Today's Gospel reading was the temptation of Jesus. I've often mused a bit about the temptation in which the Devil offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world if Jesus will fall down and worship him. Does the Devil have the kingdoms of the world to offer, or was the offer just a fake?
We know the Devil doesn't actually play fair, but I've always suspected that he really did have the kingdoms of the world to offer. Jesus Himself called the Devil "the prince of this world." Human beings have free will, but they're usually only too ready to listen to the wrong leaders and the wrong promptings. If Satan really wanted to set someone up to rule the world, unless God chose to intervene and stop it, I would guess that Satan could do it.
If this conjecture is right, then Jesus turned down a genuine offer of world-wide rule in place of the road to Golgotha.
And it may be, too, that the Devil sometimes offers us things as well--really offers them to us. If we will only be dishonest, we can get something we couldn't otherwise get. Maybe that's true. Maybe we could really get away with it. Jesus said that the children of this world are wiser than the children of light. If one is wise as a serpent but not harmless as a dove, one may do better than all the doves.
I don't imagine many of us feel anything like a direct temptation to bow down and worship Satan in exchange for earthly rule. But in any life there are temptations to gain earthly advantage by less-than-noble means--lying, fudging, faking, cheating, or even bullying and manipulation come to mind.
It's almost frightening to reflect that for a time, maybe even a long time, these techniques might really work. The Devil is far more likely to promise, and give, tangible success than God is. And the worst of it is that once one has been getting away with something for these many years it becomes extremely difficult to back out of it, especially if other people are involved.
Well. None of this is our business for anyone but ourselves. But it's worth reflecting and asking God to help us hear in the misleading thoughts that occur to us the voice softly whispering, "All these will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me..."