Discernment / Exercises

Discernment Exercise: Beatitudes on the Dark Side

One of the great classics of 20th century Christian writing is The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis. It’s one of those rare books that appeals so effortlessly to our hearts and imaginations and minds that learning becomes an intense pleasure. For those of you who haven’t read it, it consists of a series of letters written by a senior devil named Screwtape to his young nephew, Wormwood, on the finer points in the art of temptation. Witty and insightful, it reveals much about the nature of evil and temptation, of being human and fallen in a broken world.

An email has been circulating, by an anonymous author, that was apparently composed in the spirit of Lewis’s book. It is an attempt to rewrite the Beatitudes of Jesus (Matthew 5:3-12) from the perspective of the devil:

If Satan were to write his beatitudes, they would probably go something like this:

1. Blessed are those who are too tired, too busy, too distracted to spend an hour once a week with their fellow Christians—they are my best workers.
2. Blessed are those Christians who wait to be asked and expect to be thanked—I can use them.
3. Blessed are the touchy who stop going to church—they are my missionaries.
4. Blessed are the trouble makers—they shall be called my children.
5. Blessed are the complainers—I’m all ears to them.
6. Blessed are those who are bored with the minister’s mannerisms and mistakes—for they get nothing out of his sermons.
7. Blessed is the church member who expects to be invited to his own church—for he is a part of the problem instead of the solution.
8. Blessed are those who gossip—for they shall cause strife and divisions that please me.
9. Blessed are those who are easily offended—for they will soon get angry and quit.
10. Blessed are those who do not give their offering to carry on God’s work—for they are my helpers.
11. Blessed is he who professes to love God but hates his brother and sister—for he shall be with me forever.
12. Blessed are you who, when you read this think it is about other people and not yourself—I’ve got you too!

This was obviously written and distributed in an effort to make Christians think about and reflect on our attitudes, choices and behavior, so it represents a ready-made exercise in Christian discernment.


1. What was your first response to this list of “Satan’s Beatitudes?” Why did you respond this way?

2. How would you characterize the tone or spirit of the piece? Is the tone/spirit helpful in motivating you to consider the issues the list raises?

3. If you are familiar with The Screwtape Letters, how is this list similar to Lewis’s book? How is it different?

4. What can you affirm in this list? What would you want to challenge? On what biblical grounds?

5. How does this list compare to Jesus’s Beatitudes? How does it differ? What difference do the differences make?

6. This is obviously meant to be a teaching tool by Christians for Christians. Should it be used or distributed? Why or why not? Could it be misunderstood? How? Does the potential good it might have in helping believers assess their choices outweigh any potential misunderstandings that might occur? Why or why not?

7. Identify the various issues or themes raised in the list. What seems to the be the primary concern(s) of the author? Is anything missing?

8. Since “Satan’s Beatitudes” is being distributed on the internet, it seems likely that it will eventually be read by non-Christians. How does that possibility strike you?