Many people are reluctant to admit that they are inherently sinful.  As a result, a lot of these people believe that Satan (i.e., the Devil) causes them to do what is morally wrong.  However, this belief is not consistent with what the Bible indicates regarding Satan’s capabilities.

In the discussion that follows, we will consider whether or not Satan and/or the evil supernatural beings (i.e., demons) who follow him are responsible for most, if not all, the sins that people commit.

In regard to Satan tempting people, the Bible provides no reason to believe that Satan is an omnipresent being like God.  And, because Satan is a finite being, he can be at only one place at a time, so he usually can directly tempt only one person at a time.  [For a discussion of the reasons to believe that Satan is not omnipresent, click on “Who Is Satan and Is He Omnipresent?]

One of the best known biblical examples of Satan directly (i.e., in person) tempting someone is recorded in Genesis 3:1-6.  In this incident, Satan (in the form of a serpent) successfully tempted Eve, Adam’s wife, to eat fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, which God had told her and Adam not to eat.

Another well-known biblical example of Satan directly tempting someone occurred many years later, when Satan (apparently, in human form) unsuccessfully tempted Jesus Christ three times immediately after Jesus had been fasting for 40 days in a wilderness (i.e., desert).  This incident is recorded in Matthew 4:1-10 and Luke 4:1-12.

However, in our society today, direct temptations by Satan are apparently very rare, if not nonexistent.  Nevertheless, Satan may influence certain people by planting sinful ideas in their mind.  In such instances, it is probable that Satan focuses such temptations primarily on people who are likely to have the most negative influence on other people.  And, when these influential people encourage other people to engage in sinful behavior, it can be said that Satan is indirectly tempting these other people.

Thus, Satan may tempt people to interfere in the spreading of the gospel regarding how sinners can receive the gift of eternal salvation.  In 1 Thessalonians 2:18, the Apostle Paul tells the people to whom he is writing, “[W]e wanted to come to you . . . but Satan hindered us.”  Although this scripture seems to indicate that Satan personally prevented Paul from being able to visit the Christians in Thessalonica, the Bible commentaries that we checked express the belief that it was not necessarily Satan himself who hindered Paul.

In regard to 1 Thessalonians 2:18, Calvin says,

[W]henever the wicked molest us, they fight under Satan’s banner, and are his instruments for harassing us. More especially, when our endeavors are directed to the work of the Lord, it is certain that everything that hinders proceeds from Satan. . . .

What about temptations by Satan’s demons?  Don’t demons tempt many millions, or even several billions, of people?  The answer to this question is that the Bible does not provide any support for the belief that demons tempt people.

However, the Bible indicates that demons can indwell (or possess) people who are not Christians.  In contrast, demons are not able to indwell genuine Christians, because the Holy Spirit, who indwells every genuine Christian (see Romans 8:9-11; 1 Corinthians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 5:5; and Ephesians 1:13-14), would prevent demons from also indwelling a genuine Christian.

Since a person who is not a Christian is not indwelled by the Holy Spirit, that person is not protected by the Holy Spirit from being indwelled by demons.  And, a non-Christian who is demon-possessed no longer has free will, because his (or her) thoughts and actions are controlled by the demon(s) that possess that person.  Therefore, tempting of demon-possessed people is not necessary, because such people are unable to make their own decisions regarding what is right and what is wrong.

There is also reason to believe that Satan himself indwells some non-Christians so he can cause them to engage in certain evil actions.  For instance, Luke 22:3 says, “Then Satan entered Judas, surnamed Iscariot, who was numbered among the twelve.”  Subsequently, in the same chapter, Judas’ betrayal of Jesus is recorded.

But, why is there so much evil in the world if Satan is not omnipresent and, therefore, he cannot tempt most people and, furthermore, his demons do not tempt anyone?  We believe that the primary reason for the pervasiveness of evil is that, as a result of the carnal nature of every person, everyone has an inclination to do evil things and will do such things when they have little or no commitment to God.

In the New King James Version of the Bible, James 1:14-15 states, [Each person] “is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed.  Then, when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, brings forth death.”

This scripture indicates that the inclination of people to sin is a result of their inability to overcome their innate human desires to engage in unrighteous (i.e., sinful) behaviors.  [For a more comprehensive explanation of the reasons for believing that every person has a disposition to sin, click on “Is Every Person Innately Evil?]

So, have humans always had an inherent nature to sin?  The Bible indicates that the first humans (i.e., Adam and Eve) were inherently morally innocent until they yielded to the temptation by Satan to disobey God by eating fruit from the tree whose fruit God had told them not to eat.  The full account of this loss of innocence is found in Genesis 3:1-19.


There is ample reason to believe that relatively few of the sins committed by humans result from their being tempted by Satan.  Furthermore, Satan’s demons do not tempt people.  Therefore, people ought not assume that Satan (or his demons) should be blamed for their sins.  Instead, people need to realize that their inclination to sin is innate.  Thus, people should focus on having a close relationship with God, who can give them the ability to resist their human propensity to sin.  This necessitates that each person regularly ask God for help to be able to maintain a daily righteous (i.e., holy) life.  [For a discussion of holiness for Christians, click on “Can Anyone Except God Be Holy?”]

In any case, every person is personally responsible for the sins that he (or she) commits, regardless of whether Satan tempted them to sin or they yielded to their inherent human nature to sin.  The Bible makes it sufficiently clear that God will hold each person accountable for the sins that they commit (see Revelation 20:11-12).  This accountability applies not only to non-Christians, but also to Christians who do not sincerely confess their sins in accordance with 1 John 1:9.