The devil is like a dog, he only barks at strangers and he only bites those who don’t belong to his house.
Why does God allow us to be tempted? First, to establish in us a deep foundation of humility. Even Saint Peter having promised Jesus that he would never deny him, fell when tempted by the servant girl. Second, to increase our sense of detachment, for our detachment from sin is not perfect until we have forgotten ourselves in God. Third, to increase our merit, as we find in the letter of James (1:12), “Blessed is the one who endures temptation, for having been tested, he shall receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.”
Origen says: “If I were strong enough to overcome Lucifer I would gain his seat in heaven. For as one overcomes a powerful devil, so the higher will be your seat in heaven among the angels.” Saint Anselm says, “Not to experience temptation is to be an angel, To experience temptations and to overcome them is to be a Christian. To experience temptations and to consent to them is to act like a devil.”
A Response from Paul Robichaud CSP:
Servant of God Father Isaac Hecker uses a string of sayings to talk about temptation to sin. He starts with a folksy reference to barking dogs. People who own dogs know that as a part of the family and can be very protective. A reflection in the window or a strange noise at the door can cause them to bark and growl. Hecker uses this as an example of how we experience temptation. “The devil only barks at strangers” Is a wonderful phrase, meaning the more you are a part of God’s family the more you will experience temptation.
Hecker makes three points. We are tempted by evil to remind us not to be too proud. Temptations come at all ages and at all points in life and they remind us that we still have a lot of growing to do. Secondly, we are tempted by evil to remind us to not be too comfortable with our lives. A point similar to the first. Part of our Christian discipleship is a call to live for and in God. When God comes first in our lives, sin cannot influence us. But when God comes first in our lives, evil will work its hardest to get us to sin. It is a struggle that takes a lifetime of faith, hope and love. Hecker writes, that lastly we are tempted by evil as a way of growing in holiness. For the more we resist sin and live in grace the closer we grow to God. There is an irony here. The more we live for God, the more we will be tempted, yet the more we are tempted and resist, the more we live for God
Paulist Father Paul Robichaud CSP is Historian of the Paulist Fathers and Postulator of the Cause of Father Hecker. His office is located at the Hecker Center in Washington D.C.