he had committed shocking immorality but who later repented. (1 Corinthians 5:1-5; 2 Corinthians 2:6-8) In the Bible, we read about people who committed very serious sins but who were forgiven by God because they repented.—2 Chronicles 33:2, 10-13; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11.
17. What can the ransom do for you?
17 Jehovah will forgive you and forget the sins you have committed if you repent and really believe that he will show you mercy. Do you think that Jesus’ ransom sacrifice is not enough for Jehovah to forgive your sins? If you think that way, you have been caught in one of Satan’s traps. The Devil wants you to believe that the ransom is not enough for Jehovah to forgive all sins. But those who have sinned can be completely forgiven if they repent. (Proverbs 24:16) Faith in the ransom can help you stop feeling too much guilt and can give you the strength to serve God with your whole heart, mind, and soul.—Matthew 22:37.
WE ARE AWARE OF SATAN’S TRAPS
18. How can we avoid the Devil’s traps?
18 Satan does not care how he traps us. All he wants is to catch us, or to make us do what he wants us to do. Because we know about Satan’s traps, we can avoid being caught by the Devil. (2 Corinthians 2:10, 11) We will not be caught in his traps if we pray for wisdom to endure our trials. The disciple James wrote: “If any one of you is lacking in wisdom, let him keep on asking God, for he gives generously to all and without reproaching; and it will be given him.” (James 1:5) If we want Jehovah to give us wisdom to endure our trials, we must regularly do personal Bible study and live according to Bible principles. The publications from the faithful and discreet slave class teach us about the traps of the Devil and help us to avoid them.
19, 20. Why should we hate what is bad?
19 Prayer and Bible study help us to have greater love for what is good. But it is just as important that we learn to hate what is bad. (Psalm 97:10) We can avoid selfish desires if we think about the problems they can cause us. (James 1:14, 15) We need to learn to hate what is bad and to love what is good. Then the things that Satan uses to try to trap us will not be attractive to us because we will hate them.
20 We are very thankful that God helps us so that Satan cannot catch us in his traps! Jehovah uses his spirit, his Word, and his organization to save us “from the wicked one.” (Matthew 6:13) In the next article, we will learn how to avoid two more traps that the Devil has used to catch God’s servants.
^ par. 13 Parents need to discuss with their children the “Peer-Pressure Planner” in the book Questions Young People Ask—Answers That Work, Volume 2, pages 132-133. Parents can use this information during the Family Worship evening.
SOME EXPRESSIONS EXPLAINED
Uncontrolled speech: To say hurtful things about our brothers because we are critical or suspicious of the reasons they serve Jehovah
Fear of man: To be afraid of what other people will think of you or will do to you if you refuse to do what they want
Pressure: Others who try to force you to do something wrong, or something that does not please Jehovah, are putting pressure on you
Guilt: To feel unhappy and ashamed because you have done something wrong
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Uncontrolled speech can cause many problems in the congregation
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Why do you not need to feel crushed by too much guilt?