Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour~ 1st Peter 5:8
Recently I had a conversation with a friend struggling with some fairly serious family drama. My friend has been making every effort to repair the damaged relationships and has been baffled as to why she wasn’t making more progress. She recently learned that a “friend” has gotten in the middle of her family relationships and repeated things said in confidence and exaggerated some conversations to the point of dishonesty.
My friend was exasperated with the situation, partially due to her own carelessness and partially because the third party mixed up in the mess (a professed Christian) appeared to be ignorant of trouble she was causing. As we talked, it became clear to me that her “friend” is a useful idiot.
“Useful idiot” is a slang term sometimes used in place of “unwitting accomplice.” An unwitting accomplice is somebody who participates in a crime unintentionally—often because the criminal tricked them into participating in the crime. Sometimes the poor fool is duped into believing that they are actually doing a good deed as they help the criminal break the law.
The book of Job describes the devil as roaming the earth looking to cause trouble, and 1st Peter 5:8 describes Satan as one who prowls around looking for people to destroy. Ephesians 6:11 and John 10:10 tell us that the devil is continually scheming up ways to wreck havoc on the lives of people, especially God’s people. It’s a big job and even Satan needs a little help sometimes, and a useful idiot can come in handy.
My friend’s story demonstrates that Christians sometimes unwittingly do the devils work. Even the best of God’s people can be guilty of helping the enemy steal, kill and destroy (John 10:10). Christians can become useful idiots when:
They fail to get all the facts~ Proverbs 14:15
It’s all too easy to fall into the trap of supposing that all our assumptions concerning people and situations are spot-on. The truth is that things are rarely the way they appear and there are two sides to every story. Wise people look beyond first impressions and go to the source to ask questions when a person’s character is in question. Proverbs 14:15 reminds us that only the simple-minded believe everything they hear and take every story at face value.
Involve themselves in situations that are none of their concern~ Proverbs 26:17
There is nothing wrong with listening to a hurting friend or giving counsel to someone who needs it. We cross a line when we allow ourselves to become intermediaries in disputes that are none of our business. It is never okay to repeat something said in confidence and quarreling parties should always be encouraged to work things out between themselves or with a pastor or counselor. Be wary of any “friend” who is a little too eager to involve themselves in your private family affairs; it’s likely this person is a useful idiot.
When they refuse to forgive~ Hebrews 12:15
Refusing to forgive leads to bitterness. When bitterness takes root in our hearts, it colors the way we see the world and becomes a corrupting and defiling influence in our lives that negatively affects everyone we come into contact with.
They allow pride to take over~ Proverbs 13:10
The devil has figured out that the simplest way to recruit a useful idiot is to encourage pride. Pride blinds us to reality and is at the root of nearly every other sin. Pride is easy to spot in others but hard to see in ourselves because the nature of pride is self-deceptive (Obadiah 1:3). One sign we may be stuck in a prideful mindset is refusal to admit wrongdoing or when we justify our actions because of what somebody else did or didn’t do.
Spread dissension~ Proverbs 6:16-19
Dissension is an ugly thing that is spread by planting seeds of dissatisfaction in someone’s mind about a situation or person. Those who spread dissension point out problems without offering solutions, cast blame and repeat things that were said in confidence. It is our responsibility to be forces of good in our world; God’s people are called to be problem solvers and reconcilers rather than faultfinders and troublemakers.
I am convinced that the key to avoiding the trap of becoming a useful idiot in Satan’s schemes is self-examination and honest appraisal of the dynamics of whatever situation we find ourselves in. Sometimes the most loving and wise thing we can do for everyone involved in a given situation is to graciously remove ourselves from the situation and commit to prayer for all involved.