Comedian Flip Wilson had a successful career in the ’70s as a standup artist who created some memorable characters. One of them was “Geraldine,” a proud, sassy woman, who did whatever she wanted to do and answered anyone who questioned her motives with an air of righteous indignation, asserting: “The Devil made me do it.”
Who could argue? And if Jesus were in the audience at the time (which I believe he was), he would surely have laughed too. Wilson had a comic gift.
All laughing aside, Jesus was familiar with evil. He’d seen it up close and personal in the desert at the outset of his ministry, encountered it in the envious hearts of stoutly religious men, and seen its system of abuse imposed upon those whom he pronounced blessed. He had even heard it hiding behind the words of his beloved friend Peter, to whom he rebuked, “Get behind me, Satan!” (8:33).
Jesus isn’t worried about evil sneaking up from behind, as Flip’s Geraldine said happens. He isn’t concerned about it being in something you eat or drink, as he tells his disciples. Rather, he tells them he’s concerned about its presence in the human heart (v. 21).
And lest any of them should think, not my heart, he continues by listing a dozen sins, beginning with the big ones. They all nod in agreement, likely thinking, “Yep, that’s bad.” But about halfway down the list, the garden variety of sins begins to show up—including envy—which they do recognize in their hearts. Jesus knows his audience and makes sure his words hit close to home. No joke.
So don’t blame the Devil. God knows we don’t need help from anyone when it comes to making mischief on our own.
Who, other than me, is responsible for my sinful thoughts?
God of Laughter, purify my heart from the sin inside it and walk with me on my path today. Amen.